Investiv Daily

  • 13 Aug
    RCL is setting up for a 20% rebound – but it could be even bigger

    RCL is setting up for a 20% rebound – but it could be even bigger

    Among the best-performing segments in the market throughout the course of 2018 is the Consumer Discretionary sector. Since the beginning of the year, as measured by the iShares Consumer Discretionary ETF (XLY), the sector is up 12.5%. That includes a pullback of about 9.6% that coincided with the broader market’s correction in late January. The sector has recovered nicely from that point, closing on Friday just a little below an all-time high. The sector’s strong long-term trend, which extends all the way back to 2009, does imply that most stocks in the sector should be seriously over-valued; but one pocket of the sector that actually looks pretty good from a valuation standpoint right now is Leisure & Recreation Services. In particular, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCL), which performed remarkably well until January, but hasn’t seen the same kind of push to new all-time highs since then, actually looks undervalued right now. The stock is about 20% below its all-time high price around $136 as of this writing, but looks like it could be setting up nicely, from both a value-based and technical view, for a big push higher.

    As the economy continues to show strength, consumer discretionary stocks like RCL could be particularly well-positioned. The stock has an interesting tendency to perform especially well following the summer season; it would seem to be a delayed reaction to increased consumer spending and vacation planning during the summer months. That bodes well for the stock’s short-term performance if you aren’t particularly interested in a longer-term play; but if you don’t mind taking a patient approach, I think there is a much bigger opportunity lying in wait. There are risks, of course; one of the drivers for the stock over the last couple of years has been relatively affordable fuel costs. An increase in oil prices would have a direct effect on RCL’s bottom line. If some analysts fears about oil supply in the wake of renewed U.S. sanctions against Iran are correct, that risk could show up sooner than later. Trade tensions, and the impact they could have on the global economy, could also present a longer-term risk. These are factors that you should take into account against the value and technical information I’m about to present, which looks very favorable.



    Fundamental and Value Profile

    Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL) is a cruise company. The Company owns and operates three global cruise brands: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises (Global Brands). The Company also own joint venture interest in the German brand TUI Cruises, interest in the Spanish brand Pullmantur and interest in the Chinese brand SkySea Cruises (collectively, Partner Brands). Together, its Global Brands and its Partner Brands operate a combined total of 50 ships in the cruise vacation industry with an aggregate capacity of approximately 123,270 berths as of December 31, 2016. As of July 31, 2018, the Company’s ships offer a selection of itineraries that call on approximately 540 destinations in 105 countries, covering all seven continents. Royal Caribbean International offers a range of itineraries to the destinations, including Alaska, Asia, Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, the Panama Canal and New Zealand with cruise lengths that range from 2 to 24 nights. RCL has a current market cap of about $23.7 billion.

    • Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings and revenues both increased, with earnings growing nearly 33% and sales by about 6.5%. 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 business operations. The company also operates with a very healthy margin profile, with Net Income running at nearly 20% of Revenues on both a yearly and quarterly basis.
    • Free Cash Flow: TRI’s free cash flow is adequate, at $641.39 million. Their total cash and liquid assets in the last quarter was somewhat minimal, at about $109 million. I believe this is a reflection, at least in part, of a deal that was announced in June that the company would acquire a 66.7% majority stake in ultra-luxury line Silverseas Cruises, which is being financed by debt.
    • Debt to Equity: TRI has a debt/equity ratio of .68. Their balance sheet indicates their operating profits are more than adequate to repay their debt.
    • Dividend: TRI pays an annual dividend of $2.40 per share, which translates to a yield of about 2.11% 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 TRI is $51.56 and translates to a Price/Book ratio of 2.20 at the stock’s current price. Their historical average Price/Book ratio is 4.06. That suggests the stock is trading at a significant discount right now, with a target price north of $200. I’m not quite that optimistic, since the stock’s all-time high price was reached in January of this year at about $136 per share. However, the stock is current trading about 39% below its historical average, which provides a somewhat more conservative target price in the $158 range. While I would need to see the stock actually break $136 before I would be willing to suggest the stock could reach that level, I do think that both ratios together offer more than enough to reason to argue the stock has a good reason to drive back higher to test that all-time high. That’s a bargain opportunity of 20% alone, which is more than enough reason for a value investor to sit up and take notice.



    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 intermediate downward trend, and also informs the Fibonacci trend retracement lines shown on the right side of the chart. The stock bounced off of trend support at around $101 in early June to push up to its current price. Its initial rebound off of the trend low saw the stock quickly push to around $114 per share before it retested that support in July; that second bounce higher is now providing a nice “double bottom” pattern to look at. Double bottoms are strong technical indicators that a stock is setting for a big bullish push, and is another reason I can see the stock rallying to retest its all-time highs around $136. The breakout that confirms a Double Bottom signal comes when the stock breaks the resistance marked by the most recent pivot high, which was reached in mid-June at around $114 per share, which the stock looks poised to do with any kind of bullish push this week.
    • Near-term Keys: If the stock breaks above $114, there could be a nice opportunity to either go ahead and buy the stock outright to hold with a $136 price target in mind if you want to take the long-term, value-oriented approach. If you’re thinking more about a shorter-term trade, there could also be a nice short-term opportunity signaled by that bullish break using call options, with a target price around the $118 – $119 level marked by the 50% Fibonacci retracement line. A bearish trade, either by shorting the stock or using put options, is a very low probability trade right now. The stock would really need to break down below its June low around $101 before any kind of bearish trade should be considered.


  • 10 Aug
    TRI: short-term bullish strength, interesting value potential. How should you play it?

    TRI: short-term bullish strength, interesting value potential. How should you play it?

    The search for bargains in the stock market is an ongoing challenge for any investor. Sometimes the challenge is harder than at other times; when the market is at or near historical highs, as it is right now for example, finding stocks that offer a legitimate value at their current price takes a little more work and effort. It also often means going against the grain of the broader market, since the best values are usually found in stocks that are trading at or near historical lows.

    Thomson Reuters Corp (TRI) is a stock that offers a somewhat different profile. As of this writing, the stock is only about $6, or 12.5% below its all-time high price at around $48 per share, but still well above its 52-week low price, which is around $34 per share. That certainly puts the stock in correction territory; but perhaps not yet at quite the level a strict value investor might generally look for to believe the stock is deeply discounted enough to warrant a more serious look. I think there are some really interesting elements to look at, however, that at least make TRI a stock that long-term investors should be putting on their watchlists; you may even decide that the stock is worth a serious look as a good value investment right now.

