Tariffs

  • 28 Sep
    Which auto stock is a better investment right now: FCAU, GM or F?

    Which auto stock is a better investment right now: FCAU, GM or F?

    Earlier this week, I wrote about recent opinions I’ve seen that suggest that the stock market’s long, extended bullish run still has plenty of life left to keep going. One of the most compelling arguments supporting that opinion is the fact that, after the market’s big correction in the early part of this year, most of the market’s recovery has been led by beaten-down stocks in previously under-appreciated and oversold industries. That suggests the bullish momentum that has pushed the market higher since April when it found a corrective bottom is driven by an emphasis on value, which does offer some very compelling food for thought. Value-driven market rotation usually happens at the beginning of a bull market, not in the latter stages of one, so I think there could more than a little truth behind the notion.

    Let’s go ahead assume for the time being that this idea is correct; it begs the next question, which is naturally, where am I going to find the best values in the market right now? It’s one thing to tell you to look for beaten-down stocks in depressed industries; it’s quite another to actually recognize what some of those areas of the market are right now.



    As I previously mentioned, the auto industry is an area of the market that has really come under a lot of pressure. While the broad market has seen a nice rally since April of this year, the Big Three automakers have all seen significant drops in price. Fiat Chrysler Automotive (FCAU), Ford Motor Company (F) and General Motors Company (GM) are all down around 25% since reversing lower from their respective high points in April and June. Yes, a not-insignificant part of that drop has been driven by trade-related tensions with all four of America’s largest trading partners, and for as long as those tensions persist, there remains an element of risk that could keep pushing these stocks lower. Even so, the fact they are all down in bear market territory should at least have any sensible value-oriented investor sit up, take notice, and consider whether there is an opportunity worth thinking about.

    What follows is a comparison of all of the Big Three U.S. automakers, side by side, to determine which of the three actually poses the best value-based argument right now. Does that mean that you should think about taking a position in the winner right now? That is for you to decide.



    Earnings/Sales Growth

    • Ford: Over the last twelve months, earnings decreased by almost 52% while sales were mostly flat, declining by only about 2%. The company operates with a narrow margin profile that saw Net Income at 4.2% of Revenues over the last twelve months, and decreased to only about 2.7% in the last quarter.
    • GM: The twelve-month pattern for GM shows earnings decreasing only a little over 4%, and sales mostly flat, declining about .6%. GM’s margin profile over the last twelve months showed Net Income was a negative 3.2%, but improved in the last quarter to positive 6.5%.
    • Fiat Chrysler: Earnings over the last twelve months declined 2.63% for FCAU versus sales growth of 12.62%. The company’s margin profile showed Net Income as 3.1% of Revenues in the last twelve months, and declining to 2.5% for the most recent quarter.

    Winner: FCAU, on the basis of superior earnings and sales results in the last year versus F or GM.

    Free Cash Flow

    • Ford: F’s free cash flow is quite healthy, at more than $9.1 billion over the last twelve months. That translates to a Free Cash Flow Yield of 23.5%, which is extremely attractive.
    • GM: GM has operated with negative Free Cash Flow since the last quarter of 2016, and as of the last quarter this number was a little more than -$12.3 billion dollars.
    • Fiat Chrysler: FCAU’s Free Cash Flow over the last twelve months is healthy at a little more than $4.9 billion. That translates to a Free Cash Flow Yield of 13.8%

    Winner: F, with the highest total dollar amount in Free Cash Flow over the twelve months along with the most attractive Free Cash Flow Yield.



    Debt to Equity

    • Ford: F has a debt/equity ratio of 2.8. High debt/equity ratios aren’t unusual for automotive stocks, however it should be noted that F’s debt/equity is the highest among the Big Three auto companies. The company’s balance sheet demonstrates their operating profits are sufficient to service their debt, with healthy liquidity to make up any potential difference if that changes.
    • GM: GM’s debt/equity ratio is 1.81, which is also pretty high, but below that for F. The difference, however is that while GM’s operating profits should be adequate to service their debt, they may not have enough liquidity to make up any potential operating shortfall.
    • Fiat Chrysler: FCAU’s debt/equity ratio is the lowest of the group, at .46. That alone puts them well ahead of the other two in this category; but it is also worth noting that the company’s cash and liquid assets are more than 34% higher than their long-term debt. That gives them the best actual financial base to operate from out of any of the Big Three.

    Winner: FCAU. Not even close.

    Dividend

    • Ford: F pays an annual dividend of $.60 per share, which translates to a very impressive yield of more than 6% per year.
    • GM: GM’s dividend is $1.52 per year, translating to an annual yield of 4.51%
    • Fiat Chrysler: FCAU does not pay a dividend.

    Winner: F. Dividends are the low-hanging fruit that every value-oriented investor should look out for.



    Value Analysis

    • Ford: F’s Price/Book value is $9.18 per share and translates to a Price/Book ratio of 1.07 at the stock’s current price. Their historical average Price/Book ratio is 2.12, which suggests the stock is trading right now at a discount of more than 97%. The stock is also trading about 60% below its historical Price/Cash Flow ratio.
    • GM: GM’s Price/Book value is $27.38 and translates to a Price/Book ratio of 1.23 at the stock’s current price. Their historical average Price/Book ratio is 1.9, which suggests the stock is trading right now at a discount of 54%. The stock is also trading more than 129% below its historical Price/Cash Flow ratio.
    • Fiat Chrysler: FCAU’s Price/Book value is $13.87 and translates to a Price/Book ratio of 1.29 at the stock’s current price. Their historical Price/Book ratio is 1.32, suggesting the stock is trading at a discount of 2.3%. The stock is also trading 55% above its historical average Price/Cash Flow ratio, suggesting the stock remains significantly overvalued, even at its current price.

    Winner: F, edging out GM for best overall value proposition, but not by a wide margin.

    The net winner? While FCAU has the best overall fundamental profile, it offers the least upside potential, with a significant level of downside risk. That puts F squarely in the winner’s circle for the best overall opportunity among the Big Three automakers under current market conditions. On the other hand, the greatest overall risk remains with GM, who despite the upside offered by its value measurements, has some big fundamental question marks that make the value proposition hard to justify.


  • 24 Sep
    Ford Motor Company (F) has an interesting value argument; is it worth the risk?

    Ford Motor Company (F) has an interesting value argument; is it worth the risk?

