US Politics

  • 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 →

  • 08 Nov
    Why government gridlock could be a good thing for these 2 sectors

    Why government gridlock could be a good thing for these 2 sectors

    October was a rough month for the stock market, proven by the decline of the NASDAQ and Dow Jones Industrial Average into clear correction territory, while the S&P 500 halted its own slide just shy of that mark. It was enough to put a lot of investors and analysts on edge and start to wonder if the good times were finally coming to an end.

    What a difference a week makes! After closing out the worst October, and one-month period in a decade, the market has rebounded strongly over the last week. The Dow is up a little over 6.6%, the NASDAQ 8.3%, and the S&P 500 6.7% in that time. This week may have provided an unexpected catalyst for the market to push back and retest the all-time highs set in late September. Mid-term elections on Tuesday left Democrats in control of the House of Representatives, while Republicans kept their spot in the driver’s seat in the Senate.



    Depending on your political view, a divided government may not be a good thing; major reforms or initiatives from either side of aisle become more difficult without one party in control of both houses of government. It isn’t unreasonable to suggest that one of the reasons President Trump could afford to be as confrontational as he has, with a consistent, “my way or the highway” attitude about everything from tax reform, trade and most certainly his major staff advisors and political appointees is because Republicans controlled Congress and the Senate. That usually meant that even if a lot of Republicans and conservatives criticized his approach, the party at large generally fell into line behind him.

    As an investor, it’s not always easy to separate investing discipline and objectivity from political opinion and preference. That becomes harder when politics have a clear and direct impact on economic progress and market behavior. The Tax Reform Act at the end of last year is a good example; the tax savings that became available almost immediately to corporate America were certainly a catalyst for the market’s recovery from its first correction at the beginning of the year. In that light, the impact that midterm elections has on the market now could come from the government’s likely inability for the next couple of years to push any major changes.

    I’ve always believed that if there is anything the market really doesn’t like, and is most likely to react negatively to, it’s change. Investors like predictability, and we rely on measurements that offer a certain level of reliability to guide investment decisions. The status quo means that the things we use to drive our decisions remain relatively constant, and we don’t have to worry as much about changing our method or our approach. When something threatens to change the investing landscape, investors naturally get nervous.



    After eight years of a long, sustained bullish run that made a lot of investors think the easiest and best way to make money way in the stock market was to buy a passive index fund and just let it ride – “invest it and forget it,” if you will – the market rediscovered volatility this year. A big part of that was influenced by openly aggressive and confrontational politics from the Trump administration. Tariffs imposed every one of America’s largest and most important trading partners may indeed prove to have been the right move in the long run, but the tensions that came from seeing those long-standing trade relationships continue to keep the market on edge. A split government may not be able to put the cat back int the bag of things the Trump administration has already put back in place, the lack of consensus is also likely to make continued progress and changes that much harder to come by. The hope that the market seems to be keying on right now is that a natural check from a split House against the Oval Office could help restore the status quo and give investors a return at least some kind of  predictability that can help keep the stock market’s bullish trend in place.

    Assuming this happens, it’s entirely possible that the market could stage yet another broad-based rally to a new set of all-time highs. Which are the sectors that might be the biggest beneficiaries? I think there are two; here they are.



    Industrials

    While a divided House may blunt many of the reforms and initiatives the Trump administration still has plans for, one of the things that both sides seem to agree on is the need for improved infrastructure. A major spending bill may be hard to come by, but any progress on this front should act as a positive for this sector. Consider also that tariff and trade concerns have put major pressure on the sector throughout the year; even with the sector’s rebound since the end of October, which is about 10% from October 30th to now as measured by the SPDR Industrial Sector ETF (XLI), it remains down by a little over 10% from its 52-week highs. That gives the industry lots of room to rally even more, with increased chances that the absence of political complications could contribute even more.

    Semiconductors

    This sector has been one of the biggest underperformers throughout the year, as pricing and supply pressures among chipmakers have pushed stocks lower. A major argument for the President’s aggressive trade stance towards China has centered around the semiconductor industry and concerns about intellectual property protections and even theft. Many of the pricing pressures that have pushed semi stocks lower may not abate quickly. I also think, however that a changed political reality could force the Trump administration to try to make a trade deal with China more quickly than it might do otherwise; and I would expect that to provide at least an emotional reason for investors to start making new bets on a sector that has been beaten down by almost 15%, based on the Ishares Semiconductor ETF (SOXX) from its 52-week highs.