    Thomson Reuters is a multinational company, based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada that has been in existence since the 1850’s. The company deals in news and information services, including financial market, legal, and tax and accounting data. As you’ll see below, the company is a cash flow machine, with healthy operating profits, manageable debt, and a global footprint. Their latest quarterly earnings report was two days ago, and along with a generally positive financial report, also disclosed that they expect to complete a sale of a 55% stake in their Financial & Risk unit – the segment of their business that provides data and news primarily to financial customers, including brokerages and investment banks – to private equity firm Blackstone Group LP for $20 billion. A portion of those proceeds will be used to pursue expansion opportunities in their legal and accounting businesses.



    Fundamental and Value Profile

    Thomson Reuters Corp (Thomson Reuters) is a Canada-based provider of news and information for professional markets. The Company is organized in three business units: Financial & Risk, Legal, and Tax & Accounting. The Financial & Risk unit is a provider of critical news, information and analytics, enabling transactions and connecting communities of trading, investment, financial and corporate professionals. The Legal unit is a provider of critical online and print information, decision tools, software and services that support legal, investigation, business and government professionals around the world. The Tax & Accounting unit is a provider of integrated tax compliance and accounting information, software and services for professionals in accounting firms, corporations, law firms and government. The Company also operates Reuters, Global Growth Organization (GGO) and Enterprise Technology & Operations (ET&O). Thomson Reuters operates in over 100 countries. TRI’s current market cap is $29.7 billion.

    • Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings and revenues both declined. This is a trend that has been typical of companies in the Capital Markets industry, and TRI’s performance was better than the industry average. TRI operates with a healthy margin profile, however, with Net Income a little more than 14% of Revenues over the last twelve months. This number also improved to nearly 50% in the most recent quarter.
    • Free Cash Flow: TRI’s free cash flow is very healthy, at $1.9 billion at the end of the first quarter of the year. This number also increased dramatically from the beginning of the year, at around $1.1 billion, but declined about $25 million in the second quarter. The decline was attributed primarily to costs related to the Blackstone transaction.
    • Debt to Equity: TRI has a debt/equity ratio of .40. Their balance sheet indicates their operating profits are more than adequate to repay their debt. The Blackstone sale, which should be completed by the end of the year will infuse even more cash (about $500 million in the last quarter) onto their balance sheet. Besides financing acquisitions as already observed, it will also give them the flexibility, if they choose to do so, to practically wipe out their long-term debt, which amounted to a little less than $5 billion.
    • Dividend: TRI pays an annual dividend of $1.38 per share, which translates to a yield of about 3.28% 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 TRI is $18.86 and translates to a Price/Book ratio of 2.22 at the stock’s current price. Their historical average Price/Book ratio is 2.28. That suggests the stock is fairly valued right now, which at first blush doesn’t imply a “screaming deal for a value-oriented investor. However, the Price/Cash Flow suggests a little different story, since it is trading almost 20% below its historical average.



    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 intermediate downward trend, and also informs the Fibonacci trend retracement lines shown on the right side of the chart. The stock bounced off of trend support at around $36.50 to push up to its current price. Along the way, it has shown an almost picture-perfect, upward “stair step” pattern to establish its short-term upward trend. The stock has seen resistance around $42.50, which coincides with the 50% retracement line. A break above that level could see the stock push quickly to $44, with its 52-week high in the $48 range not far off from that point. The 38.2% retracement line, which is sitting at around $41, should act as a strong support level if the short-term trend has any chance of extending into an intermediate time period. A break below that level could see the stock drop back to its 52-week lows around $36 per share.
    • Near-term Keys: If you prefer to wait for a more cut-and-dried value proposition on this stock, it might be safer to wait and see if the stock can reverse its short-term upward trend and push near to its yearly lows, or even to extend them a little more; that would put the stock’s Price/Book ratio significantly below its historical average and make the value argument more compelling than it may be today. If its bullish momentum, continues and the stock pushes above $42.50, a good short-term momentum trade could lie in buying call options, or the stock outright, with a short-term target price around $44 or $45 per share. If the stock breaks down, and you want to work with the bearish side, a good put option or short selling set up would come below $41, with a target price at around $36 per share.


  • 09 Aug
    WDC was a good buy a few weeks ago; now it’s a GREAT buy

    WDC was a good buy a few weeks ago; now it’s a GREAT buy

    In late July, and just before they released their latest quarterly earnings report, I wrote about Western Digital Corporation (WDC) and the fact that the stock had dropped more than 28% below its all-time high at around $108. The stock was around $75 per share then, and following their earnings report, the stock plunged even more; as of this writing the stock is just a little above $66 per share. At the end of July, I thought the stock was a nice buy; after reviewing the stock’s latest earnings information, and taking the latest drop into account, I think it’s an even bigger bargain now.

    So what’s been driving the latest plunge (almost 11.5% since my last post about this stock)? Sometimes, the stock market makes sense – or at least, you can tie what a stock is doing at a given time to specific news, or to something about the underlying company that has some semblance of logic to it. Often, though, it’s downright maddening. I’ll admit that when I first saw WDC drop below $70 I struggled to tie it to anything concrete. I’ve kept digging, and while I think I’ve found a couple of threads to tie the decline to, the logic behind one of them makes me shake my head.



    Shortly after my post, WDC published its latest quarterly earnings report. The numbers were good across the board – every fundamental measurement I use in my analysis remained very healthy or improved, including the company’s Book Value. It was right after that report, however that the stock started to drop. At the same time, WDC’s only real competitor in the HDD space, Seagate Technology Plc (STX) released their own earnings report. STX’s report reflected a reality that seems to be scaring investors about either company, because sales of HDD drives continues to decline. In the consumer space, in particular, HDD clearly looks like a dying breed. And while STX is focusing more and more on the only market where HDD sales remain healthy – the enterprise, cloud server storage space – they don’t have a plan to evolve their business beyond that. WDC, at least in part, looks like a victim by association of STX’s poor report, which also prompted downgrades on that stock from analysts. That’s the part that makes me scratch my head, because anybody that thinks STX is in a better position than WDC to stay relevant has to be smoking something.

    The other thread I’ve found, and that the market seems to be teeing off on, is the fact that competition in the SDD and NAND space – memory types that are built on solid-state technology, and a major piece of WDC’s evolution strategy – is intensifying. WDC bought SanDisk in 2016 primarily because they knew that staying pat with HDD technology was a loser’s game; acquiring SanDisk immediately put them at the front of the SSD and NAND chip pack. There is market data that suggests supply of SSD and NAND chips is higher than demand right now. With more companies like Micron Technology (MU), Intel Corporation (INTC) and others making forays into the space, it isn’t a given WDC will maintain their leadership position in this segment. Intensifying competition, along with high supply clearly is also playing a role right now in the stock’s decline.

    Competition in any business segment is a normal thing, and while that increases the pressure on any company, a good management team doesn’t shy away from it. I really like WDC’s strategy, and I think that in the long run they’re doing the right things to keep their business growing. Their fundamentals remain excellent in the meantime, which really means that if the stock was a nice buy at $75, it’s a great buy now.