    Nothing has kept the market more on edge this year than trade tensions and the threat of a trade war between the U.S. and its trade partners. Things only seem to get more intense this week, as the Trump administration is set to impose new 10% tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods on Monday. More →

  • 06 Sep
    U.S. – Canada trade fears have created a great value opportunity for this Detroit supplier

    U.S. – Canada trade fears have created a great value opportunity for this Detroit supplier

    Last week the Trump administration announced it had made a deal with Mexico to rework the two countries’ two-and-a-half decades long trade agreement. There is a third party in that agreement, of course, since NAFTA originally included the U.S., Mexico and Canada. The move has clearly put more pressure on the Canadian government to compromise, although to this point it doesn’t appear much more progress on that front has been made.

    Tensions between the U.S. and Canada have revolved primarily around tariffs on autos, although other goods have been involved as well. Concern around trade issues between the two countries have weighed on Canadian stocks that rely heavily on partnerships with U.S. business. Magna International (MGA) is a good example; since late May, when the stock hit an all-time high at around $67.50, the stock has lost about 25% of its value. Trade issues between the U.S. and Canada aren’t over, and that means that momentum for stocks like MGA could continue to be mostly bearish; at the very least, investors who are interested in this stock should expect to see plenty of volatility in the weeks and months ahead as the market decides what direction the stock should follow.



    Over the last month alone, the stock has dropped about 10%, after the company missed estimates in its latest earnings report. That pushed the stock into an even more decidedly bearish near-term profile, as the stock crossed below its 200-day moving average line. This moving average acts as an important visual indicator of a stock’s long-term trend for most technicians, and so a move below that line is usually taken as a clear sign the stock’s current trend is going to keep moving down. Over the last couple of weeks, however, the stock has shown some interesting resilience, finding support around $52 per share. Despite the market’s reaction to their latest report, the truth is that the earnings picture is actually pretty good for MGA, and the overall fundamentals for this company remain quite good. 

    The company’s earnings report did include tariffs as a risk element in the third and fourth quarters of the year, and that is probably another big reason the stock has continued to drop. I think it’s worth pointing out, however that the U.S. – Mexico announcement took the market by surprise and wasn’t expected; to me that means that for all the posturing that has gone on (and continues) between the countries involved, it’s really all about what happens behind closed doors. I think Canada it’s ultimately going to be in the best interest of both the U.S. and Canada to bring all three American trading partners back together again, and so most of the bearish sentiment around stocks like MGA is really just creating good opportunities to pick up some great companies at very nice valuation levels.



    Fundamental and Value Profile

    Magna International Inc. (Magna) is a global automotive supplier. The Company’s segments are North America, Europe, Asia, Rest of World, and Corporate and Other. The Company’s product capabilities include producing body, chassis, exterior, seating, powertrain, electronic, active driver assistance, vision, closure, and roof systems and modules, as well as vehicle engineering and contract manufacturing. The Company has over 320 manufacturing operations and approximately 100 product development, engineering and sales centers in over 30 countries. It provides a range of body, chassis and engineering solutions to its original equipment manufacturer (OEM) customers. It has capabilities in powertrain design, development, testing and manufacturing. It offers bumper fascia systems, exterior trim and modular systems. It offers exterior and interior mirror systems. It offers sealing, trim, engineered glass and module systems. It offers softtops, retractable hardtops, modular tops and hardtops. MGA has a current market cap of about $18.2 billion.

    • Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings grew almost 13%, while Revenues grew a little over 6%. Growing earnings faster than sales is hard to do, and generally isn’t sustainable in the long term; however it is also a positive mark of management’s ability to maximize a company’s business operations. In the last quarter, the picture turned negative, with earnings decreasing a little over 9% and sales declining almost 5%. That could be a first, early indication of impact from tariffs on costs, both for MGA as well as for its customers.
    • Free Cash Flow: MGA’s free cash flow is healthy, at a little more than $1.9 billion. This number has been somewhat cyclic from one quarter to the next, but has shown a general, upward stair-step pattern of growth going back to the last quarter of 2016.
    • Dividend: MGA pays an annual dividend of $1.32 per share, which translate to an annual yield of 2.48% at the stock’s current price. 
    • Return on Equity/Return on Assets: These numbers are very strong. ROE is 19.72 and ROA is 8.94.
    • Price/Book Ratio: there are a lot of ways to measure how much a stock should be worth; but one of the simplest methods that I like uses the stock’s Book Value, which for MGA is $33.97 and translates to a Price/Book ratio of 1.56 at the stock’s current price. The stock’s historical average Price/Book ratio is 1.94, suggesting the stock is nicely undervalued by about 24%; at par with its average, the stock should be trading at about $66 per share. Working with $66 as a long-term target is even more justified by looking at the stock Price/Cash Flow ratio, which is currently 30% below its historical average. That would put the stock in range to test its all-time highs and in position to start making new ones.



    Technical Profile

    Here’s a look at the stock’s latest technical chart.

     

    • Current Price Action/Trends and Pivots: After following a nice upward trend until May, the stock peaked at around $67.50 before dropping back its current level. The gap you see in early August came in conjunction with the company’s last earnings report, and in fact that gap is providing resistance right now against any further movement upward for the stock. I already alluded to its 200-day moving average (not shown); the stock is about $5 per share below that line, and would need to break above it to stage any kind of new upward trend. A drop below $52 per share would mark a break below the stock’s long-term support level and could provide bearish momentum for a continued decline to as low as $45 in fairly short order.
    • Near-term Keys: The stock’s most current resistance is at around $56, from a pivot high just about a week ago; if the stock can break that level, there could be a good short-term opportunity to buy the stock or work with call options. If you like the stock’s value potential right now, and don’t mind dealing with what I think will be quite a bit of volatility for the time being, this could be a great time to go ahead and take a position with a long-term time frame in mind. If you prefer to work with the bearish side of the market right now, wait to see if the stock drops below $52; if it does, consider shorting the stock or working with put options.


  • 29 Aug
    In wake of U.S.-Mexico agreement, OSK could be an interesting Industrial play

    In wake of U.S.-Mexico agreement, OSK could be an interesting Industrial play

    The big news this week has really been all about the announcement from President Trump that the U.S. and Mexico have agreed to enter a new trade deal that will effectively replace the longstanding NAFTA agreement between the two countries and Canada. The specifics of the deal still remain to be seen, since in many respects they haven’t been finalized; but so far it appears to focus heavily on the auto industry, expanding the criteria for how much of an automobile must be produced in North America to qualify for tariff protection, increasing the requirement for sourcing aluminum and steel from local producers, and specifying a minimum wage of $16 per hour for workers.

    Of course, Mexico is just one of several countries the Trump administration has been targeting for changes in trade policy and agreements; but the market seems to hope that they are just the first domino to fall and ease tensions between the U.S. and its largest trade partners, including Canada, the European Union and, perhaps most significantly, China. Steel and aluminum tariffs, which were the first to be imposed this year, now appear to be in position to also be the first to ease – a development that bodes well for the prospects not only of the auto industry but also of related industries, including heavy machinery.