  • 30 Oct
    The market is beating up transport stocks – but that also creates opportunity

    The market is beating up transport stocks – but that also creates opportunity

    Back in July, I wrote about Kansas City Southern (KSU), a mid-cap railroad company that isn’t extremely well-known outside of its normal operating region. Transportation stocks were a good bet throughout the summer, but as fall set in, the market has pushed the Dow Transportation Average down a little over 14% since early September. For KSU, who is the smallest Class 1 railroad in the United States, that broader industry decline has translated to a decline in its price as of this writing of almost 18%. More →

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

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

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

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



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

    Fundamental and Value Profile

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

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



    Technical Profile

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

     

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


  • 15 Jun
    U.S.-China trade war could really hurt WMT

    U.S.-China trade war could really hurt WMT

    This morning marked the opening of yet another chapter in the drama that is U.S. trade diplomacy. The Trump administration announced this morning that U.S. Customs and Border Protection will begin to collect tariffs on the first $34 billion worth of Chines imported goods on July 6. This is the next step in the implementation of duties first announced in March of this year on approximately 1,300 different finished goods imported to the U.S. by its largest trading partner. The final $16 billion of a proposed $50 billion total of tariffs is still under review.

    This is a clear escalation of the two nation’s ongoing trade dispute, and not surprisingly China responded quickly, saying that they will act quickly to “take necessary measures to defend our legitimate rights and interests.” They have previously threatened their own set of tariffs on a wide ranging list of U.S. product ranging from soybeans and meat to whiskey, airplanes and cars.



    It’s one thing to watch the news and listen to talking heads wring their hands and bemoan the negative effects that an extended trade war would have on economic growth. And that’s not to say that they’re wrong; over the long-term, a trade war could bleed into virtually every part of the U.S. economy. Keep in mind that virtually every kind of finished product uses steel or aluminum, which is the basis for the first round of tariffs that Trump first started talking about three months ago. The real question for the average American is where those negative effects are most likely to be seen hitting their wallet. I think one of the first, and most vulnerable places can be found not far from where you live. Walmart Inc. (WMT) sources 75% of its merchandise from China, and that puts one of the largest retailers in the country literally on the cutting edge of what is happening right now.

    This isn’t an unrealistic argument; one of the ways WMT has always differentiated itself from its competitors is as the low-cost leader for consumers. The longer a trade war takes to find a resolution, the more their costs on the vast majority of goods that fill their shelves are going to rise. As you’ll see below, WMT simply doesn’t have much ability to absorb those costs to keep them from passing through to their customers. That begs a question that only each customer can answer: if that item – whether it be a shirt, a power tool, a toy, or an electronic gadget – that you’re used to getting from WMT costs 25% or more than it used to, are you going to be more or less likely to buy it?

    Current consumer trends suggest that in the case of luxury items – say, an $80 shirt – a lot of consumers that are already willing to pay that much for a shirt will probably also pay $90 to $100 for the same item. That is usually less true when the conversation shifts instead to bargain-priced items, like a $20 shirt. That puts WMT in the very difficult position of watching its operating margins erode even more by absorbing increasing costs to keep sales high or pass those costs to their customers, who may simply choose not to make the same purchases they used to. Neither scenario works out very favorably for the company’s bottom line.



    Fundamental and Value Profile

    Walmart Inc., formerly Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., is engaged in the operation of retail, wholesale and other units in various formats around the world. The Company offers an assortment of merchandise and services at everyday low prices (EDLP). The Company operates through three segments: Walmart U.S., Walmart International and Sam’s Club. The Walmart U.S. segment includes the Company’s mass merchant concept in the United States operating under the Walmart brands, as well as digital retail. The Walmart International segment consists of the Company’s operations outside of the United States, including various retail Websites. The Sam’s Club segment includes the warehouse membership clubs in the United States, as well as samsclub.com. The Company operates approximately 11,600 stores under 59 banners in 28 countries and e-commerce Websites in 11 countries. WMT has a current market cap of $246 billion.

    • Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings increased by 14%, while sales grew a little over 4%. It’s hard for a company to grow earnings faster than sales, and generally not sustainable over time. I do take the difference, however as a good sign that management is doing a good job of maximizing their business operations. Diving a little deeper, however provides a good look at the reason you should be concerned about increasing costs from tariffs on Chinese goods. As of the company’s last earnings report, WMT had more than $500 billion in revenue, with net income of almost $9 billion. Net income is calculated by subtracting the costs of doing business from revenues, which it means it provides the baseline for the earnings per share number you and I use to measure a stock’s profitability. Comparing net income to total revenues gives you an idea about what kind of profit margin the company is working with. For WMT, that number is only 1.77%, a very low number that implies they work with very narrow operating margins.
    • Operating Trends: WMT has been doing a great job of growing revenues, and since late 2014 they’ve grown from about $470 billion to their current level of a little over $500 billion. Over the same period, the reverse is true about their net income, which has dropped more than 50% from a high a little above $17 billion to just under $9 billion currently. That negative trend is also reflected in the decline of net income as percentage of revenue, which was about 3.6% at the end of 2013 but, as already observed is now only 1.77%. The company’s margins have already been under considerable pressure for some time, which further bolsters the argument they just don’t have a lot of wiggle room to work with.
    • Debt to Equity: the company’s debt to equity ratio is .46, which is low and should generally be quite manageable. WMT has also done a good job decreasing their total long-term debt since the first quarter of 2014, from more than $45 billion to a current level of about $29.4 billion.
    • Dividend: WMT pays an annual dividend of $2.08 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 WMT is $26.44 per share. At the stock’s current price, that translates to a Price/Book Ratio of 3.15. This is below the industry average, which is 4.0, but inline with the stock’s historical average, which to me suggests the stock is fairly value right now, with limited upside potential in the long-term.



    Technical Profile

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

    • Current Price Action: The stock has declined from a high around $110 in January to its current level around $83. That’s a drop of more than 25%, which at first blush might look pretty good for a stock that a lot of value investors would say has a lot of stickiness; that is, they will continue to generate high revenues even if a healthy economy begins to struggle, because consumers will continue to spend their money there. That is a true statement when it comes to WMT, but as observed above, I think the risk comes from what will happen as their costs increase. Will they continue to generate attractive profits, or will their margins erode? The risk is much higher they will erode.
    • Trends and Pivots: I’ve drawn two lines to illustrate where I think the stock’s real downside lies right now. The horizontal red line is just below the stock’s current level at about $82 and appears to be acting as good support right now. The horizontal blue line is drawn at the stock’s multi-year low, which was reached in February of last year at around $66. The red bidirectional arrow emphasizing the $16 per share difference between the stock’s current price and that low point is, I think a clear indication of investor risk right now. That’s a downside risk of just a little less than 20% right now. I also see little reason – fundamental or technical – to suggest the stock should reverse the intermediate-term downward trend anytime soon, which means that risk right now is much higher than any potential reward.
    • Near-term Keys: Watch the stock’s movement carefully over the next few days. A move to $90 would mark a reversal the intermediate trend’s downward strength and would act as a good signal point for a good bullish trade, either by buying the stock or working with call options. On the other hand, a drop below $82 would mark a major support break, with a drop to the aforementioned $66 level likely before any new significant support is reached.


  • 17 Jun
    Is Global Recession On Its Way? Brexit May Be A Warning Sign…

    Is Global Recession On Its Way? Brexit May Be A Warning Sign…

    • Global GDP growth rates are stalling even with increased monetary stimulus.
    • There are several potential recession triggers.
    • It is important to assess the risks a portfolio runs as no one can know when a recession will come, but eventually it will as it always has.

    Introduction

    The main FED goals are sustainable economic growth and full employment. In order to achieve those goals, the FED has decided not to increase interest rates as the economy is still relatively weak and employment has been slowing down. Not only that, but the expectation of future interest rate increases has been revised downwards. More →