    Fundamental and Value Profile

    Western Digital Corporation (WDC) is a developer, manufacturer and provider of data storage devices and solutions that address the needs of the information technology (IT) industry and the infrastructure that enables the proliferation of data in virtually every industry. The Company’s portfolio of offerings addresses three categories: Datacenter Devices and Solutions (capacity and performance enterprise hard disk drives (HDDs), enterprise solid state drives (SSDs), datacenter software and system solutions); Client Devices (mobile, desktop, gaming and digital video hard drives, client SSDs, embedded products and wafers), and Client Solutions (removable products, hard drive content solutions and flash content solutions). The Company develops and manufactures a portion of the recording heads and magnetic media used in its hard drive products. WDC’s current market cap is $19.9 billion.

    • Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings  grew more than 29% while revenue growth was modest, posting an increase of almost 6%. WDC operates with a narrow margin profile of about 1%. By comparison, STX’s margins are around 10%. I believe the difference is a reflection of the company’s differing approach to growth; STX focuses almost exclusively on the higher margin aspect of increasing enterprise demand, while WDC takes a two-tiered approach by meeting enterprise demand for HDD drives while also pushing hard on innovation and evolution with SSD storage.
    • Free Cash Flow: WDC’s free cash flow is very healthy, at almost $3.4 billion. That translates to a free cash flow yield of almost 17%, which is much higher than I would normally expect given the company’s narrow operating margins.
    • Debt to Equity: WDC has a debt/equity ratio of .95. That number declined from a little above 1 two quarters ago, as long-term debt dropped by more than $1 billion. Their balance sheet indicates their operating profits are more than adequate to repay their debt, and with almost $5 billion in cash and liquid reserves, the company has excellent financial flexibility, which they plan to use to pay down debt, repurchase their shares and consider other strategic acquisitions.
    • Dividend: WDC pays an annual dividend of $2.00 per share, which translates to a yield of about 3% 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 WDC is $38.53 and translates to a Price/Book ratio of 1.7 at the stock’s current price. Their historical average Price/Book ratio is 2.12. That suggest the stock is trading right now at a discount of a little over 19%, which is attractive; to support that opinion, the industry average is 4.6. That suggests the stock could be even more significantly undervalued right now. Using a long-term target price above $140 is probably over-optimistic since the stock’s highest price was reached in late 2014 around $110; however if the company’s evolution strategy is correct, as I expect it to be, that historical high is useful.



    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 intermediate downward trend, and also informs the Fibonacci trend retracement lines shown on the right side of the chart. The stock broke below strong support from repeated low pivots since late last year at $75, which has really driven the stock’s bearish momentum. The Fibonacci analysis shown on the chart above makes it hard to see where the stock’s next support level is likely to be. The upward trend that ended in March actually began in March 2016 at a low of around $35 per share; applying the same Fibonacci calculations to that trend puts the 61.8% retracement level at around $62.50, meaning that the stock is nearing the next important support area.
    • Near-term Keys: The stock is already offering a significantly discounted price relative to where I think it’s long-term potential lies. The truth is that if you went long on this stock in late July, you’re probably trying to decide what to do to manage the position now. I think there is more than adequate argument to hold on and ride out the stock’s current downward trend; but if you want to limit your risk, using a stop loss 25% below your purchase price would be a smart, conservative approach. If you’re thinking about trying to short the stock or start working with put options to take advantage of downside, the best signal for that kind of trade came at the end of July, so that opportunity has come and gone. The next signal for a bearish trade would come if the stock continues to break down and drops below $62. That could see the stock drop another $10 lower to around $51 or $52.


  • 08 Aug
    The S&P 500 is about to hit a new all-time high. How much upside can you expect?

    The S&P 500 is about to hit a new all-time high. How much upside can you expect?

    Since the beginning of July, the market has shown quite a bit of bullish momentum. As of this writing, the S&P 500 (SPY) has rallied more than 150 points from a pivot low in late June in the 2,700 area – a total gain in a little over a month of 9%. The index is now poised to match, and quite possibly exceed the highs it reached in late January. For most technical traders, a new high marks a break above resistance that should give the market momentum to keep pushing even higher. If you’re not the type of person, however to simply “leap before you look,” then like me, you want to try to figure out how much room is left.

    How much upside remains in the market isn’t an easy question to answer, simply because nobody can make anything more than a semi-educated guess about future events – or the way the investing world will interpret them. The same technical traders who look for new all-time highs to extend trends even further also like to use historical price action to come up with estimates. Economists and fundamental investors try to use geopolitical and macroeconomic data and events to identify keys and trends. I hesitate to say that any one approach is better than another. Instead, I like to consider a combination of a couple of different technical techniques, along with economic and, yes, even geopolitical conditions to try to come to my own opinion.

    I spent some time this morning going over some of that data, and here’s what my early conclusions are. Keep in mind, these are just a few of my own best attempts to make a semi-educated guess, so you can take it or leave it as you wish.



    Some Fuzzy Math

    I’ll start by giving you a look at a technical chart of the S&P 500.

     

    There are a couple of elements of this chart that I think are useful right now. The first is the Relative Strength (RSI) indicator shown in the lower portion of the chart. RSI is a sentiment and momentum indicator that oscillates between upper and lower extremes to gauge a trend’s strength and give traders a way to estimate the likelihood the trend will continue or reverse. At the upper extremes (above 70), reversal risk to the downside is increased, while at the lower extremes (below 30), the opposite is true. The other element that comes into play about RSI is that stocks will often continue to follow their current trend even as RSI hovers near, or even beyond extreme levels. That reality is what makes RSI interesting to me right now. Even as the S&P 500 is pushing near to the all-time high it set in January of this year, RSI remains just a little below its uppermost extreme. It has also managed to oscillate within its upper and lower extremes since that high was reached in January, with its general pattern of highs and lows since April closely approximating the pattern of the index. That is a confirmation of the market’s trend over the last four months, and the fact that the indicator still hasn’t pierced its upper extreme band suggests there could be more room to run.

    At this point, it’s worth taking a moment to discuss a basic tenet of trend-based analysis. Trends tend to move in what I like to think of as stages. Typically speaking, most long-term trends can be broken into three different stages. Stage 1 is the earliest portion of a trend, when the market begins to reverse from an extreme or high or low. That’s the hardest stage to recognize, simply because it moves against the grain of the current longer trend, when most people will simply see that counter move as a minor correction or pullback within that trend. Stage 2 is the longest portion of a trend, and the area where the most money is likely to be made. It’s where the new trend is easiest to identify, and so more and more investors jump on board in that direction, making it easier and simpler to maintain. Stage 3 is the latest stage of the trend, and what I like of as the “last gasp” stage of that long-term trend. There is often still quite a bit of room to move along the trend in this stage, and so this stage can still yield very profitable results; but it also means that reversal risk is greatly heightened during this stage.