    One of the challenges lately for investors interested in some of the largest players in the Heavy Machinery segment is that most of the most well-known companies, like Caterpillar (CAT) and Deere & Company (DE), are already pretty expensive, running at prices well above $100 per share. Oshkosh Corporation (OSK) is a somewhat smaller player in the industry, being categorized as a mid-cap stock versus the large-cap status of its larger brethren, and it has the added bonus of being available at a lower stock price; but don’t let its smaller size fool you. This is a company that recently celebrated 100 years in business, and offers a range of vehicles that cover construction, waste management, field service and access, military and emergency response and service vehicles. Like most Heavy Machinery stocks, OSK has dropped for most of the year and is currently down about 29% since hitting an all-time high at about $100; but with a strong fundamental profile and a promising value proposition, this looks like a stock that could present a good long-term opportunity.

    Fundamental and Value Profile

    Oshkosh Corporation (OSK) is a designer, manufacturer and marketer of a range of specialty vehicles and vehicle bodies, including access equipment, defense trucks and trailers, fire and emergency vehicles, concrete mixers and refuse collection vehicles. The Company’s segments include Access Equipment; Defense; Fire & Emergency, and Commercial. The Access Equipment segment consists of the operations of JLG Industries, Inc. (JLG) and JerrDan Corporation (JerrDan). The Defense segment consists of the operations of Oshkosh Defense, LLC (Oshkosh Defense). The Fire & Emergency segment consists of the operations of Pierce Manufacturing Inc. (Pierce), Oshkosh Airport Products, LLC (Airport Products) and Kewaunee Fabrications LLC (Kewaunee). The Commercial segment includes the operations of Concrete Equipment Company, Inc. (CON-E-CO), London Machinery Inc. (London), Iowa Mold Tooling Co., Inc. (IMT) and Oshkosh Commercial Products, LLC (Oshkosh Commercial). OSK has a current market cap of about $5.2 billion.

    • Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings grew by about 19.5%, while revenue increased almost 7%. Growing earnings faster than sales is difficult to do, and is generally not sustainable in the long-term; but it is also a positive mark of management’s ability to maximize its business operations effectively. The company operates with a narrow operating margin; over the last twelve months, Net Income was about 5.5% of Revenues. This number increased in the last quarter to a little above 7%.
    • Free Cash Flow: OSK’s free cash flow is healthy, at more than $253 million. This number has increased steadily since early 2017, from below zero.
    • Dividend: OSK’s annual divided is $.96 per share, which translates to a very impressive yield of 1.34% at the stock’s current price.
    • Price/Book Ratio: there are a lot of ways to measure how much a stock should be worth; but one of the simplest methods that I like uses the stock’s Book Value, which for T is $33.11 and translates to a Price/Book ratio of 2.15 at the stock’s current price. The stock’s historical average Price/Book ratio is 2.14, meaning that the stock is practically at par with its Book Value. That doesn’t sound like there is much room to grow; but another measurement that I like to use to complement my analysis is the stock’s Price/Cash Flow ratio; in the case of OSK, the stock is trading more than 82% below its historical Price/Cash Flow ratio. While a target price at nearly $130 is probably not realistic – the stock only hit $100 for the first time in January of this year – it does imply that there is good reason to suggest the stock’s January highs are well within reach.



    Technical Profile

    Here’s a look at the stock’s latest technical chart.

     

    • Current Price Action/Trends and Pivots: The red diagonal line measures the length of the stock’s upward trend until the beginning of this year; it also informs the Fibonacci trend retracement lines shown on the right side of the chart. It’s easy to see the downward trend the stock has followed for most of this year; however it is also interesting to note that since late June, the stock has shown some resilience, with support in the $69 range and short-term resistance at around $75 per share. The stock would need to push above this range to begin forming a new upward trend, while a drop below $69 could see the stock drop to as low as the $56 level as shown by the 88.6% Fibonacci retracement line.
    • Near-term Keys: The stock would need to break above $75 to give a good bullish signal that you could act on, either for a short-term, momentum-based trade with call options, or to buy the stock outright with a plan to hold for a longer period of time. A drop below $69 could be an opportunity to work the bearish side by shorting the stock or by buying put options.


  • 03 Aug
    Why CAT’s 20% drop could be a value trap

    Why CAT’s 20% drop could be a value trap

    When you put a big part of your investing focus on bargains, emphasizing value-based fundamental analysis to determine whether a stock is worth your time and money, you inevitably end up filtering through a lot of different stocks, but cast most aside. I think that is useful, because being more selective helps you narrow the universe of stocks you’re paying attention to at any given time. The problem, however is that sometimes the metrics a value investor learns to rely on can give you a false sense of whether a stock really fits a good description of a good value. That can lead you to make an investment in a stock that might be down from a recent high because it looks like it’s available now at an attractive price compared to where it was; but in reality it’s a bit like trying to catch a falling knife – the only real way to avoid getting cut is to get out of the way and let the knife fall to the floor. These kinds of situations are also called value traps, because they provide numbers that lure less careful investors in and motivate them to make an investment at some of the most dangerous times possible.

    I think Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) is actually one of those traps right now. My opinion differs from most other analysts and “experts” out there, who point to the company’s solid earnings growth over the last year, and the stock’s decline in price since January of this year of more than 20% as reasons that investors should be treating the stock as a great value opportunity right now. They’ll also point to a popular valuation metric, a stock’s P/E ratio, as a clear indication that the stock is undervalued and something you should be paying attention to right now. I’ll admit that at first blush, I thought the stock might be a good opportunity, too; but the more I drilled down to really look at some of the other data points that are important to me, the more concerned I got.



    Another risk element that investors seem to be trying to shrug aside right now when it comes to stocks like CAT is the fact that while the U.S. seems to have found some sense of resolution – or at least a path to it – in trade with the European Union, the same can’t be said of discussions with China. Today, on top of existing tariffs that already amount to more than $34 billion against its single largest trading partner, President Trump proposed another $200 billion in new tariffs, prompting what seems like the customary Chinese response to retaliate in kind. The market’s reaction was pretty ho-hum; could it mean the investors are beginning to accept trade tension as a normal state of affairs? If they are, then I think it means they are becoming desensitized to that risk, and that is a troubling indication all by itself.

    Multinational stocks, and especially those with major operations in China, remain at risk if trade tensions continue as they are, or escalate even further. And let’s not forget that while the E.U. have, for now at least, agreed to hold off on further tariffs against each other and work toward compromise, it doesn’t mean that situation has been resolved. CAT is one of the companies that I think could be the most dramatically affected. That affect may not be showing up in earnings reports or sales numbers yet; but the risk that it will increases more and more with every week, month, and quarter that continues with trade affairs as they are. To my way of thinking, that puts something of a jaundiced eye on any currently glowing numbers. Just about every analyst report I’ve been able to find on CAT forecasts stable to growing revenues along with continued earnings growth for the foreseeable future, and under most circumstances I think that should be a good thing; but the thing that is setting off warning bells for me is that none of the reports I have found discuss trade or tariffs as risk factors.



