AUGUST 17, 2019
safety messaging is mostly about releasing dire information “appropriately. Never panic people.” That includes bridge collapses and raging epidemics. Never mind the yawning gap, or the bodies. And GE may be another Enron, but it’s “inappropriate” to say so. Panic’s destructive in it’s own right, but the clear truth helps, if you can get any in time.
Here’s some. The storm’s upon us, parked and churning. Our economic globe’s spinning more slowly now, and this trade bomb’s going off slow-motion style. Gimme shelter. Shelter exists, if you look.
Meanwhile even keen people confuse trade friction with the overarching reality; a mud fight for global influence and economic predominance. This cultural slipknot’s around our prosperity and isn’t about to loosen.
Years of exasperating trade talks with the multiplicity of Japanese “faces” ended only in fruitless exhaustion. They never truly opened their markets. Japan yet lives in an endless recession.
Global slowing, fed fumbling, and the tariff tilt are boring a hole in confidence. That trade face-off that once seemed so sensible now spins with much darker import. Many are now playing not to lose, and offering stock picks accordingly. We look inside those picks. It’s not that complicated, when you actually do the looking. “Gimme Shelter. Stocks For This Storm.”
risk is rifling our market. See Twitter for details. The new tranche of tariffs, blazing tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, chaos roiling the Hong Kong airport, Boris’ Brexit-style Halloween, Argentina’s stock market immolation, central banks with no ammo, a hyper-strong dollar, a dithering fed, and an entrenching trade war.
What’s good? The temporary suspension of tariffs through X-Mas, super-low unemployment, low inflation, and a yet strong and spending U.S. consumer. Earnings season has also shown encouraging earnings.
Dividends are the rage. Dividends offer no downside protection. Any downside quickly diminishes the point of any dividend. Besides, nearly all dividends now come with their own trouble. The company behind it. What trouble? Under-performance and out-sized valuations.
What about our market darlings? Apple iPhone sales are down double-digits in China, Boeing’s 737 Max remains grounded for yet another month, along with a fifth straight month of zero sales for that aircraft–the best selling product the company has. The now scrutiny-pressurized FAA has a new head, Stephen Dickson, who’s first job is demonstrating his independence from Boeing. We now have every market leader in trouble in one way or another, except Mr. Softie, Microsoft, which is now too expensive to buy intelligently. The DOJ and FTC and EU are all looking. At who? Amazon, Facebook, and Alphabet.
When skies open investors scurry to the defense. You know; the utils, REITs, telecoms, and consumer packaged goods. That move’s way over. Prices overly reflect that swing. Dividends cease to matter at all when prices soar. So what are money managers highlighting now?
It’s VZ and T. that’s it. Who the hell gives up their phone, regardless?
sports a 4.33% dividend and even that offers no enduring downside protection. Nor will it save you well if share prices refuse to move up over time. Yet it’s a haven. It will last, and pay. Inflation is low, but even 1.5% inflation hurts, if share prices hover indefinitely. That larger payout is a magnet, and more so if conditions worsen. Verizon’s not cheap, but it’s dropped back since reporting on August 1st, $57.11.
Following the dip shares have rallied steadily to close the week back above it’s declining 50-day EMA at $56.70. As the trade war looks very likely to drag on, for years even, VZ’s price will likely hold its’ strength. Do you really want a 10-year at 1.5% when VZ pays you 4.33%?
common criticism of Verizon is its’ costly legacy businesses. Think landlines, both commercial and residential. This business is made up of the networks themselves, and the hardware supporting them. Legacy costs are real, yet who doesn’t face those? O.K. T-Mobile. AT&T certainly does, and likely to a larger degree than VZ.
Additionally VZ has its’ ultra-lame “media” business “Oath.” Months ago the company was forced to take a brutal $4.6 billion write-down on that substantially under-performing wing. What is it? Oath seems a bargain hunt mashup of dumbass AOL and Yahoo leftovers. Don’t expect it to ever work, or pay.
And VZ’s “FIOS” business? That’s Verizon’s attempt at bundling. FIOS is “a complete package”–crap linear TV(DISH), limited broadband, and great telephone. Limited availability continues to limit performance, along with a television offering built for yesteryear. It’s also second-tier, sold by the uninformed. No? Give ’em a call. We did.
