Focus on Earnings
…..Stocks pull back from records. Tech finally recovers from Dot Com. Fangs lead the market. Earnings the only thing to add volatility. GE weak earnings. Honeywell beats. Amazon has a pricing problem. Wells rehires whistleblower that didn’t exist. BofA bolts London for Dublin. Dark net crackdown. So long Spicey.
Financial Review by Sinclair Noe for 07-21-2017
DOW – 31 = 21,580
SPX – 0.91 = 2472
NAS – 2 = 6387
RUT – 6 = 1435
10 Y – .03 2.23%
OIL – 1.25 = 45.67
GOLD + 10.50 = 1255.50
Stocks pulled back from record highs earlier this week. For the week, the Dow fell 0.3% but the S&P 500 is up 0.5% and the Nasdaq added 1.2%. The Nasdaq is coming off a 10-day string of gains, matching its longest streak since Feb. 24, 2015 – so a pullback today was overdue.
At long last, tech stocks have finally recovered all the losses they suffered during the bursting of the dotcom bubble in 2000. It only took 17 years. The S&P 500 Information Technology Index closed Wednesday at an all-time high of 992.3. In doing so, it broke the previous record of 988.5, which was set back in March 2000. In the intervening years, tech shares had lost as much as 80% of their value before beginning the slow ascent back to the top of the market. That ultra-slow recovery highlights how long it can take stocks to come back from bubbles. Tech stocks in the S&P 500 index now trade at a price/earnings ratio of 18.4, according to FactSet, based on projected sector profits in the coming 12 months. That means tech is now trading at a 28% premium to tech companies’ valuations over the past decade. To be sure, that’s nothing compared to the triple digit P/Es seen in the late 1990s.
The FANG stocks, (Facebook Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Alphabet-Google) have rocketed up this year, rising nearly 40 percent, four times the gain of the S&P 500. And the trend doesn’t seem to be ending. The technology heavy Nasdaq Composite Index raced ahead of the broader S&P 500 again this week. And yet as investors pile into the FANG stocks, one measure of the return investors can expect from those stocks has shrunk to a new low. As of the end of the second quarter, the average free cash-flow yield of the FANG stocks, based on the past 12 months, slid to just 1.4 percent. That’s less than half of what that measure was just two years ago and now nearly a full percentage point below the yield on a 10-year Treasury.
Tech is back to being the biggest sector in the market, representing about a quarter of the S&P 500. That’s still well below the one-third share of the market that tech stocks occupied in the late 1990s. But remember that this figure does not include several big stocks that the general public regards as “tech” but that S&P classifies as “consumer discretionary” stocks — a list that includes Amazon, Priceline, and Netflix. Moreover, Tesla isn’t even in the S&P 500, despite being valued at more than $53 billion.
If you want to make money in the stock market, you’d better nail earnings season. The reason is simple: Quarterly results are exerting unprecedented influence over stock returns and, by extension, portfolio performance. In recent quarters, reporting companies have seen their shares move four times the normal daily average, the most in the past 18 years, according to data compiled by Goldman Sachs. The punishment for missing earnings is also the harshest in almost two years. In the first quarter of this year, companies that fell short dropped more than 2.5% in a single day, on average, according to Wells Fargo data. One possible explanation is the rise of passive investment vehicles such as exchange-traded funds and quant funds. By trading large swaths of the equity market, rather than individual stocks, participating investors are diluting the effects of specific company fundamentals during non-earnings periods. Then, once earnings season rolls around, stock prices are spring-loaded to react more sharply to any new information. This ETF effect is compounded by how price-insensitive the traders who use them can be — buying and selling based on what their models tell them and ignoring valuations that might otherwise raise red flags. Goldman finds that the FAAMG group that has led the stock market’s latest rally to new highs — consisting of Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Google — has been realizing more than 50% of its quarterly return during earnings week. In addition, the tech, materials, and consumer discretionary sectors are also seeing more than 30% of their quarterly returns generated in the five days surrounding releases.
General Electric reported quarterly profits fell 57% to $1.2 billion, as sales in its oil and gas, transportation and lighting divisions fell. Outgoing GE boss Jeffrey Immelt said the company was working in a “slow-growth, volatile environment”. He said a cost-cutting plan and other measures should put the firm on track to hit profit targets for the year. GE is down about 19% year to date.
Honeywell reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit. Net income attributable to Honeywell increased 5.5 percent to $1.3 billion, or $1.80 per share, above expectations of $1.78 per share. Revenue rose about 1 percent to $10 billion, topping expectations of $9.8 billion. Honeywell also raised the low end of its 2017 earnings per share forecast by 10 cents. Sales in Honeywell’s aerospace business, which activist investor Daniel Loeb wants to be spun off, fell about 3 percent to $3.67 billion in the quarter, but the drop was much smaller than forecast.
As part of its review of Amazon’s agreement to buy Whole Foods, the Federal Trade Commission is looking into allegations that Amazon misleads customers about its pricing discounts. The FTC is probing a complaint brought by the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, which looked at some 1,000 products on Amazon’s website in June and found that Amazon put reference prices, or list prices, on about 46 percent of them. And for 61 percent of products with reference prices, Amazon’s reference prices were higher than it had sold the same product in the previous 90 days.
The Department of Labor ordered Wells Fargo to pay $575,000 and to rehire a whistleblower the bank had dismissed in September 2011 after the former employee raised concerns over the opening of customer accounts without their knowledge. Despite news reports and lawsuits claiming the bank had retaliated against whistleblowers, an investigative report by the bank’s board of directors released in April found no pattern of retaliation.
The U.K. cabinet will accept the free movement of EU citizens for up to four years after Brexit as part of a transitional deal. The news comes after a meeting between Prime Minister Theresa May and British businesses, in which companies stepped up pressure to avoid a so-called hard Brexit.
Bank of America has chosen Dublin as its future European Union hub, the latest major financial services firm to outline its plans to deal with Brexit, Britain’s departure from the 28-nation bloc. Many banks and financial firms have concentrated their European operations in London, taking advantage of deep and liquid markets as well as the wide variety of support industries that have built up in the British capital, including accountants and lawyers. But those companies now face the distinct possibility that they may no longer be able to serve European clients from London after Britain leaves the Euro Union. With Britain as a member of the EU, companies based in the country have been able to sell financial products across the Continent under “passporting” rules, which allow a lender licensed in one member state to work throughout the European Union. That is no longer guaranteed when Britain leaves in 2019, so financial companies have been moving forward with contingency strategies, and Bank of America is the latest lender to announce its plans.
American and European authorities have shut down two of the largest online black markets, AlphaBay and Hansa Market, and arrested their operators. AlphaBay, the largest so-called dark net market, was taken down in early July at the same time the authorities arrested the reported founder of the site, Alexandre Cazes, a Canadian man who was living in Bangkok. Cazes committed suicide in his jail cell shortly after he was arrested. After AlphaBay went down, users streamed to one of its largest competitors, Hansa Market. But on Thursday, the Dutch national police announced that they had taken control of Hansa Market in June and had been operating the site since then, monitoring the vendors and customers and gathering identifying details on those involved in the 50,000 transactions that took place. AlphaBay and Hansa Market were successors to the first and most famous market operating on the so-called dark net, Silk Road, which the authorities took down in October 2013.
You’ve undoubtedly heard that, in reaction to the hiring of Anthony Scaramucci as communications director, Sean Spicer has resigned as White House Spokesperson (leaving the White House to find someone else to not give press briefings). Sarah Huckabee Sanders will replace Spicer. Given the nature of Trump coverage—and Spicer’s outsized role in it—you probably heard about the resignation within ten seconds of it happening. Scaramucci said he hopes that press secretary Sean Spicer will go on “to make a tremendous amount of money.”