    Fundamental and Value Profile

    Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) is a manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives. The Company operates through segments, including Construction Industries, which is engaged in supporting customers using machinery in infrastructure, forestry and building construction; Resource Industries, which is engaged in supporting customers using machinery in mining, quarry, waste and material handling applications; Energy & Transportation, which supports customers in oil and gas, power generation, marine, rail and industrial applications, including Cat machines; Financial Products segment, which provides financing and related services, and All Other operating segments, which includes activities, such as product management and development, and manufacturing of filters and fluids, undercarriage, tires and rims, ground engaging tools, fluid transfer products, and sealing and connecting components for Cat products. CAT has a market cap of $82.5 billion.

    • Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings grew by almost 100%, while sales growth was almost 24%. Growing earnings faster than sales is hard to do, and generally not sustainable in the long-term; however it is also a positive mark of management’s ability to maximize their business operations. Net Income as a percentage of Revenues also improved from about 6% for the trailing twelve months to more than 12% in the most recent quarter.
    • Free Cash Flow: CAT’s free cash flow over the last twelve months is more than $3.7 billion. Cash and liquid assets are also more than $7.8 billion, which does give the company quite a bit of financial flexibility; however these numbers are offset in my analysis by the stock’s very high debt to equity ratio
    • Debt to Equity: CAT has a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.59. Their long-term is more than $23.5 billion and marks CAT as one of the most highly leveraged companies in the Heavy Machinery industry.
    • Dividend: CAT currently pays an annual dividend of $3.44 per share, which translates to an annual yield of 2.49% at the stock’s current price.
    • Price/Book Ratio: there are a lot of ways to measure how much a stock should be worth; but one of the simplest methods that I like uses the stock’s Book Value, which for CAT is $24.99 per share. At the stock’s current price, that puts the Price/Book ratio at 5.52, versus a historical average of 3.62. The historical average puts the stock’s “fair value” a little above $90 per share – more than 34% below the stock’s current price. Some analysts like to point out that the stock is trading about 32% below its historical Price/Earnings ratio as an indication the stock is undervalued, but I view Book Value, and the Price/Book ratio as a better measurement and more indicative of a company’s intrinsic value.



    Technical Profile

    Here’s a look at the stock’s latest technical chart.

     

    • Current Price Action/Trends and Pivots: The diagonal red line traces the stock’s upward trend until January of this year and provides the reference for calculating the Fibonacci retracement levels indicated by the horizontal red lines on the right side of the chart. The stock’s decline from late January’s high at around $173 puts the stock in a clear, intermediate-term downward trend, with the stock trading near to the lowest point of that trend around $135 per share. The stock is hovering around a major support point, marked by the 61.8% Fibonacci retracement line, and if that line holds, it could give the stock some momentum to start pushing higher to reclaim its highs from earlier in the year. On the other hand, a drop below $135 would mark a clear break through support that would give the stock room to drop as far as the 88.6% retracement line around $120 in fairly short order. That’s more than $15 of near-term risk if support is broken, and about $18 of legitimate risk right now. Even if the stock does rally from that support point, it should find major resistance in the $150 range, where the 38.2% retracement line sits, meaning that a bullish investor stands to make about $12 per share if he’s right; but he could lose $18 per share if he’s wrong. That’s easy math that should make anybody hesitate.
    • Near-term Keys: If you’re looking for a good reward: risk trade opportunity for CAT, watch to see if the stock pushes below support around $135. If it does, there could be a very good opportunity to short the stock or use put options, with a target price around $120, and a stop loss a little above $136 per share. That’s a set up that offers $15 of reward, against only a couple of dollars per share of risk.


  • 27 Jul
    International Paper offers a BIG value right now

    International Paper offers a BIG value right now

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    No matter what current market conditions are, one of the biggest challenges for an investor is finding stocks that fit their investment preferences at any given time. The market ebbs and flows from high to low extremes, and those shifting conditions mean that investing strategies designed to work in one type of environment will offer up fewer choices and opportunities in another. Value investing is a great example; when the market has been declining for an extended period of time, or even in the early stages of recovery, finding undervalued stocks isn’t that hard to do. The longer a bull market lasts, however, the harder that becomes, as more and more stocks are found at or near historical highs, and at inflated prices relative to the stock’s underlying fundamentals.

    As a value-oriented investor, I’ve learned that just because there may be fewer bargains available in the late stages of a bull market (and let’s face it, we absolutely are in the very late stages of this latest bull market), it doesn’t mean that I have to change my philosophy. It does mean that I become a more cautious and deliberate buyer, and my core fundamental and value criteria become even more important, because they help me maintain my discipline and avoid jumping on the market’s bullish bandwagon at the dangerous, “irrational exuberance” stage. I’m not sure we are at that point yet, but we also aren’t very far off from it, and so my conservative approach continues to help me sleep well at night.



    International Paper (IP) is a stock that has seen an impressive increase in price since the current bull market started in early 2009 was only around $4 per share, and as of now it is trading a little above $52 per share. At first blush, that might make the stock sound more like it should be overvalued. The company has a strong fundamental profile, however, and the growth of its business over the same period lends to strong argument for the stock’s higher price. Not only that, over the course of the calendar year the stock is actually down more than 20% from its all-time high. I think there is a very strong argument to be made that at its current levels, IP looks like a pretty attractive value play right now.

    The question of trade is something that practically every business with an international profile has to grapple with, as questions about tariffs continue to linger. IP released its latest quarterly report yesterday, and the CEO indicated that to this point, the company hasn’t seen any direct impacts from tariffs. Instead, IP is a company whose risk exposure to trade tensions is mostly secondary. The simplest example, which the CEO cited, was packaged food. If IP’s customers are hit with higher costs from tariffs and uncertainty from an extended trade war, they will need less packaging products, which would then impact IP’s operations. An example that counters this logic applies to China, who the CEO pointed out doesn’t make its own fiber-based products like pulp and paper, which means they have to purchase ti elsewhere. Tariffs won’t be likely to change that reality, which means that area of business should continue to perform well.