Who doesn’t like a bit of fraud, with a fat dividend?
Verizon sits the other half, AT&T. “Drowning in debt” you say? Not as much as we thought. T’s long term debt/capital ratio is now .47 vs. the market as a whole at .46. “It’s way over-priced?” Well, not so much now. People love that super-fat dividend, and the sector’s rep as defensive. They’ve bid shares up, but wait.
T has a PEG of 7. “Wow” you say? But it should be valued as a utility. It now trades at a 4Q average P/E of 15.4 vs. the market’s 21. On forward P/E it’s a quite reasonable 9.8 vs. a 27.6. On sales it’s a 1.39 vs. a 2.15. On book it’s a reasonable 1.4 vs. a 8.8. It also has a return on equity(ROE) of 9.1. VZ comes in at a stunning 29.2 ROE.
We’ve circled T four times recently, but said no on six points; share price stagnation, heavy debt, a history of repeated wide-ranging fraud, historic valuation, a business we feel is too complex and sprawling to be efficiently managed, and more recently because Randall Stephenson’s is an arrogant dick. But conditions are more harsh now. T’s trading at $34.95, up 8.78% over the past 20 days. It offers a juicy 5.94% dividend yield. And it’s now, even after the run, surprisingly affordable. We think it’s worth a look in these troubling times.
Johnson & Johnson
Class action success is the only way tens of thousands of lawsuits may not add up to a very costly future. But on two fronts, and a billion dollar plus loss for a kickoff?
sports a total return(includes auto-reinvested dividends, now at 2.85%) of 5% 1Y, 17% 3Y, and a 50% 5Y. Why is JNJ in our list? It’s a prime example of the large, very marginal, offerings money managers seem to love. JNJ’s on everybody’s bat-mad list, as a safe haven. Really? We’re including them as a note of caution. No law prohibits money managers from recommending utter cat scat. JNJ’s better than that, but far from trouble-free. Allen Bond, of the Jensen Quality Growth Fund, called out JNJ, and 3m(MMM) on CNBC’s Nightly Business Report.
JNJ currently trades at a P/E of 22, and a price-to-sales of 40. Yikes. That’s not a bargain when beholding their long-term performance and trouble. If you were being sued tens of thousands of times would you be nervous? The analysts seem content to simply spackle over the talcum powder lawsuits, of which there are…tens of thousands. Those cases are just now fully coming online. One such suit out of California resulted in a judgement against JNJ for over $1 billion, now on appeal.
In practical terms JNJ is a conglomerate; medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and consumer packaged goods. Such diversity often produces diverse problems. Think GE. A train wreck, with a locomotive business–and light bubs, and now a Markopolos.
JNJ trades on a forward P/E of 15.5 vs. the S&P’s 26.5. That does mean that JNJ trades at a 41% discount to the market on forward estimates. For that price you receive an earnings growth rate of promise of 5%, vs. the market’s 17%. Seems hardly worth it when you throw in the legal stuff. Talcum powder isn’t JNJ’s only legal woe. The conglomerate mashup also faces suits over its’ fentanyl patch Duragesic. Sounds fun right? Not really. Opioid suits are growing just like the addiction behind. States engaged include Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Oklahoma. That won’t be the end.
We know. Spin comes not only in the things said, but also the images shown. Bloody body parts and poppies hardly display JNJ’s best assets. What they do highlight however is JNJ as a battle ground, on dual fronts. It hardly makes sense to flee trouble by buying more. Anyone who says the amassed talcum powder and opioid battles are “manageable” is forwarding guess work, not fact. The law is like holding a wolf by the ears. She might not be able to bite you now, but you can’t afford to let go.
Oklahoma, a lawyer for the state, Bradley Beckworth, accused Janssen Pharmaceutical(a JNJ subsidiary) of being “the kingpin” of opioids because it owned two companies that produced and refined Tasmanian poppies into a narcotic for other drug manufacturers, including Purdue.” Further commentary stated that JNJ advisor “Mckinsey advised Johnson & Johnson on increasing opioid sales,” