Daily Gains Letter

corporate profits


What I’d Consider Buying as the Market Moves Higher Again

By for Daily Gains Letter | Aug 27, 2014

Consider Buying as the Market Moves HigherThe stock market appears anxious to move higher to new record highs.

In the past week, the Federal Reserve released its Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting minutes that suggested it wanted to see stronger, sustained growth before deciding on when to raise interest rates. This includes both economic growth and jobs creation.

On Thursday, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) will report the second reading of the second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP), which came in at a surprising annualized four percent for the advance reading.

The consensus is that the second reading will show the GDP growth holding at the same four-percent level. If it does, it would be excellent for the economy but at the same time, ironically, it would make investors and the stock market nervous about the status of interest rates.

The issue is that the Fed wants to see controlled and steady economic growth and a four-percent reading could raise red flags, pointing to inflation—which means higher interest rates. The inflation rate is benign at this time as consumers continue to hold back on spending.

The stock market will get anxious if the reading remains the same, but we would want to wait to see how the economy fares in the third and fourth quarters of the year before making any drastic moves.

Of course, the stock market is all about expectations going forward and clearly, a strong second reading of the 2Q14 GDP will send some to the exits.

The Fed also wants to see the jobs market continue to expand at its previous trend of generating an average of more than 200,000 monthly … Read More


Two Underlying Factors You Need to Consider Before Buying Stocks

By for Daily Gains Letter | Mar 21, 2014

Don't Invest in McDonald'sWhen many investors think of blue chip stocks, a common name that pops up is McDonalds Corporation (NYSE/MCD).

A blue chip stock is traditionally a well-established company generating stable corporate earnings and usually paying out an attractive dividend yield. McDonald’s certainly hits the bull’s-eye on these blue chip metrics, which is especially attractive in today’s low-interest-rates world with its forward dividend yield of approximately 3.3%.

The real question to ask is what is McDonald’s potential for corporate earnings growth over the next few years?

There are two underlying factors that I would like to bring to your attention for consideration: 1) the financial health of the company’s primary customers, and 2) the cost of inputs.

While McDonald’s may keep its blue chip status, the growth of corporate earnings remains in doubt. As we all know, both the U.S. and global economy are becoming increasingly split between higher income and lower income people. As we know, neither the U.S. nor the global economy is firing on all cylinders, as seen by the still significantly high unemployment levels.

Wages remain stagnant, and while companies can increase corporate earnings through share buybacks, at some point, revenues must accelerate.

The problem for McDonald’s that could really impact corporate earnings growth is that the costs of inputs, specifically for beef, are rising substantially. The price of beef in February had the largest monthly increase since November of 2003. (Source: “CPI – Item Beef,” United States Department of Labor web site, last accessed March 19, 2014.)

McDonald’s is already struggling with its one-dollar menu. The company has begun shifting its marketing strategy away from the “McDouble” … Read More


How to Profit from the S&P 500—Even if Earnings Disappoint

By for Daily Gains Letter | Feb 20, 2014

Profit from the S&P 500I was reading an article that suggested investors are underestimating the extent that U.S. corporate profits could grow in 2014. And that the only reason the U.S. economy reported disappointing retail sales and weak jobs numbers and manufacturing data was because of the harsh winter weather. (Source: Shmuel, J., “Are EPS estimates currently too low?” Financial Post, February 18, 2014.)

Fortunately, so the story goes, the economy is so red-hot that once the snow thaws, investors will be rewarded with solid quarter-over-quarter corporate earnings growth. This suggests the weather has not just blinded investors to the fact that the economy has recovered (which it hasn’t), but that we are also so short-sighted that we can’t see the great gains waiting for us just around the corner—because if there’s one thing investors lack, it’s a desire to make money on the stock market…

I think investors are losing faith in Wall Street’s earnings potential because the corporations that go into making up the S&P 500 continue to warn us that their earnings are not going to be as great as they had hoped. And it’s not as if this is a new phenomenon.

Throughout 2013, as the S&P 500 marched steadily higher, an increasingly larger number of companies revised their earnings guidance lower each quarter. During the first quarter of 2013, 78% of S&P 500 companies that provided preannouncements issued negative earnings guidance; the second quarter came in at 81%; a record 83% of S&P 500 companies issued negative earnings guidance in the third quarter; and another record 88% did so in the fourth quarter.

For a country that is supposedly … Read More


Top Strategies for an Economically Engineered Market

By for Daily Gains Letter | Feb 3, 2014

Economically Engineered MarketBack in December, Bernanke decided the U.S. economy was on solid footing and initiated the first round of quantitative easing cutbacks to begin in January. Instead of dumping $85.0 billion into the U.S. economy, the Fed added just $75.0 billion.

Last Wednesday, in his final hurray as chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke initiated the second round of tapering. Citing growing strength in the broader U.S. economy, Bernanke slashed the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program to $65.0 billion a month starting in February.

At this pace, the Federal Reserve will be out of the bond buying business by Labor Day. As for interest rates, Bernanke reiterated the Federal Reserve’s guidance; short-term interest rates will remain near zero until the jobless rate hits 6.5%. But not even that is an automatic trigger. When unemployment does hit 6.5%, it will take inflation, the state of the labor market, and the state of the financial markets into consideration.

In light of the current U.S. economic environment, I’m not so sure I’d hang my hat on the so-called “growing strength in the broader economy.”

For starters, U.S. unemployment remains high. It dropped unexpectedly to 6.7% in December, but that number was skewed by a large number of long-term unemployed workers abandoning their search for new jobs. Of those who did find jobs, most were in the retail industry.

Those working in low-salary jobs don’t have much to look forward to. Wages are stagnant. In fact, workers’ wages and salaries are growing at the lowest rate relative to corporate profits in U.S. history.

Furthermore, for the first time ever, working-age people make up the … Read More


Why This Chart Should Worry Investors

By for Daily Gains Letter | Jan 24, 2014

U.S. Economy’s Setting Up for a Volatile 2014Every day it seems as though the S&P 500 makes a new high. This strong performance over the past year is creating complacency, as more retail investors are piling into the market.

However, I would certainly urge caution, especially for any new capital being put to work at these lofty levels. With earnings season upon us, we’ve already seen several sectors in the S&P 500 get hit significantly, especially retail stocks.

We keep hearing about resilience among Americans, but consumer sentiment is not as strong as many analysts believe. This is why I wasn’t surprised when retailers disappointed.

One of the common arguments I hear about the S&P 500 is that the market is not expensive historically. I disagree with this argument, and add that the underlying fundamental strength of the U.S. economy, built on consumer sentiment, is far weaker than most people believe.

Regarding the valuation level of the overall stock market, best represented by the S&P 500, an interesting data point comes from Professor Robert Shiller of Yale University, whose research shows that U.S. stocks currently trade at a 25.4 multiple of the cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio—far above the historical average. (Source: The Economist, January 4, 2014.)

Now, it would make sense for investors to pay a premium for S&P 500 companies if the economy and consumer sentiment were accelerating, But this is not the case.

Profit growth by the S&P 500 companies is decelerating. For the third quarter, total profits by corporations in America were $39.2 billion, down from a $66.8-billion increase in corporate profits during the second quarter. (Source: Ibid.)

Not only are companies within the … Read More


Profit Play on the Great Disappearing “Corporate Earnings Growth” Act

By for Daily Gains Letter | Dec 17, 2013

Corporate ProfitsAs many of you already know, the gross domestic product (GDP) estimate for the third quarter came in above estimates at 3.6%, with most of the increase coming from higher inventory levels.

But I would like to look at something slightly different than the inventory buildup. I think we are all aware of what happens when inventory builds and consumers don’t buy—corporate profits get hit. However, looking at the data a bit closer, there are more worrisome signs aside from excess inventory that are also pointing to tough times ahead for corporate profits.

The S&P 500 has had a stellar run since its bottom in 2009. Part of the reason for this is that corporate profits have expanded tremendously as firms cut costs through massive layoffs, as well as lower financing payments through the cheap money provided by depressed interest rates. But this might be coming to a close, as corporate profits for S&P 500 companies appear to be peaking.

According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, third-quarter corporate profits on an after-tax basis were a record 11.1% as a share of GDP. (Source: “National Income and Product Account, GDP 3rd Quarter 2013,” U.S. Department of Commerce, December 5, 2013.)

What this means is that the S&P 500 companies are generating extremely high profit margins. Obviously, this alone is not bad; however, business is always cyclical. We will always move from peaks to troughs, and corporate profits and margins are no exception.

Wall Street analysts continue to tell people that the S&P 500 is a buy, because they are taking the data from the past couple … Read More