Value Investing

  • 16 Nov
    FDX is nearing bear market territory – should you pay attention?

    FDX is nearing bear market territory – should you pay attention?

    Throughout most of the year, stocks that are considered cyclical in nature – think autos, airlines, transportation, and energy, to name just a few – have been among the most volatile stocks in the market. That has included companies in the air freight & logistics industry; and while there are a number of players in the industry, the two biggest and most recognizable names without question are United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS) and FedEx Corp. (FDX). More →

  • 15 Nov
    Oil is officially in a bear market – and that could be a good thing for SLB

    Oil is officially in a bear market – and that could be a good thing for SLB

    The stock market has seen a lot of turmoil and turbulence since the beginning of October, with all three major indices touching, or coming very near to the 10% level that most technicians consider correction territory. What you may or may not be aware of, however is that at nearly the same time the stock market was hitting a peak, so was oil – but the decline in the oil market is significantly more severe. As of Wednesday’s close, West Texas Intermediate crude was sitting around $56 per barrel, which marks a decline of more than 26% from its peak on October 2, which topped $76 per barrel.

    The decline isn’t just limited to U.S. oil – the price of Brent crude, which also hit a multi-year high at the same time as WTI, has declined from a little above $86 per barrel to its current price around $66. What is the big driver? Increasing supply, for one; oil inventories across the globe are high and increasing. Late in the summer, Brent prices were driven higher on speculation that economic sanctions on Iran would pressure OPEC oil production capabilities, but even as the U.S. put those sanctions in place, it also granted waivers to eight countries, including China, India, South Korea and Japan who are heavily dependent on Iranian imports. Additional reports suggest that while Iranian production is declining, it is also being more than offset by production increases in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

    In the U.S., shale producers have been boosting production in a major way as well; another complicating factor is the reality that while production in shale-rich areas like the Permian basin are high, pipeline capacity is maxed out, with little hope for short-term relief. That reality has pushed prices for shale coming from that region to as much as $20 per barrel below the going rate for WTI crude in general. New reports now also indicate that pipeline under-capacity is spreading to the Bakken region of the Dakotas as well. Shale producers are producing about 1.3 million barrels per day right now, while the region’s pipeline capacity can only handle about 1.25 million barrels per day. Just as with the Permian, there are projects underway and being proposed to increase the areas capacity, including a proposed “Liberty pipeline” that Phllips 66 and Bridger Pipeline have announced an open season to gauge interest that would move Bakken crude to Wyoming.



    The problem is that pipelines take time to bring online – most of the current projects are forecast to be completed in mid to late 2019, with a number of others expected for 2020. That’s a positive in the long run for U.S. producer’s ability to meet demand, but in the short run it is also contributing pretty heavily to the current pressure, and it doesn’t look like that is going away quickly.

    In his book, The Intelligent Investor, Benjamin Graham (the man who mentored Warren Buffet, and referred to by many as the father of value investing) wrote that when a sector of the economy is in a bear market, a reasonable long-term strategy is to identify the leader in the sector. As long as their balance sheet is healthy, all you have to do is buy in and be willing to wait out the decline for the inevitable decline. Oil producers can be a bit of a mixed bag, since many of even the largest of these companies operate with high debt levels, but a smart way to invest in oil and energy is with the companies that provide the equipment and services explorers, drillers and producers rely on.

    Schlumberger N.V. (SLB) remains the largest oilfield services company in the world, and while some of their fundamental measurements have suffered from some of the same dynamics that have pressured the oil sector throughout the year, the truth is that their balance sheet remains very healthy. They also fit the description of the kind of company that will not only still be around when the sector finally finds bottom, but will also be in a prime position to take advantage of that bottom by acquiring the assets of weaker competitors. The stock’s price performance in the last month is nearly -20%, which is a little less than the sector’s decline. More interestingly, the stock is down more than 40% since reaching its 52-week high at around $80 at the beginning of the year. It may not be done dropping, but if you’re willing to follow Mr. Graham’s advice, this looks like it could be a very good time to think about buying this stock.



    Fundamental and Value Profile

    Schlumberger N.V. provides technology for reservoir characterization, drilling, production and processing to the oil and gas industry. The Company’s segments include Reservoir Characterization Group, Drilling Group, Production Group and Cameron Group. The Reservoir Characterization Group consists of the principal technologies involved in finding and defining hydrocarbon resources. The Drilling Group consists of the principal technologies involved in the drilling and positioning of oil and gas wells. The Production Group consists of the principal technologies involved in the lifetime production of oil and gas reservoirs and includes Well Services, Completions, Artificial Lift, Integrated Production Services (IPS) and Schlumberger Production Management (SPM). The Cameron Group consists of the principal technologies involved in pressure and flow control for drilling and intervention rigs, oil and gas wells and production facilities. SLB has a current market cap of $66.2 billion.

    • Earnings and Sales Growth: Compared to other stocks I’ve highlighted in this space, SLB’s earnings and sales growth has been modest: over the last twelve months, earnings increased 9.5%, while sales increased 7.5%. Growing earnings faster than sales is difficult to do, and generally isn’t sustainable in the long-term; however it is also a good indication of a management’s ability to maximize their business operations. By contrast, the company’s Net Income versus Revenue over the last year was -1.9, but improved in the last quarter to 7.5%, which can be taken as an indication their bottom line has improved in the last quarter.
    • Free Cash Flow: SLB’s Free Cash Flow is healthy, at nearly $3.5 billion.
    • Debt to Equity: SLB has a debt/equity ratio of .38, which is conservative and indicates the company has a disciplined approach to debt management. While the company’s cash and liquid assets have declined significantly since the beginning of 2016, they also totaled more than $2.6 billion in the most recent quarter. Their balance sheet indicates that operating margins are more than adequate to service the company’s debt, which was a little over $14 billion in long-term debt in the last quarter.
    • Dividend: SLB pays an annual dividend of $2.00 per share, which at its current price translates to a dividend yield of about 4.18%. The stock’s dividend offers a compelling reason for patient investors to hold this stock, with a current yield well above even long-term Treasury yields, which remain around 3% right now.
    • 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 SLB is $26.68 per share. At the stock’s current price, that translates to a Price/Book Ratio of 1.79. The stock’s historical Price/Book ratio by comparison is 2.66 and puts the top end of the stock’s long-term price target at around $71 per share. The stock’s Price/Cash Flow ratio provides a more conservative target at around $56, since SLB is currently trading a little more than 17% below that historical average. Either way, the long-term upside from the stock’s current price level looks very attractive right now.



    Technical Profile

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

     

    • Current Price Action/Trends and Pivots: SLB’s downward trend is pretty easy to recognize on this chart – particularly the way that trend has accelerated since the first week in October. The stock is currently in free-fall, dropping below levels not seen since the first half of 2009. Investors naturally correlate SLB’s stock price, and its peaks and valleys, with movement in oil and energy prices. That actually provides another interesting take on the stock’s value proposition, since when WTI crude bottomed at $27 per barrel in 2016, SLB’s price found a bottom at around $65. Crude might not be at a bottom right now, but it remains more than twice as high as that 2016 bottom, while SLB is plumbing levels that are more than 25% below its low point in 2016. Most U.S. producers for the last couple of years have publicly referred to being able to maintain healthy profitability with WTI in the mid-$40 range, which is something that lends credence to the idea that production isn’t going to taper in the U.S. quickly.
    • Near-term Keys: Given the strength of the stock’s current bearish momentum, I don’t think a short-term bullish trade is anything but a speculative, low-probability play right now. Its pivot levels in early 2009 indicate it could find good support in the $45 range, so a pivot and bounce higher from that level could offer some kind of short-term bullish opportunity; but I would wait to see the stock break above $52, where it saw some very short-term stabilization last week before thinking about any kind of near-term bullish trade using call options. Given how close the stock is to support from those 2009 levels, i’m also not sure a bearish trade, either by shorting the stock or buying put options is a very good trade, either. The stock would need to break below $35 to offer a decent bearish signal at this stage. The best bet with SLB right now? Play the long game; but the stock and enjoy the passive income from its high dividend payout while you wait for it to reverse its downward trend and reclaim its highs.


  • 14 Nov
    AAPL is down big since October – how much is it actually worth?

    AAPL is down big since October – how much is it actually worth?

    Apple Inc. (AAPL) is one of the biggest companies in the world; in August of this year, with the stock pushing nicely above $200 per share, they were the first company in the modern era to officially cross the $1 trillion dollar threshold. And over the last ten years, it is without a doubt one of the biggest performers throughout the course of the bull market. Along with its big tech brethren like Alphabet (GOOGL), Amazon (AMZN) and Microsoft (MSFT), AAPL has long been one of the companies that the rest of the market seems to have taken its cues from. More →

  • 12 Nov
    Want to bet on financials? C isn’t a smart gamble yet

    Want to bet on financials? C isn’t a smart gamble yet

    One of the rising concerns that has helped keep the market on edge for the last couple of months now is the spectre that since interest rates are likely to keep rising, economic growth in the United States will inevitably have to slow or, worse reverse into a new recessionary cycle. I do think that it is true that the longer the latest expansionary cycle – which could begin to stretch into an unprecedented full decade in the next few months – continues, the more likely a new extended downward cycle becomes. That doesn’t mean the end is near, or that we know when that reversal will come; it just means that a cycle, by definition has a beginning and an end, and that in a market economy, every bullish cycle eventually and inevitably turns bearish, and every bearish cycle eventually and inevitably turns bullish.