    Fundamental and Value Profile

    International Paper Company is a paper and packaging company with primary markets and manufacturing operations in North America, Europe, Latin America, Russia, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The Company’s segments include Industrial Packaging, Global Cellulose Fibers, Printing Papers and Consumer Packaging. The Company is a manufacturer of containerboard in the United States. Its products include linerboard, medium, whitetop, recycled linerboard, recycled medium and saturating kraft. The Company’s cellulose fibers product portfolio includes fluff, market and specialty pulps. The Company is a producer of printing and writing papers. The products in Printing Papers segment include uncoated papers. The Company is a producer of solid bleached sulfate board. As of December 31, 2016, the Company operated 29 pulp, paper and packaging mills, 170 converting and packaging plants, 16 recycling plants and three bag facilities in the United States. IP’s current market cap is $21.5 billion.

    • Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings  grew almost 57% while revenue growth was modest, increasing only 2%. Growing earnings faster than sales is difficult to do, and generally isn’t sustainable in the long-term; but it is also a positive mark of management’s ability to maximize business operations. The company’s Net Income for the last twelve month was almost 13% of Revenues, with this number decreasing to about 7% in the most recent quarter. 
    • Free Cash Flow: IP’s free cash flow is healthy, at $361 million. This is a significant increase from the last quarter, when free cash flow was a more modest $175 million.
    • Debt to Equity: IP has a debt/equity ratio of 1.48, implying they are fairly highly leveraged. This is pretty normal for the Containers & Packaging industry. The company’s balance sheet indicates their operating profit are more than adequate to service their debt, with cash and liquid assets of more than $1.1 billion to provide additional flexibility.
    • Dividend: IP pays an annual dividend of $1.90 per share, which translates to a yield of about 3.64% at the stock’s current price.
    • Price/Book Ratio: there are a lot of ways to measure how much a stock should be worth; but one of the simplest methods that I like uses the stock’s Book Value, which for IP is $16.58 and translates to a Price/Book ratio of 3.17 at the stock’s current price. Their historical average Price/Book ratio is 4, which provides a strong basis for the stock’s long-term upside. A move to par with the average would put the stock above $66 per share, more than 27% higher than the stock’s current price and very near to its 52-week (and all-time) high around $67.



    Technical Profile

    Here’s a look at the stock’s latest technical chart.

    • Current Price Action/Trends and Pivots: The diagonal red line traces the stock’s upward trend from October of 2016 to late January of this year, and provides the reference for calculating the Fibonacci retracement levels indicated by the horizontal red lines on the right side of the chart. The stock has significantly retraced that upward trend, and has used the $51 level as strong support since late March. More recently, the stock’s trading range has narrowed, with resistance around $53 and support in the same $51 price area. Its current range also sits inline with the 61.8% retracement line, reinforcing the strength of the support the stock has seen over the last few months.
    • Near-term Keys: If you don’t mind working with a little volatility over time, and can tolerate a potential swing lower, the value proposition for the stock offers a great long-term opportunity with a very attractive dividend yield to draw from right now. If you prefer to work with shorter trading periods and strategies like swing or momentum trading, look for a push above $53 before taking a long position in the stock or working with call options. A drop below the stock’s current support around $51 could mark an interesting signal to short the stock or work with put options, since the stock isn’t likely in that case to find new, significant support before reaching the $46 level shown by the 88.6% retracement line.


  • 25 Jul
    TTC is down 18% for the year, and consolidating. Is it a great buy?

    TTC is down 18% for the year, and consolidating. Is it a great buy?

    President Trump Made A “Promise” To Americans 30 YEARS ago???

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    Read More

    One of the biggest challenges all investors face is finding stocks to invest in. It isn’t just about picking a stock out of the thousands that are available, but also trying to figure out when the time is right to make the investment. Momentum and trend traders like to try to time the swings from high to low extremes within price trends to place short-term trades, while investors with a longer time period in mind usually look at the fundamental strength of the underlying business. Value-oriented investing, which is the approach I prefer and write about, incorporates aspects aspects of both trend and fundamental analysis to determine if a stock’s current price is lower than it should be. It doesn’t mean the stock is guaranteed to go up, of course, but it does provide a pretty good way to build a case for whether a stock is worth the bother right now, later, or even at all.

    The Toro Company (TTC) is an interesting case study. This is a mid-cap Machinery company with an easily recognizable brand; if you mow your lawn, enjoy gardening or landscaping, or have to deal with snow in the winter, there’s a good chance you are familiar with their products. TTC competes with other companies in the Machinery space like Deere & Co. (DE) and Briggs & Stratton (BGG), to name just a couple. Their business has a definite element of seasonality associated with it; in their most recent quarterly earnings report, for example, the company cited a more-temperate-than-expected winter, in many parts of the country along with a delayed start to spring as factors that impacted revenues and earnings in the quarter. Even so, the company also has a diverse product portfolio that makes them an interesting player. The stock’s price is also down for the last twelve months, having hit a high price at around $73 in August of last year before dropping quickly to a range somewhere between $56 on the low side and around $62 on the high end. The stock is roughly the middle of that range right now and has been holding this sideways pattern for the past few months. 

    The stock’s current, and somewhat extended, sideways pattern marks a consolidation of price that usually gets technical traders to start paying a little more attention, since stocks inevitably find a reason to break out of consolidation ranges to establish new trends. When the stock is trading significantly below its historical levels, technical traders usually look at a consolidation pattern as a bullish indication and will start looking for a strong upside breakout signal to place a trade. As a value investor, consolidation makes me check a stock’s fundamentals to determine if there is a strong argument that the stock should move higher over either an intermediate or long-term perspective, and if the value proposition isn’t compelling enough right now, what is the price at which I think the stock is a good buy.



    Fundamental and Value Profile

    The Toro Company (Toro) is engaged in the designing, manufacturing, and marketing of professional turf maintenance equipment and services, turf irrigation systems, landscaping equipment and lighting products, snow and ice management products, agricultural micro-irrigation systems, rental and specialty construction equipment, and residential yard and snow thrower products. The Company operates through three segments: Professional, Residential and Distribution. Under the Professional segment, Toro designs professional turf, landscape and lighting, rental and specialty construction, snow and ice management, and agricultural products. The Residential segment provides products, such as riding products, home solutions products and snow thrower products. It manufactures and markets various walk power mower models. The Distribution segment consists of Company-owned domestic distributorship. Its brands include Toro, Exmark, BOSS, Irritrol, Hayter, Pope, Unique Lighting Systems and Lawn-Boy. TTC’s current market cap is $6.3 billion.

    • Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings  grew more than 11% while revenue growth was mostly flat, posting an increase of .29%. TTC operates with a narrow margin profile of about 1%. The results are more encouraging over the last quarter, where earnings grew 150% and revenues improved almost 60%. In addition, the company’s Net Income was about 10% over the past year, but improved to almost 15% in the last quarter.
    • Free Cash Flow: TTC’s free cash flow is healthy, at a little more than $257 million. This is a number that has declined over the past year from a little above $340 million.
    • Debt to Equity: TTC has a debt/equity ratio of .48. Their balance sheet shows about $206 million in cash and liquid assets versus about $300 million in long-term debt, which a pretty good indication that the company works with a conservative debt management philosophy. Given their healthy operating margins, they should have no problem servicing their debt.
    • Dividend: TTC pays an annual dividend of $.80 per share, which translates to a yield of about 1.33% at the stock’s current price.
    • Price/Book Ratio: there are a lot of ways to measure how much a stock should be worth; but one of the simplest methods that I like uses the stock’s Book Value, which for TTC is $5.81 and translates to a Price/Book ratio of 10.29 at the stock’s current price. Their historical average Price/Book ratio is 9.96, which provides a pretty strong argument for the fact that while the stock isn’t overvalued, it also isn’t a great value right now. I’m also not confident that under current conditions, with some early signs that steel and aluminum tariffs are starting to squeeze margins for industrial stocks, that the market is likely to start rotating into these stocks in the near future. A more compelling value argument in my mind would be made with the stock in the $45 to $46 range – which is a level the stock hasn’t seen since late 2016.



    Technical Profile

    Here’s a look at the stock’s latest technical chart.

     

    • Current Price Action/Trends and Pivots: The red diagonal line measures the length of the stock’s long-term downward trend, and also informs the Fibonacci trend retracement lines shown on the right side of the chart. As I observed earlier, the stock is currently hovering in a range between about $56 (range support) and $62 (range resistance). That range has been pretty persistent since April of this year. In order to reverse its long-term downward trend, the stock would need to break out of that range and move above the $63 area marked by the 38.2% retracement line. A break below $56 would reconfirm the long-term trend’s strength and could see the stock drop down into the $46 to $49 range.
    • Near-term Keys: If you’re looking for a way to take advantage of the bullish side of the market with TTC, look for a strong move above $63 before buying the stock or working with call options. If the stock does break below $56, that could be a good signal to short the stock or to consider buying put options. If you’re a value-oriented investor like me, a break below $56 could be a good reason to start paying closer attention, with stabilization below $50 an area where the stock’s value proposition could become very attractive.


  • 24 Jul
    Trade war fears are driving WHR down to REALLY interesting value levels

    Trade war fears are driving WHR down to REALLY interesting value levels

    Since the beginning of the month, the stock market has shown some positive momentum, with the S&P 500 driving from around 2,700 to a little above 2,800 as of this writing. That boost seems to come in spite of trade tensions, which always seem to be lurking close by and ready to start grabbing headlines and investor’s attention all over again. Today another wrinkle seems to be making its way into the storyline, as the Trump administration appears ready to make about $30 billion in emergency aid available to U.S. farmers that have been negatively impacted by tariffs. That certainly seems like a tacit acknowledgement that a trade war is really hurting Americans, and that more pain could be coming in the near future since the administration doesn’t seem to be changing its tone or approach in any meaningful way.

    The truth is that any actual impact of tariffs – from the U.S. on another nation, or vice versa – isn’t likely to be seen on an immediate basis. The markets, however are emotional by nature, which means that they usually react as much, if not more, to the perception of news more than to its reality. That’s why the entire semiconductor sector, with massive exposure to China has seen its practically uninterrupted momentum of nearly nine years fade over the last few months and even turn bearish since early June. The same is true of industrial stocks, where steel and aluminum tariffs have muted enthusiasm for stocks in that sector despite recent, generally positive earnings growth.



    It is also true that increased globalization, facilitated by technological advancement in practically every economic sector means that most companies that have been successful at growing revenues and profits over the last two decades or more have done so by extending their reach far beyond their own national borders. That means that almost no matter what business you look at, how well-established it may be, or what its perception as a “national icon” may be, if you dive deeper into its business you’ll find that tariffs between any, or all of the nations embroiled in trade tensions is exposed to a heightened risk of increased costs from tariffs. As investors, that means it can be hard to figure out how to invest actively, but conservatively by limiting your own exposure. 

    The concern over tariffs is an important element to consider when you’re thinking about Whirlpool Corp. (WHR), which is a stock that anybody should be able to recognize easily; there is, after all an excellent chance that you have one or more Whirlpool or Maytag appliances in your own home. The company reported earnings this morning that missed most analyst’s expectations; management also lowered their profit outlook for the rest of the year and cited increased costs of steel and resin as well as freight. One of the factors that the company cited for those increased costs included tariffs imposed by the Trump administration on steel imports (although the implication from the conference call was that they were just one contributor, and not the biggest one). The news sent the stock plunging more than 14% below yesterday’s closing price. 

    The company also faces intense competition from South Korean companies like Samsung and LG, but still remains one of the largest home appliance (large or small) manufacturers and markets in the world. How does WHR shield you from trade risk, especially when they are citing tariffs as an element that is increasing their costs? While the company operates globally, it also localizes its manufacturing operations, which means that products sold in the U.S. are manufactured in the U.S., products sold in Europe are manufactured in Europe, and so on. Despite its global footprint, North America remains its largest market, with more than 54% of all sales in 2017 coming locally. By comparison, 23% came from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, 16% came from Latin America, and only about 7% from Asia. WHR’s CEO also indicated that because the company negotiates annual contracts for the steel they buy, they hadn’t been strongly affected in the last quarter by steel tariffs; however it does raise some concern that the longer the tariffs persist, the more direct the impact will be, which appears to be a reason for the lowered profit forecast. Even so, the company remains profitable, with strong, positive cash flow, continued market leadership and a dividend yield far above the S&P 500 average, but that remains conservative from a payout ratio perspective. The bonus for a value-oriented investor is that the stock’s overnight drop really puts its price at a deeply discounted level that is attractive for those willing to work with a long-term perspective.



    Whirlpool Corp. (WHR)

    Current Price: $129.96

      • Earnings and Sales Growth: Earnings decreased from $3.35 a year ago to $3.20 in the most recent quarter. The market was expecting to see a year-over-year increase to $3.69 per share. Revenues also missed the mark, dropping to $5.14 billion versus $5.35 billion a year ago. While the market is reacting negatively to the fact that the numbers missed analysts expectations, I think it’s constructive to put the year-over-year decline in perspective; the earnings drop is about 4.4%, while revenues dropped by about 3.9%. That isn’t insignificant, especially if you think about it on an annualized basis and consider that the global economy has generally been healthy. Don’t make the mistake, however of attributing the drop just to trade war concerns. Other factors that had an impact, for example was a trucker strike in Brazil that impacted WHR’s business in Latin America and could continue to show softness until its general elections in October are settled, as well as sales declines in the EMEA portion of their business.
      • Free Cash Flow: WHR’s Free Cash Flow is healthy, and their balance sheet indicates they have good liquidity, with more than $1 billion in cash and liquid assets to supplement healthy operating margins.