    The challenge about the stages of a trend is predicting how long any given stage will last. Stage 2 can last 4 to 5 years in many cases, while Stages 1 and 3 are usually considerably shorter. The problem is that word – usually. I’ve been saying the market is in Stage 3 of its long-term upward trend for more than two years, which is undoubtedly longer than that stage should last. I maintain that attitude, however, simply because I think it is smarter to estimate conservatively; plan for the best, but be prepared for the worst. That means that I want to recognize and take advantage of upside opportunity when it’s there, but be ready and positioned to react quickly and effectively when the market reverses back the other way.

    If you operate on the idea that the market is in Stage 3, any upside that remains should be somewhat limited. That is where the “291.78 Total Distance” estimate I highlighted on the chart comes into play. Some people will take the total distance of the last market correction to estimate how far the market’s new opportunity will be after a new high is reached. I think it’s reasonable to use the total distance as a reference point, but I prefer to think in somewhat more conservative terms.

    Another technical method of market analysis that I have learned to appreciate over the course of my years in the market is Fibonacci analysis. It’s pretty fascinating to see how market trends, and their swings from high to low correspond with Fibonacci mathematics. Those calculations can also be used to estimate a market’s extension of a trend. Here’s what we get if we apply the .618 Fibonacci ratio to the total distance of the market’s correction from January to April of this year:

    291.78 X .618 = 180.32

    We can add this number (roughly 62% of the total size of the correction) to the last market high to get an estimate of how much further the market could run if the resistance from that high is broken.

    2,872.87 + 180.32 = 3,052.87

    180.32 / 2,872.87 = 6.27% total upside

    Forecasting broad market upside of about 6% if the market makes a new high seems like a pretty conservative estimate; if it is even remotely close to correct, that should translate to some pretty healthy gains on individual stocks. How long that kind of a run will take is anybody’s guess. I decided to look back at the last two bull markets to gauge how long Stage 3 of their respective long-term trends lasted.



    The bull market that ran from 2002 to 2007 hit a high point in October 2007 before beginning its reversal; the “last gasp”, final stage of that five-year trend began in August, meaning that Stage 3 in that case covered about a two-month period of time. Prior to that, the March 2000 high that marked the end of the “dot-com boom” started its “last gasp” push in February of the same year. Saying the market could move about 6% in one to two months isn’t unreasonable given the increased level of volatility we’ve seen from the market this year; but I also think it’s useful to think about how long it has taken the market to recover from its latest correction (assuming, of course, that a new high is actually made). The bottom came in April, so a conservative estimate could suggest that it may take between 2 to 4 months. That certainly implies the market’s trend could last through the rest of the year, or possibly even longer since my estimate intentionally errs on the conservative side.

    There are some important elements from a fundamental and economic view that I think support the idea the market has some room and reason to run a little longer. Earnings continue to come in generally strong, and most economic reports (jobs, housing etc.) are also showing pretty broad-based strength. A healthy economy should generally lend itself well to continued strength in the stock market. While interest rates are rising, the Fed has maintained a conservative pace and degree of those increases, and the economy seems to following that lead pretty well. As they currently stand, interest rates remain historically low despite the increases we’ve seen so far. That is also a positive, bullish indicator.



    There are risks to my forecast. Frankly, many come from the geopolitical arena at this stage. Trade war concerns are still on everybody’s mind, and the Trump administration’s reimposition of economic sanctions on Iran could put a cap on oil supply that could drive oil prices near to their historical highs. While corporate earnings have yet to really show a negative impact from tariffs between the U.S. and its trading partners, more and more CEO’s are starting to cite tariffs as a risk. If that risk starts to manifest itself in an actual deterioration of revenues, and of earnings, the market can be expected to react negatively. Increased oil prices, at the extreme, could have the net effect of muting demand for a wide range of goods all over the globe. Real estate prices in many parts of the U.S. have also been showing some remarkable increases over the last year or so as well, while wage gains have generally been quite muted; at some point, those increases, along with increasing interest rates could very well put home ownership – a big indicator of broad economic strength – out of the reach of the average working person.

    Is there good upside left in the market? I think there is. I also think we have to be careful to factor risk into our evaluation and our investment decisions. Be conservative and selective about how you jump into a new opportunity, and plan ahead about how long you intend to stay or how much gain you want to chase. Put a plan in place to limit your downside risk if you’re proven wrong and the market turns against you, and limit the size of the new positions you take.


  • 07 Aug
    KR is still a screaming buy despite its recent rally

    KR is still a screaming buy despite its recent rally

    Two months ago, I wrote about The Kroger Company (KR) and predicted the stock was set to reverse its long-term downward trend in a big way. I’m generally not the type of person to pay myself on the back when something like that works out in my favor, but since the stock was below $25 then, and as of this writing is surging above $30 – that’s more than 20% in two months, if you’re keeping track – I feel pretty good about that prediction.

    The other, more important reason that it seems like a good time to revisit this stock is because in spite of this nice, big rally, the stock is still undervalued. That’s pretty remarkable considering how far the stock has already moved, but it means that there is still plenty of good opportunity to work with a stock with some really terrific fundamental strength behind it and a management team that is actively working to stay competitive with bigger companies like Amazon.com (AMZN), Target Stores (TGT) and Walmart (WMT). Those are also stocks that get a lot more buzz in the media but whose value proposition is significantly less compelling. I still think that if you’re looking for a way to invest in the stock market defensively using the Consumer Staples sector, KR is one of the best plays available.



    The Kroger Company (KR) is one of the most well-established, nationwide names in the grocery business, and they’ve held up well for decades even as companies like WMT and AMZN have pushed their way in and changed the competitive landscape of their industry. Not only am I willing to bet there is a Kroger-owned grocery store close to where you live, I’m also going to go out on a limb and say that you probably visit that store a handful of times every month at least. That is the kind of “stickiness” that analysts like to point to when they look for companies that will generally hold up in a troubled economy. 

    This is a company that has faced challenges from competitors large and small and manages to find its own way to not merely survive, but remain competitive and relevant. In just the last month, I’ve watched the company announce moves that should be useful to that end. Perhaps the most noteworthy just crossed newswires this morning, as the company is expanding its delivery portfolio. They already offered online order pickup and delivery from almost half of its stores nationwide via its Clicklist service, but is now adding the ability to ship home essential and non-perishable items at a lower cost using its Kroger Ship service. This is a non-subscription-based service, priced at $4.99 for two-day shipping on orders under $35, and free for orders above that minimum. It’s clearly designed to compete favorably with Amazon’s Prime Pantry service (which charges a higher delivery fee and requires an active Prime membership), and Target’s Restock service (next day delivery, free if you pay with a Target credit or debit card). The service is rolling out initially in four markets (Cincinnati, Houston, Louisville, and Nashville), with plans to expand to other markets in the next few months.