    One of the real tricks to being able to keep your money working for you no matter what the broader economy and market’s trend is doing is being able to recognize that opportunities exist in every kind of cycle. I was reminded about that recently while listening to a few analysts talking about current market conditions. The discussion closed with the moderator asking these experts where each one thought some of the smartest places to put their money right now would be. It wasn’t too surprising when a couple of them singled out the financial sector.



    The premise is simple enough: rising rates are good for fixed-income investors, because they can get a higher yield on “safer” investments like bonds and short-term instruments. That’s usually just one piece of positive news for banks, as they see increased volume in bond purchases as well as flows into shorter-term instruments like money markets, Treasury bills, and certificates of deposit. That also gives them more money to offer to borrowers at higher interest rates, which often means that while other parts of the market are experiencing turbulence and increased volatility, financial stocks like banks become part of the “flight to quality” that are often typical of the end of a bull market.

    It is a bit of a double-edged sword, however; rising interest rates can only continue for so long before the economy inevitably begins to slow, because at some point interest rates become high enough that borrowing becomes prohibitively expensive. In the financial crisis that triggered the last recessionary cycle from 2008 to 2009, the store was made even worse by the realization that mortgage companies and banks had over-leveraged themselves with subprime loans – loans that charged higher interest rates to borrowers with poor credit quality. The problem was that when the economy began to slow, these loans became almost completely non-productive. The federal government took steps in the years following to regulate subprime lending more closely, and so there isn’t likely to be the same kind of risk now that existed ten years ago. Even so, it is a cautionary tale worth noting, because the truth is that even banks, insurance companies and investment institutions remain at risk when the economy slips into recessionary conditions.

    If you want to watch the financial sector right now, it’s smart to keep a cautious eye, and to look for stocks that represent an excellent value. Citigroup Inc. (C) is a good example; since hitting a 52-week high at nearly $81 in late January of this year, the stock began an extended slide downward, falling all the way to the $65 level by the beginning of July. It stages a short-term bullish trend from that point, rallying to around $75 in late September before dropping back to a new 52-week low around $63 in late October. As of this writing, the stock is back around $65 price level – a price that might offer a tempting opportunity for somebody looking for a good value play in the financial sector. But is C really a stock that is worth investing your hard-earned dollars right now? You decide.



    Fundamental and Value Profile

    Citigroup Inc. (Citi) is a financial services holding company. The Company’s whose businesses provide consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, trade and securities services and wealth management. The Company operates through two segments: Citicorp and Citi Holdings. Citicorp is the Company’s global bank for consumers and businesses and represents its core franchises. Citicorp is focused on providing products and services to customers and leveraging the Company’s global network, including various economies. As of December 31, 2016, Citicorp was present in 97 countries and jurisdictions, and offered services in over 160 countries and jurisdictions. Global Consumer Banking (GCB) provides traditional banking services to retail customers through retail banking, including Citi-branded cards and Citi retail services. C has a current market cap of $165.5 billion.

    • Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings increased 22.5%, while sales increased almost 10%. Growing earnings faster than sales is difficult to do, and generally isn’t sustainable in the long-term; however it is also a good indication of management’s ability to maximize their business operations. The company’s Net Income versus Revenue tells an interesting story, since over the last twelve months it was actually -5.4%, but in the last quarter improved to more than 18.5%, pointing to major improvement in the company’s margin profile.
    • Free Cash Flow: C’s Free Cash Flow is strong, at more than $21.5 billion. This is a number that has increased throughout 2018, but before that point had declined from a high in late 2015 of about $65 billion.
    • Debt to Equity: C has a debt/equity ratio of 1.32, which appears high, but it should be noted that most banks carry higher debt levels as a normal course of their business. It should be noted that despite the high debt/equity ratio, the company’s cash and liquid assets are more than 3 times higher than the total amount of long-term debt on their balance sheet.
    • Dividend: C pays an annual dividend of $1.80 per share, which at its current price translates to a dividend yield of about 2.73%.
    • 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 C is $69.58 per share. At the stock’s current price, that translates to a Price/Book Ratio of .94, which at first blush seems very low; however, the stock’s historical average is only .8. The stock is also trading about 22% above its historical Price/Cash Flow ratio. Together, those two measurements put the stock’s fair value at somewhere between $52 and $55 per share, which is well below the stock’s current price. The stock would actually have to drop below $45 to be considered a useful discount relative to its historical Price/Book value.