    • Debt to Equity: WHR has a debt/equity ratio of .80 as of the quarter prior. Long-term debt has increased since the end of 2017 by about 10%, and so I expect this number is going to go up somewhat. Their balance sheet however implies that operating margins remain healthy and more than adequate to service their debt, with good cash and liquid assets to provide additional flexibility.
    • Dividend: WHR pays an annual dividend of $4.60 per share, which at its current price translates to a dividend yield of about 3.54%, well above the S&P 500 average of 2%. Its dividend offers an attractive yield for patient investors who would be willing to hold the stock and wait for its trend to shift back to the upside.
    • Recent Price Action: The stock has been trending lower for the past year, hitting a high in July of last year at about $200 before tapering lower from that point. Its current price marks a 23% decline from its 52-week high, and therein lies the opportunity. The stock hit a trend low point in late June at around $142 before rebounding a bit. The stock plunged overnight due to the pre-market earnings call to its current level as the market is reacting in an extreme way to the earnings miss and the lowered forecast. The acknowledgement that tariffs are playing a role seems to simply be adding fuel to that fire for now, but from a value standpoint it’s really just creating an even better value proposition. Given the company’s strong fundamental profile, its current price could be considered a good value. It is now trading only about 1.7 times above its latest Book Value, while its historical average is about 2.6. That puts a long-term price at around $191 – near to its 52-week highs. Adding to its value argument is the fact that at its current price, it is trading at less than ten times forward-looking earnings, while the average for stocks in the S&P 500 Index right now is 17.1.


  • 13 Jul
    HOG could be a good value play even with a trade war

    HOG could be a good value play even with a trade war

    At the end of May, steel and aluminum tariffs on the European Union, Mexico and Canada were imposed by the Trump administration amid a whirlwind of criticism, coming from all three countries and from just about every mainstream news media outlet as well. In the long run, the actual effect of these tariffs, and others levied against China remains to be seen, but as investors, it’s important to understand that no matter what the long-term outcome will be, good or bad, in the short term the markets will inevitably interpret any kind of conflict in trade as a negative thing. That interpretation manifests in daily market activity as uncertainty and volatility, and so it isn’t surprising that many of the industries that either produce steel and aluminum, or that rely on the material for their finished products, have been under some pressure.

    Harley Davidson, Inc. (HOG) is one of the stocks that has really been under pressure throughout the year, and the tension over tariffs certainly hasn’t helped matters. One of just a few worldwide brands that can truly be considered “an American icon,” the stock opened the year at around $52 and climbed as high as about $56 before dropping back to a low around $40 at the beginning of May. The imposition of steel and aluminum tariffs actually gave the stock a temporary boost, lifting it to about $46 in late June before it dropped back to its current level a little shy of $43.

    Over the last week or so, the company has come under fire from Trump himself by deciding to move its international manufacturing operations out of the U.S. Management has even attributed at least a portion of the decision to tariffs, since most of the countries targeted by the U.S. have responded in kind. Offshoring their international manufacturing should give the company a way to avoid export tariffs to key markets like Europe, but it has also drawn ire from the President, since the move threatens U.S. manufacturing jobs (although the company has not indicated any existing jobs would be lost). The negative press is one of the prime reasons the stock has dropped back near to its 52-week lows, but that drop also creates a pretty interesting opportunity for value-oriented investors. I think the fact the company is willing to think, and act proactively to address issues that it believes will impact its ability to do business is a positive in the long run. Call this an “anti-Trump” play if you want, but if the trade war doesn’t get resolved in what businesses feel is a reasonable period of time, and it really does starts to effect corporate growth, we may see other companies following HOG’s lead.



    Fundamental and Value Profile

    Harley-Davidson, Inc. is the parent company for the groups of companies doing business as Harley-Davidson Motor Company (HDMC) and Harley-Davidson Financial Services (HDFS). The Company operates in two segments: the Motorcycles & Related Products (Motorcycles) and the Financial Services. The Motorcycles segment consists of HDMC, which designs, manufactures and sells at wholesale on-road Harley-Davidson motorcycles, as well as motorcycle parts, accessories, general merchandise and related services. The Company manufactures and sells at wholesale cruiser and touring motorcycles. The Financial Services segment consists of HDFS, which provides wholesale and retail financing and insurance-related programs to the Harley-Davidson dealers and their retail customers. HDFS is engaged in the business of financing and servicing wholesale inventory receivables and retail consumer loans for the purchase of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. HOG has a current market cap of $7.1 billion.

    • Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings increased 18%, while sales increased only about 2.65%. Over the last quarter, both numbers are quite a bit more encouraging, with earnings more than doubling versus the quarter prior, and sales increasing more than 30%. Also, over the trailing twelve months, Net Income was a little less than 10% of Revenue, while over the last quarter it increased to a little over 11%.
    • Free Cash Flow: HOG’s Free Cash Flow is healthy at about $826 million. Their available cash and liquid assets also increased over the last quarter by more than 10%.
    • Debt to Equity: HOG has a debt/equity ratio of 2.06. While this number decreased in the last quarter, HOG remains one of the most highly leveraged companies in its industry. Their balance sheet indicates that operating profits are more than sufficient to service their debt.
    • Dividend: HOG pays an annual dividend of $1.48 per share. At the stock’s current price, that translates to a dividend yield of 3.46%.
    • Price/Book Ratio: there are a lot of ways to measure how much a stock should be worth; but one of the simplest methods that I like uses the stock’s Book Value, which for HOG is $11.85 per share. At the stock’s current price, that translates to a Price/Book Ratio of 3.6.  That’s a bit higher than I usually like to see, but the average for the Automobiles industry is 4.6, while the historical average for HOG is 4.5. A move to par with its historical average would put HOG a little above $53 per share, almost 25% higher than its current price.



    Technical Profile

    Here’s a look at the stock’s latest technical chart.