    Fundamental and Value Profile

    The Kroger Co. (Kroger) manufactures and processes food for sale in its supermarkets. The Company operates supermarkets, multi-department stores, jewelry stores and convenience stores throughout the United States. As of February 3, 2018, it had operated approximately 3,900 owned or leased supermarkets, convenience stores, fine jewelry stores, distribution warehouses and food production plants through divisions, subsidiaries or affiliates. These facilities are located throughout the United States. As of February 3, 2018, Kroger operated, either directly or through its subsidiaries, 2,782 supermarkets under a range of local banner names, of which 2,268 had pharmacies and 1,489 had fuel centers. As of February 3, 2018, the Company offered ClickList and Harris Teeter ExpressLane, personalized, order online, pick up at the store services at 1,056 of its supermarkets. P$$T, Check This Out and Heritage Farm are the three brands. Its other brands include Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic. KR has a current market cap of $24.1 billion.

    • Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings increased by almost 26%, while sales increased at a modest rate of about 3.5%. The story is a little different, but not in a bad way in the most recent quarter, as KR saw an earnings improvement of 16% against an improvement of almost 21% in sales. The company operates with narrow margins, as Net Income was about 2.9% of Revenues for the last twelve months. This number improved in the most recent quarter to 5.39%.
    • Free Cash Flow: KR’s free cash flow is healthy, at about $824 million. That translates to a free cash flow yield of less than 5%, but remains adequate. The company has good liquidity, with $1.7 billion in cash and liquid assets.
    • Debt to Equity: the company’s debt to equity ratio is 1.74, which is a fairly high number under most circumstances, but which is also roughly inline with the industry average.
    • Dividend: KR pays an annual dividend of $.56 per share, which translates to an annual yield of 1.85% 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 uses the stock’s Book Value, which for KR is $8.54 per share. At the stock’s current price, that translates to a Price/Book Ratio of 3.54. I usually like to see this ratio closer to 1, or even better, below that level, but higher ratios in certain industries aren’t uncommon. The Food & Staples Retailing industry’s average is 3.1, putting KR bit above its counterparts. The stock’s historical Price/Book Ratio, however is 5.06, significantly above its current level. The stock would have to rally to about $43 per share to reach par with its historical average. That provides a long-term target price near to the stock’s 2-year high point in early 2016 and serves as a nice reference for the stock’s value opportunity.



    Technical Profile

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

     

    • Current Price Action/Trends and Pivots: The stock appears to be breaking resistance at around $29.50, defined mostly by the trading range it held from early June until late July. Prior to that point, the stock had held in a range between $23 and $26 per share. The break above that range in early June confirmed a long-term downward trend reversal that had extended back to the beginning of 2016. The stock’s next most likely resistance level, based on previous pivots, is in the $33 to $35 price area, with support at the latest breakout level between $29.50 and $30 per share.
    • Near-term Keys: If you’re looking for a good long-term, value-oriented play, the stock remains an excellent bargain, so there is little reason not to take advantage right now. The stock is only about $1 away from its 52-week high at around $31.50, so if you’re looking for a shorter-term bullish trade using swing or trend strategies, you should probably wait until the stock breaks above that level, with a short-term target price around $35. If the stock breaks down below $30, it could see room to drop to between $26 and $27 fairly quickly, which could offer an attractive bearish setup using put options or by shorting the stock.


  • 06 Aug
    Trade war fears are making MU look like a fantastic bargain

    Trade war fears are making MU look like a fantastic bargain

    No matter how much the market tries to focus on something else, it seems like the trade war always manages to find its way to the front and center position of market commentary and awareness. That was true again over the weekend as the Chinese government countered the Trump administration’s latest proposal of $200 billion in new tariffs with $60 billion of their own against U.S. goods. It keeps worries about what the actual impact and effect of a long-term trade war with our country’s largest trade partner is going to be. It’s definitely one of the most obvious factors that has contributed to the market’s increased volatility throughout the year, and I think it is going to continue to hold people’s attention throughout the year.

    Naturally, one of the things this kind of uncertainty should make you do is to think about how it is going to impact the investment decisions you decide to make. In this day and age, it’s hard to find publicly traded companies that aren’t doing business in some way with China or other parts of the world, like the E.U., where the trade war is front and center – either by selling their products there or having them manufactured and produced there and then bringing them back home. The global nature of our economy, and the interconnectedness that we now live in means that even the smallest of companies are likely to have some element of exposure to global trade risk. That reality means that companies with known ties to China and other parts of the world are subject to even greater price volatility and general market risk.



    The semiconductor industry has been an interesting proxy for trade war risk  since mid-March when the saber-rattling first began in earnest. As measured by the iShares Semiconductor ETF (SOXX), the sector dropped a little over 50% by the end of April. It has rebounded a bit since then, but remains about 6% below its March high point. That has put a significant amount of pressure on a lot of big names in the sector like Intel Corporation (INTC), Applied Materials, Inc. (AMAT), Micron Technology, Inc. (MU) and Lam Research Corporation (LRCX), to name just a few that all remain well below – by at least 15%, if not more – their 52-week highs. And while I don’t think you should discount or dismiss trade war risk for these companies, I do think that a proper amount of perspective can help to determine how significant their risk really is versus what the market perceives their risk to be. It can also help to determine if a stock’s discounted price because of trade war fears could offer an under-appreciated bargain opportunity for value investors.

    MU is a great example of what I mean. Last month, the company made headlines – but not in a good way  – when they confirmed that a court in China had granted a preliminary injunction banning its Chinese subsidiaries from selling its products in the country. The stock has shown some resilience since that news broke, but remains under pressure, down nearly 20% from its high around $65 in late May. The perception, of course is that the measure, which seems clearly intended as a targeted countermove to U.S. tariffs, is going to have a significant negative impact on MU’’s business. The reality, however is quite different; the company estimated when they confirmed the injunction that the impact would only be about 1% of total revenue for the quarter, or about the same percentage that Chinese sales made up of their revenues over the last year. In the meantime, demand appears to remain strong, as the company also reaffirmed their own forward estimates of revenue. Another element that has contributed to strength for MU is the fact that supply of DRAM/NAND memory chips lags demand, which is keeping their pricing strong. It is possible that the negative revenue impact from the China sales ban could simply intensify the shortage; that could act as an extra pricing tailwind in the near-term.

