US Economy

  • 29 Jan
    Is the time right to pay attention to auto stocks?

    Is the time right to pay attention to auto stocks?

    The market is off to a shaky start this week, as the market digested less impressive earnings results from companies like Caterpillar (CAT), along with gloomy forecasts from Nvidia (NVDA). A slowing economic climate in China was cited as a big cause in both cases, which fueled concerns that the longer trade concerns last, the more slowing growth in that region will have a ripple effect throughout the world, including the United States. More →

  • 25 Jan
    ALLY: do solid fundamentals make it worth its current price?

    ALLY: do solid fundamentals make it worth its current price?

    One of the interesting things to observe in the economy during the late upward stages of an economic cycle is consumer lending. A struggling economy usually prompts the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates in an effort to encourage more business activity. Lower interest rates mean cheaper borrowing for businesses and individuals. For the purposes of today’s spotlight, I want to focus on the consumer side of that dynamic. More →

  • 15 Jan
    Don’t fall for the “dead cat bounce”

    Don’t fall for the “dead cat bounce”

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    The longer a market correction lasts, or extends into a prolonged bear market, the more we see stocks drop to incredibly low level versus their historical highs. The market continues to exhibit quite a bit of uncertainty, not only over global growth forecasts, but also whether the global economic slowdown, along with the deleterious effect of tariffs and trade tensions is finally starting to catch up in the United States. While it may not be a given that the market is going to turn bearish, I think that continued uncertainty is going to keep a lid on broad market upside as we move further into the year. More →

  • 08 Jan
    How solid is MAN’s value proposition?

    How solid is MAN’s value proposition?

    Over the last several years, one of the biggest benchmarks the Fed has used to evaluate the need to raise, lower or maintain their interest rate policy has been the employment rate. Every month, the market seems to hold its breath as a new set of unemployment and salary data is made available and everybody gets to wonder what the information means for the current economic climate and, therefore for interest rates. It seems like for the last year or so, the question has revolved around whether we’re nearing the Fed’s target for “full employment,” or are we already there? And will that force the Fed to adjust its policy about interest rates? More →

  • 02 Jan
    ALK is a bargain-priced airline stock you shouldn’t ignore

    ALK is a bargain-priced airline stock you shouldn’t ignore

    One of the sectors that has led the entire stock market lower, and nearly to bear market levels is the transportation sector. Transportation is a sector that is normally expected to perform well when the economy is healthy, but as it has shown since the beginning of the last quarter of 2018, it can also lead the broad market as a bearish indicator when economic uncertainty and market fear increases. As measured by the S&P Transportation SPDR (XTN), the sector has declined by more than 18.5% since hitting its last major peak in late August of last year. That decline has really accelerated in the last month, as the sector has dropped almost 15% since the beginning of December. That has pushed a lot of stocks in this sector to levels not seen in the last two years. More →

  • 20 Dec
    Does an oil bear market spell doom for stocks like MRO?

    Does an oil bear market spell doom for stocks like MRO?

    One of the stores that seems to have really gotten lost in the jumble and noise of the stock market sell off coming in to the end of the year is the way oil prices have tanked at the same time. Questions about a global economic slowdown have played a big role in that decline, but the overall skittishness in the stock market certainly isn’t helping matters. Since the beginning of October, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude is down almost 39%, while Brent crude is down about 33% over the same period. That decline significantly outpaces the stock market’s decline, and yet all of the market noise is about whether the stock market is finally going to turn bearish, what the Fed is going to do with interest rates, and what will happen in China. More →

  • 18 Dec
    Looking for a smart play in the market right now? Check out TAP

    Looking for a smart play in the market right now? Check out TAP

    As the stock market moves deeper into correction territory and challenges the lowest support levels it reached earlier this year, a natural question becomes what a smart investor should do with your money. Do you take everything out of the market and sit on the sidelines until things start to settle down again? The ultra-conservative approach would be to do exactly that. More →

  • 13 Dec
    Is LOW cheap enough yet?

    Is LOW cheap enough yet?

    Over the course of this last quarter of the calendar year, one of the areas of the market that has come under the most pressure is the Consumer Discretionary sector. From April until September, this sector was one of the market leaders, as a generally healthy economy drove retail stocks across a range of industries like Kohl’s (KSS), Target Stores (TGT), Home Depot (HD), and Lowe’s Companies, Inc. (LOW) to all-time high levels; but as anxiety about global tariffs combined with questions about whether the economy was finally starting to reach a peak, this sector dropped well into correction territory and is down a little over 12% since the beginning of September.

    Home improvement stocks like HD and LOW seem to be an interesting economic barometer, especially as it relates to consumer-level impact. A healthy economy generally means increasing home ownership, both for new homes as well as existing, older homes. That is usually a good thing for this industry, since homeowners naturally have to spend money to maintain their homes. Another element that plays a role, of course is interest rates.  Low rates not only motivate higher borrowing for mortgages, but also spur increased home improvement sales as consumers spend and borrow money to upgrade and improve existing homes.