     

    • Current Price Action/Trends and Pivots: The red diagonal line traces the stock’s decline from its 52-week high at nearly $56 per share to its downward trend low in early May around $39. The stock picked up bullish momentum from that point to rally to a short-term high at around $46 per share before dropping back to around $40 in late June. The stock appears to have been building some positive momentum from that point. The horizontal red lines on the right side of the chart mark Fibonacci retracement lines based on the highlighted downward trend; the first line, around $46 is the 38.2% retracement level, which usually acts as a pretty significant inflection point. If the stock can break above resistance at that level, I expect to see the stock rally near to the 61.8% retracement line around $50. A break above $46 would also mark a reversal of the downward trend and should give the stock room to rally to the $53 to $54 level. Immediate support is around $40, and a break below that point could see the stock drop into the mid-$30 range, which is where the next likely support from historical pivots points lies.
    • Near-term Keys: If you’re looking for a short-term bullish bump, wait to see if the stock can break above $46 per share. A strong break, with good buying volume would act as a good signal to buy the stock or work with call options. If you’re willing to work with a long-term investment, the fundamentals and value proposition are strong enough to warrant taking a position immediately. If you prefer to follow the direction of the current downward trend and work with the bearish side, wait to see if the stock drops below $40. A move to $39 would be a good indication to short the stock or start working with put options.


  • 11 Jul
    AMAT is about to break down despite great fundamentals

    AMAT is about to break down despite great fundamentals

    For the last week or so, I’ve noticed that the market seems to be trying to shrug worries about trade tensions aside and focus on other matters, like continued strength in the U.S. economy as measured by things like unemployment and payroll figures, along with corporate earnings that generally seem to keep coming in with healthy growth. This morning, however, trade is once again rearing its ugly head, as overnight the Trump administration published a fresh list of proposed tariffs on an estimated $200 billion of Chinese goods. Not surprisingly, China is promising to retaliate and accusing the U.S. of using bullying tactics to try to get their way. I’ve also heard some rumbling over the last couple of weeks about the flattening yield curve and the chances it could invert, which a lot of experts would read as a leading indicator of a looming recession. I’m not so sure that a flattening curve right now is as problematic as some think. There are some interesting global factors at play right now, including negative interest rates in Germany and Japan that make short-term U.S. Treasuries more attractive worldwide than what we’ve seen happen historically. On the other hand, an extended, long-term trade conflict with China and our other biggest trade neighbors could be a catalyst that drives up costs, not only in the U.S. but across the globe to the point that recession becomes inevitable.

    With respect to China, the Semiconductor industry has seen a lot of negative price pressure for the last few months, because so much of the fabrication and production of semiconductor products comes from that country. The Trump administration’s tariffs against China imports are intended to protect U.S. technology and intellectual property (or so they want the world to believe) but at the same time many of them penalize American companies that use Chinese manufacturers to produce their finished product. That puts the entire sector at risk, which includes companies like Applied Materials, Inc. (AMAT), who provide manufacturing equipment, services and software to the sector.



    AMAT is down about 28% since early March, when President Trump first started rattling the tariff saber. That’s a big drop over that period that has forced the stock into an intermediate-term downward trend. The strength and momentum of that trend appears to be approaching an inflection point right now, and assuming the U.S. and China won’t stop pointing fingers and actually find a way to come an agreement anytime soon, I think there is a real chance that AMAT could break down to levels it hasn’t seen since late 2016. This is a risk that belies the company’s overall fundamental strength and strong financial position; in the long run, I think that strength will set up an interesting value proposition at some point down the road. For now, however, the downside risk from those external, geopolitical factors far outweighs any long-term opportunity.

    Fundamental and Value Profile

    Applied Materials, Inc. provides manufacturing equipment, services and software to the global semiconductor, display and related industries. The Company’s segments are Semiconductor Systems, which includes semiconductor capital equipment for etch, rapid thermal processing, deposition, chemical mechanical planarization, metrology and inspection, wafer packaging, and ion implantation; Applied Global Services, which provides integrated solutions to optimize equipment and fab performance and productivity; Display and Adjacent Markets, which includes products for manufacturing liquid crystal displays, organic light-emitting diodes, upgrades and roll-to-roll Web coating systems and other display technologies for televisions, personal computers, smart phones and other consumer-oriented devices, and Corporate and Other segment, which includes revenues from products, as well as costs of products sold for fabricating solar photovoltaic cells and modules, and certain operating expenses. AMAT has a current market cap of $45.5 billion.

    • Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings increased 54%, while sales increased almost 29%. Growing earnings faster than sales is difficult to do, and generally isn’t sustainable in the long-term; however it is also a good indication of a management’s ability to maximize their business operations. The company’s Net Income versus Revenue was almost 25% in the last quarter, which indicates their operating margins are very healthy.
    • Free Cash Flow: AMAT’s Free Cash Flow is strong, at more than $3.6 billion. While this number declined from about $4 billion in its most recent quarter, it has increased consistently since late 2015 when it was a little under $1 billion.
    • Debt to Equity: AMAT has a debt/equity ratio of .75, which is manageable despite its increase from .62 in the last quarter. The company has more than $5.3 billion in cash and liquid assets, which means they they have plenty of liquidity, against $5.3 billion in total long-term debt.
    • Dividend: AMAT pays an annual dividend of $.80 per share, which at its current price translates to a dividend yield of about 1.77%.
    • Price/Book Ratio: there are a lot of ways to measure how much a stock should be worth; but one of the simplest methods that I like uses the stock’s Book Value, which for AMAT is $6.99 per share. At the stock’s current price, that translates to a Price/Book Ratio of 6.45. The average for the Insurance industry is 5.3, while the historical average for AMAT is 4.06. That is a  pretty good indication the stock remains overvalued right now despite its decline since March. A move to par with its historical average would put the stock a little above $28 per share, which is actually below the technical bottom I’m forecasting if the stock’s current downward trend continues to assert itself.



    Technical Profile

    Here’s a look at the stock’s latest technical chart.

     

    • Current Price Action/Trends and Pivots: The chart above covers the last two and a half years because I want to give you an idea of how far AMAT has come; the impressive rise from around $15 that started at the beginning of 2016 to a high above $60 is remarkable by any measure. The stock’s terrific run was driven in no small part by the company’s fundamental strength, and those fundamentals remain solid, so there is an argument to be made that the stock should remain higher than it where it started. Given that the stock has dropped almost 30% in just four months despite its fundamental strength, however also provides some context for how much downside risk I think there is in the stock from external forces. The stock is sitting on a strong support level around $45 right now, which I’m highlighting with the blue horizontal line. If it drops below that point, its next likely support level would be around $40 (yellow horizontal line). Another break below that level could easily see the stock drop all the way to around $30, which would mark a 33% drop from the stock’s current level, and a 50% total drop from its March highs. Bullish upside is also limited right now by the bearish strength of the intermediate trend, shown by the green moving average line. The stock would have to break above $50 with strong upward momentum and buying volume before any reversal of the intermediate trend could be confirmed.
    • Near-term Keys: Watch the $45 support level. A break below that point is a strong indication the current downward trend could resume its momentum; the best trading probabilities in that case would come from bearish trades, such as buying put options or short selling the stock. If the stock starts to reverse higher from $45, be patient and wait for the stock to break above $50 before considering any kind of bullish trade.


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