    Technical Profile

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

     

    • Current Price Action/Trends and Pivots: The chart above displays the stock’s price action for the last year. The decline from the stock’s September peak at about $75 marks a decline over the past six weeks or so of about 12% at the stock’s price as of this writing. It has strong support between $63 and $65 per share, while near-term resistance should be seen around $69, with $72 and $75 acting as secondary resistance points if the stock can begin to stage a bullish rally.
    • Near-term Keys: A short-term trade right now is pretty speculative on this stock, no matter whether you want to trade the bullish side by buying the stock outright or to start working with call options. A bearish trade also is a very low probability proposition right now given the stock’s current support level; the only decent signal on this side would come if the stock break below $65. In that case, the next likely support level would be in the $57 to $58 range, so there could be an interesting opportunity to short the stock in that case or work with put options. While the company has some interesting fundamental strengths, I think that it remains a bit expensive right now, even with the stock’s current decline for most of the year. I wouldn’t really be very interested in working with this stock unless and until it drops into the $44 to $45 range. That would take a decline from its current price of a little more than 30%, which really the biggest reason I don’t think this is a risk worth taking right now.


  • 09 Nov
    AMAT is down more than 50% from its top – has it finally found bottom?

    AMAT is down more than 50% from its top – has it finally found bottom?

    Throughout most of this year, semiconductors have been perhaps the most distressed sector of the market. Before bottoming at the end of the October, the sector had dropped a little over 21% from its high point in mid-March as measured by the iShares Semiconductor ETF (SOXX), and is still down nearly 15% as of Thursday’s close. This is a sector that is dominated by large-cap, well-known names like Intel (INTC), Texas Instruments (TXN), and Qualcomm (QCOM), to name just a few. More →

  • 07 Nov
    Big discount + buyout rumors = what for SYMC?

    Big discount + buyout rumors = what for SYMC?

    For most of this year, the tech sector has been one of the most profitable areas of the market to be invested. That’s not all that surprising given that the industry’s performance throughout the market’s extended upward trend since 2009 has been led by this sector. Since the beginning of October, however, this sector has also paced the market to the downside, dropping almost 14% as measured by the SPDR Select Technology ETF (XLK) through October. More →

  • 05 Nov
    TTC has jumped 10.5% in the last week – should you ride the wave?

    TTC has jumped 10.5% in the last week – should you ride the wave?

    A few months ago, I wrote about the The Toro Company (TTC) to evaluate the stock as a potential value play based on the stock’s 18% decline since August of 2017. At the time, the stock has trading in the low $60 range, and hovering in a narrow, sideway price channel.  In late September, the stock dropped below that channel to establish a new 52-week low a little below $54 per share; but since October 26 the stock has seen an impressive rally, climbing to nearly $60 as of Friday’s close. More →

  • 02 Nov
    NTRI surged 9% yesterday after beating earnings – should you jump on board?

    NTRI surged 9% yesterday after beating earnings – should you jump on board?

    So far this week stock market has managed to bounce off of support and rally pretty strongly after touching its lowest point since May on Monday. In the last three days the S&P 500 has rallied about 5% higher, using strong earnings reports as a primary driver, along with optimistic comments from President Trump about the chances of reaching a compromise on trade with China even as his administration has started to plan tariffs on all remaining Chinese imports if talks fail later this month. More →

  • 01 Nov
    Does BBBY’s low Price to Book Value point to big value – or big risk?

    Does BBBY’s low Price to Book Value point to big value – or big risk?

    Some of the first important metrics I learned about when I started studying fundamental and value analysis years ago revolved around identifying how much a stock should be worth versus what it’s current trading price really is. At its core, the principle is simple enough; if the stock is trading lower than what the value of the underlying business is, what you may be looking at is a terrific bargain opportunity. More →

  • 31 Oct
    Getting defensive: how GIS might be a calm center amidst the market’s storm

    Getting defensive: how GIS might be a calm center amidst the market’s storm

    There’s nothing quite like a volatile stock market to start rattling nerves and make people wonder how long it’s going to last, or if the market will ever be the same again. After coming within a whisper of official bear market territory on Monday, stocks rebounded strongly, as all three major market indices rallied more than 1.5%, driven in part by good earnings report from the tech sector and comments from President Trump More →

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