    The fact rates have been increasing isn’t a positive for this industry, and in fact is one of the things that I believe have played a role in pushing HD and LOW into bear market territory over the last three months; but recent economic data seems to be giving the market reason to believe that the Fed may slow the pace of interest rate increases. On a historical basis, rates remain relative modest, which means a slower pace, or even a pause in rates could give this industry a boost in 2019. LOW is an interesting company, in the midst of a corporate transformation, with a new management team that is mapping out a new strategy that includes selling non-core businesses, lowering costs and improved store execution. They are down more than 20% over the quarter, which means that the stock is underperforming versus the broader sector and is in bear market territory. There are some interesting fundamental qualities that I think make LOW worth watching; but I’m not sure the long-term outlook for the stock is quite as positive as I would like to see.



    Fundamental and Value Profile

    Lowe’s Companies, Inc. (Lowe’s) is a home improvement company. The Company operates approximately 2,370 home improvement and hardware stores. The Company offers a range of products for maintenance, repair, remodeling and decorating. The Company offers home improvement products in categories, including Lumber and Building Materials; Tools and Hardware; Appliances; Fashion Fixtures; Rough Plumbing and Electrical; Lawn and Garden; Seasonal and Outdoor Living; Paint; Flooring; Millwork, and Kitchens. The Company also supports the communities that focus on K-12 public education and community improvement projects. The Company serves its customers in the United States, Canada and Mexico. LOW’s current market cap is $75.3 billion.

    • Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings declined about -1%, while sales grew almost 4%. The last quarter didn’t improve the earnings picture, since earnings declined almost -50%, while sales dropped close to -17%. The company operates with a very narrow margin profile that seems to be getting even narrower; Net Income versus Revenues over both the past year was 5.18%, but decline in the most recent quarter at about 3.6%.
    • Free Cash Flow: LOW’s free cash flow is one of most impressive aspects of their fundamental profile, at $5.3 billion. That translates to a Free Cash Flow Yield of 7.2%. Another positive is the fact Free Cash Flow has increased significantly since the beginning of the year, when it was about $4 billion.
    • Debt to Equity: LOW has a debt/equity ratio of 2.68 and makes them one of the most highly leveraged companies in their industry. While their balance sheet indicates operating profits are sufficient to service their debt, liquidity is a question mark; cash is a little over $1.8 billion while long-term debt is almost $14.5 billion.
    • Dividend: LOW pays an annual dividend of $1.92 per share, which translates to a yield of about 2.1%.
    • 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 LOW is only $6.72, and which translates to a Price/Book ratio of 13.76 at the stock’s current price. Their historical average Price/Book ratio is 10.36, which means that even with the stock down 20% since September, it remains almost 25% overvalued right now. The fact is that based on Price/Book ratio, the stock can’t really be considered a good value until it drops to about $55. The last time the stock was in that price range was October of 2014.



    Technical Profile

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

     

    • Current Price Action/Trends and Pivots: LOW isn’t far from the 52-week lows it established earlier this year in the $81 to $83 price range. The momentum of the stock’s downward trend right now means that the stock would have to break above resistance at $95 to mark any kind of consolidation range right now, with a break above $100 a good technical reference for an actual bullish trend reversal. If the stock breaks below its current pivot support around $86, look for strong consolidation in the $81 to $83 range. A drop below that level would mean the downward trend will likely continue for the foreseeable future, with the next most likely support level around $75. 
    • Near-term Keys: A push above $95 could set up an interesting bullish swing trade using call options, with a near-term target price at around $100. If the stock breaks its current support, you might consider shorting the stock or buying put options with an eye on the stock’s 52-week low around $81 as an exit point for that trade. The fact is that the stock’s value proposition right now just isn’t interesting enough to justify any kind of long-term position on this company. They are interesting potential turnaround story, it is true; but I would prefer to wait to see new management’s strategy paying off in the form of improving general fundamental strength, lower debt levels, and improving Book Value.


  • 29 Nov
    What bear market? Transports like KSU are rebounding!

    What bear market? Transports like KSU are rebounding!

    The broad market’s activity since the beginning of October has put a lot of investors on edge. The major market indices all dropped back near to the 52-week lows they set earlier this year and marked a second drop into legitimate correction territory for the year. That has been increasing concern and speculation that the economy and the market could finally be set to turn over and give up the ghost on the longest bull run in recorded history in the United States. More →

  • 22 Nov
    Homebuilders are down big this year – does that mean opportunity with stocks like OC?

    Homebuilders are down big this year – does that mean opportunity with stocks like OC?

    Happy Thanksgiving! The holiday is a good opportunity, while the market takes a break from its wild day to day swings of the past six weeks or so, to sit back and think about where there might be some interesting opportunities to be had in the weeks, months, and possibly even years ahead. Despite the angst and worry that has dominated market headlines, centered primarily around continuing trade tension and interest rate fears, the fact remains that the economy for the most part continues to be quite healthy. Despite the general healthy state of the economy, one of the biggest underperforming sectors in the market throughout the year has been homebuilders, including building products companies. More →

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