    As you’ll see next, there really is a lot of like about MU’s business right now, and while the stock’s negative price performance does suggest short-term risk exists, the fact is that does look like a very good value play right now.



    Fundamental and Value Profile

    Micron Technology, Inc. (MU) is engaged in semiconductor systems. The Company’s portfolio of memory technologies, including dynamic random-access memory (DRAM), negative-AND (NAND) Flash and NOR Flash are the basis for solid-state drives, modules, multi-chip packages and other system solutions. Its business segments include Compute and Networking Business Unit (CNBU), which includes memory products sold into compute, networking, graphics and cloud server markets; Mobile Business Unit (MBU), which includes memory products sold into smartphone, tablet and other mobile-device markets; Storage Business Unit (SBU), which includes memory products sold into enterprise, client, cloud and removable storage markets, and SBU also includes products sold to Intel through its Intel/Micron Flash Technology (IMFT) joint venture, and Embedded Business Unit (EBU), which includes memory products sold into automotive, industrial, connected home and consumer electronics markets. MU has a market cap of $60.8 billion.

    • Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings more than doubled – growth was 128%, while sales growth was above 40%. 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 for MU is very impressive at more than 43% for the last twelve months and improving to nearly 50% in the last quarter.
    • Free Cash Flow: MU’s free cash flow over the last twelve months is more than $7.5 billion. Cash and liquid assets are also almost $7.1 billion, against only about $5.9 billion of long-term debt.
    • Debt to Equity: MU has a very conservative debt-to-equity ratio of .20. As already observed, their available cash and liquid assets is about $1.2 billion higher than their long-term debt, and with their high operating margin, there is clearly no issue with the company’s ability to service, or even to liquidate their debt.
    • Dividend: MU does not pay a dividend.
    • 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 MU is $25.45 per share. At the stock’s current price, that puts the Price/Book ratio at 2.05, versus a historical average of 2.26. The historical average puts the stock’s “fair value” at about $57.50, which is only about 10% away from its current price. That’s not very compelling by itself, but there are a couple of other measurements that, put together, offer what I think is an enhanced perspective. The stock’s P/E ratio – which, admittedly, I usually discount – right now is very low, at 5.12 times earnings compared to an historical average of 9.02. Also, their Price/Cash Flow ratio is 4.2 versus an historical average of 7.02. Those measurements are each 40% their historical averages. I think a 40% increase in the stock price is probably over-optimistic even as a long-term target since the stock’s 52-week high around $65 is higher than the stock has been since mid-2000 (the end of the “dot-com boom”); but it does put that high within sight, meaning that the opportunity in the stock right now is nearly 20%. That’s a very nice opportunity from a value-based standpoint!



    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 May 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 May’s high at around $65 puts the stock in a clear, intermediate-term downward trend. More recently, the stock has round strong support in the $52 price range, just a little above the 38.2% retracement line. That support level also coincides pretty well with trend support from the 50-day moving average (not shown), indicating that the stock’s long-term trend should be expected to hold its strength for the foreseeable future. A break below $50, however would put the stock’s price decline above 20% and into bear market territory; I would take that as an early warning sign the long-term trend could reverse, with a further drop below $45 – about where the 50% retracement line sits right now – acting as confirmation of a bearish trend reversal.
    • Near-term Keys: The question for a long-term, value-oriented investor is whether you would be willing to endure the kind of potential decline that could come if the stock breaks its current long-term trend support. I think the stock offers a great value right now; but if you think the stock’s current bearish momentum is going to extend further, it could be better to wait to see if the stock offers an even bigger value by consolidating around $45 per share. Short-term traders should wait to see the stock break above current pivot resistance around $57 before trying to buy the stock or work with call options to take advantage of a bullish swing. A drop below $50 could offer a reasonable short-term opportunity by shorting the stock or working with put options, with $46 as a pretty attractive near-term target price.


  • 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.


  • 02 Aug
    CSCO is down almost 10% since May – should you buy the dip?

    CSCO is down almost 10% since May – should you buy the dip?

    Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO) is one of the most recognizable and established companies in the Technology sector. With a market cap of nearly $200 billion, they are also one of the largest, if not THE largest player in the Networking & Communications segment. They are, without question, the standard that all other networking businesses are measured and compete against. No matter whether you’re talking about wired or wireless networking, CSCO is one of the companies that not only developed the standards and infrastructure the entire Internet is built on today, but that continues to lead the way into the future, including the next generation of technology in the so-called “Internet of Things” (IoT).

    It’s ironic, perhaps that despite CSCO’s unquestioned dominance in its market, the stock has mostly languished for nearly two decades. After riding the “dot-com boom” of the late 1990’s to a peak at around $80 per share, the stock cratered when that boom went bust, dropping to as low as about $8 in late 2002. From that point it never rose higher than into the low $30 range – at least not until the latter part of 2017, when the stock finally broke that top-end resistance. That pushed the stock to a high in May a little above $46 per share as Tech stocks generally prospered.



    Recently, however, it seems that CSCO has fallen victim to the latest “Amazon rumor mill” phenomenon that has afflicted companies like CVS Health Corp (CVS), The Kroger Company (KR), and others who watched their stock price slide amid rumors Amazon.com (AMZN) was looking for a way to expand its business into their respective industry. The latest rumor is that AMZN is considering branching their Web Services unit into network switching hardware – the same technology that CSCO has dominated for more than two decades. 

    Despite the fact AMZN has provided no validation of the rumor, and in fact has given to indication they were in fact considering the move, or actually developing any such products, the mere suggestion has been sufficient to help drive the stock from that May high price to its current level a little below $42 per share. That might not sounds like much of a drop, but it does represent a 10% decline in the stock price – enough that some analysts have been recommending investors should “buy the dip.”

    I’m not sure that I agree. While I recognize CSCO’s dominance in its industry, expect it to continue, and recognize the company’s core fundamental strength, my reliance on value analysis also forces me to look at the stock’s current price in more conservative terms. It looks very overvalued right now. The company is due for its latest earnings report later this month, and that report could alter my perspective somewhat; but as of now I have to believe the stock is at a greater risk of a steeper decline than it is of staging a rebound to test its recent highs. Here’s what I mean.



    Fundamental and Value Profile

    Cisco Systems, Inc. (CSCO) designs and sells a range of products, provides services and delivers integrated solutions to develop and connect networks around the world. The Company operates through three geographic segments: Americas; Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), and Asia Pacific, Japan and China (APJC). The Company groups its products and technologies into various categories, such as Switching; Next-Generation Network (NGN) Routing; Collaboration; Data Center; Wireless; Service Provider Video; Security, and Other Products. In addition to its product offerings, the Company provides a range of service offerings, including technical support services and advanced services. The Company delivers its technology and services to its customers as solutions for their priorities, including cloud, video, mobility, security, collaboration and analytics. The Company serves customers, including businesses of all sizes, public institutions, governments and service providers. CSCO has a market cap of $197 billion.

    • Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings grew by a little over 11%, while sales growth was more modest, at about 4%. 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. In the most recent quarter, both metrics grew about 4%. Over the last twelve months, the company also reported negative Net Income of about $1.2 billion, raising questions about their operating costs and margins.
    • Free Cash Flow: CSCO’s free cash flow over the last twelve months is more than $12 billion. This is a number that the company has historically managed to maintain at very healthy levels. It should be noted that the negative Net Income just mentioned appears to be a temporary phenomenon, and the company’s massive “war chest” of cash really makes it just a temporary blip on the radar.
    • Debt to Equity: CSCO has a conservative, manageable debt-to-equity ratio of .44. I already alluded to the company’s large cash position; at more than $54.4 billion, it is also more than twice the total amount of long-term debt shown on their balance sheet. The company also recently announced the repatriation of approximately $67 billion of cash from overseas resulting from the passage of tax reform, with plans to use the money to fund a 14% dividend hike and a $25 billion increase its ongoing share repurchase program as a clear effort to return value to their shareholders.
    • Dividend: CSCO currently pays an annual dividend of $1.32 per share, which translates to an annual yield of 3.15% 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 CSCO is $9.69 per share, and this is where the biggest cracks in the bargain argument really exist. At the stock’s current price, its Price/Book ratio, at is more than 4.34, is nearly twice as high as its historical average of 2.42; a drop to par with that average puts the stock at risk of a decline of more than 43% (around $23.50 per share) from its current price. That would also put the stock at price levels it hasn’t seen since early 2016.



    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 early May 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 that point has followed a pretty gradual slope, which to some is a positive indication. I tend to believe the opposite is true, since gradually sloping trends, in any direction are generally easier to sustain over an extended period of time. It can also be argued that the more gradual a trend’s slope is, the more likely the trend’s momentum becomes to accelerate in the direction of that trend; at some point, more and more investors will take note of the trend and be likely to overreact to it. The stock is currently quite near to the 38.2% Fib retracement level around $40.25, with $38 or even $36 (the 50% and 61.8% Fib levels, respectively) not far out of reach. Compared to the upside if the stock reverses the short-term downtrend, you have about $5 per share in either direction, which translates to a 1:1 risk-to-reward ratio right now.
    • Near-term Keys: “Buying the dip” right now is pretty risky move, and when the potential opportunity is identical to the likely risk, it’s hard to say that’s a good decision to make. The risk: reward profile could change if the stock comes a little closer to the 38.2% retracement line, and then pivots back to the upside; that could offer a reasonable opportunity to go long in the stock or to start working with call options, with a tight stop set just below that retracement line at around $39 per share. A drop below $40, on the other hand might offer a reasonable opportunity to short the stock or start working with put options, with a closing target price in that case in the $36 range.


  • 01 Aug
    Will buying TPX let you sleep at night – or make you toss and turn?

    Will buying TPX let you sleep at night – or make you toss and turn?

    Getting a good night’s worth of sleep is important for good health – physical, mental and emotional. I’ve used the same idea throughout my investing career to help guide the investment decisions I make. If putting my hard-earned dollars into a stock is going to keep me up at night, it doesn’t matter what other people, or the market at large think about it – the smart thing for me to do is to move on and find something else. That doesn’t mean that I’m so risk-adverse that I can’t take advantage of opportunities when I see them, but it does mean that the opportunity I do choose to pursue must be clearly superior to the level of risk involved.

    Tempur Sealy International Inc (TPX) is an interesting play on that concept, if for no other reason than the fact that a good night’s sleep is what this company is all about. And a quick look at the stock’s chart shows that the stock is more than 27% below its 52-week high, but could be showing some bullish strength right now. Does that mean there is a great opportunity to be had? It’s a little hard to say definitively. There are certainly a number of positives about the business to be seen, including solid earnings growth over the past year, and an improving Book Value. There are also things to be concerned about, like a very high debt level, mostly flat sales, and a narrow operating margin. Ultimately, the value picture is probably in the eye of the beholder, so I’ll outline what I’ve found so far and let you make your own decision.



    Fundamental and Value Profile

    Tempur Sealy International, Inc. is a bedding manufacturer. The Company develops, manufactures, markets and distributes bedding products. The Company operates in two segments: North America and International. The North America segment consists of Tempur and Sealy manufacturing and distribution subsidiaries, joint ventures and licensees located in the United States and Canada. Its International segment consists of Tempur and Sealy manufacturing and distribution subsidiaries, joint ventures and licensees located in Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America. Its brand portfolio includes TEMPUR, Tempur-Pedic, Sealy, Sealy Posturepedic, and Stearns & Foster. It offers its products in over two categories, including Bedding, which includes mattresses, foundations and adjustable foundations, and Other, which includes pillows, mattress covers, sheets, cushions and various other comfort products. As of December 31, 2016, it sold its products across the globe in approximately 100 countries. TPX has a market cap of $5.7 billion.

    • Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings declined by about 15.5%, while sales increased at a modest rate of about 1.5%. The story is similar in the most recent quarter, as TPX saw an earnings improvement of nearly 24% against sales growth of 3.3%. The company operates with pretty narrow margins, as Net Income was about 5% of Revenues for the last twelve months. In the last quarter, however, Net Income relative to Revenues narrowed to only about 3.4%. I take this as a red flag that the company is becoming less efficient despite the acceleration in earnings growth.
    • Free Cash Flow: TPX’s free cash flow is marginal, at only $72.5 million.
    • Debt to Equity: TPX has a debt/equity ratio of 10.8, a very high number that makes them one of the most highly leveraged companies in the Household Durables industry. That is a red flag, however the company’s balance sheet indicates that operating profits are sufficient to service their debt.
    • Dividend: TPX does not pay a dividend.
    • 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 TPX is $2.90 and translates to a Price/Book ratio of 16.98. The industry average is only 2.9, implying the stock is significantly overvalued. The company’s Book Value was actually 0 until a year ago, but has improved steadily from the end of the first quarter of 2017 until now. The lack of a historical Book Value makes it a little difficult to compare the current Price/Book to anything, however we can also use the stock Price/Cash Flow and Price/Sales ratios in a similar way. The stock is currently trading a little more than 10% below its historical Price/Cash Flow average, and nearly 35% below its Price/Sales ratio. That could put the stock’s long-term target price in the $54 to $65 range, depending on how optimistic you want to be. The absence of useful Book Value information is a concern to me, however and makes me lean more to the conservative side of things, so I have to admit that I have a hard time seeing an intrinsic reason that the stock should be worth more than $54; a 10% upside is a little more limited than I would prefer to work with.



    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 downward trend beginning in 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 shown some bullish momentum since late April, rising from a trend low of about $41 to the current level; however it has dropped back from a recent pivot high around $54.50 in just the last couple of weeks and is only a couple of dollars below the 38.2% retracement line at around $51 per share. A break above that line would be required to give the short-term upward trend any validation and a real chance to extend further. Otherwise I expect the trading range between about $47 for support and $51 for resistance to hold sway. A break below $47 would mark a short-term trend reversal to the downside and could see the stock challenge its trend low price at $41.
    • Near-term Keys: If you like to work with trend-based, momentum-focused trading methods, look for a break above $51 to confirm the short-term trend’s strength and provide a decent bullish signal to buy the stock or start working with call options. If the stock breaks down, wait for a push below $47 before trying to short the stock or start buying put options.


  • 31 Jul
    GT is up almost 14% in two days – you’d be silly to miss this opportunity

    GT is up almost 14% in two days – you’d be silly to miss this opportunity

    The longer a bull market lasts, the more people tend to think that looking for value in a stock’s price doesn’t really matter. Instead, they point to growth strategies, putting particular emphasis on growth estimates and forecasts. Forecasts usually come from a company’s management as a part of the conference calls they host to discuss their latest earnings results. They’ll provide some estimates for how much they think their business is likely to grow over the next quarter, next year, or sometimes more. Estimates come from analysts that follow those companies, and while they usually refer to management’s forecasts, they often seem to use other kinds of fuzzy math to come up with future growth numbers that really amount to nothing more than their own guesses. The ironic thing in my mind is that talking heads and other experts use these “estimates” to justify their cases for buying stocks at or near all-time highs. It doesn’t matter how high a stock has risen in the past, as long as people think it is going to keep going up.

    If that rationale seems a little silly to you, then you’re probably somebody that likes to go bargain hunting. When I talk about value investing with people, I often compare it to the kind of bargain shopping my wife likes to do at department stores. She spends a lot of time at clearance racks and likes to visit discount stores. She usually has to spend more time digging through things to find an item she likes, but she’s really good at finding nice things without having to pay full price for them. Value investing really isn’t all that different from bargain hunting, because you have to spend some time digging through lots of stocks to find something useful. Over the last few days, I’ve noticed that some of those talking heads that have been beating the growth drum forever seem to be shifting their discussions now to talks about value. That could be part of the reason that stocks like Goodyear Tire & Rubber (GT), which haven’t just underperformed the stock market but have been in steep, protracted downward trends are showing some signs of life right now.

    GT’s fundamentals are solid despite its price decline, which dates back to late January of this year and, which I think can be attributed mostly to broader concerns about the economy and trade tensions – I believe the stock has suffered a sympathetic response to the Trump administration’s steel and aluminum tariffs against the E.U., as well as auto tariffs against Canada and Mexico. The company recently released their latest earnings report, however and things look good, and the value proposition is very compelling.



    Fundamental and Value Profile

    The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company is a manufacturer of tires. The Company operates through three segments. The Americas segment develops, manufactures, distributes and sells tires and related products and services in North, Central and South America, and sells tires to various export markets. The Americas segment manufactures and sells tires for automobiles, trucks, buses, earthmoving, mining and industrial equipment, aircraft and for various other applications. The Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) segment develops, manufactures, distributes and sells tires for automobiles, trucks, buses, aircraft, motorcycles, and earthmoving, mining and industrial equipment throughout EMEA under the Goodyear, Dunlop, Debica, Sava and Fulda brands. The Asia Pacific segment develops, manufactures, distributes and sells tires for automobiles, trucks, aircraft, farm, and earthmoving, mining and industrial equipment throughout the Asia Pacific region, and sells tires to various export markets. GT has a market cap of $5.7 billion.

    • Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings declined by about 11%, while sales increased at a modest rate of a little more than 4%. The story is better in the most recent quarter, as GT saw an earnings improvement of 24% against flat sales. The company operates with narrow margins, as Net Income was about 1.5% of Revenues for the last twelve months. The improvement in earnings for the quarter is also reflected by an improvement in the Net Income/Revenue metric for the period, which increased to a little over 4%.
    • Free Cash Flow: GT’s free cash flow is healthy, at about $445 million. That translates to a free cash flow yield of a little less than 10%, but remains adequate.
    • Debt to Equity: GT has a debt/equity ratio of 1.18. This is higher than I prefer to see, and has increased in each of the last two quarters, indicating that GT has been taking on more debt. Over the last two quarters, the company’s long-term debt increased from around $5.1 billion to a little more than $5.7 billion. That is a red flag, however the company’s balance sheet indicates that operating profits remain healthy and more than adequate to service their debt.
    • Dividend: GT pays an annual dividend of $.56 per share, which translates to a yield of about 2.3% at the stock’s current price. This is above the industry average as well as the S&P 500 average of 2.0%.
    • 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 GT is $20.20 and translates to a Price/Book ratio of 1.19. The industry average is 1.9, and the stock’s historical average is 2.375. A rally to par with the historical average would put the stock above $47 per share. The truth is that the stock hasn’t been above $36 in almost 20 years, and so some might discount this as a useful long-term target price. I disagree with that notion, because the truth is that while the auto industry is changing and evolving with new technologies like electric and self-driving vehicles, the need for tires isn’t going to go away, or to be disrupted in a significant way. Even if you use the stock’s 20-year peak at $36 as a target price, that is still a great long-term opportunity for a stock that is just a little above $24 right now.



    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 March 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. I already referred to the stock’s rebound in price over the last couple of days, which has made the stock one of the top performers in the market right now. Seeing more people talking about value is a good conversation for the market to have, and it could contribute to seeing the stock recover even more. As of this morning it is a little above its 50-day moving average (not shown) after having crossed above that line yesterday. That is a good indication of strong short-term momentum. The stock has strong resistance in the $28 range from previous pivots in late 2017. This is a level that is also consistent with the stock’s 200-day moving average (also not shown) at with the 50% Fibonacci retracement level shown on the chart. I’m not ignoring the resistance at around $26 shown by the 38.2% retracement line, but given the confluence of data points around $28 I think we are more likely to see strong resistance at that level.
    • Near-term Keys: If you like to work with trend-based, momentum-focused trading methods, the stock’s current price level looks like it is building to a nice trend reversal. The stock would need to break above $26 to confirm an actual trend reversal and would probably act as the best signal for a short-term swing or trend-based trade by buying the stock or using call options. The stock’s trend support is a little below $21, and if the stock breaks down below that level, its downward trend could push the stock to somewhere between $14 and $18 per share based on lows it hasn’t seen in more than five years. Bearish trades on this stock would only really be appropriate if the stock breaks below the $21 level.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 71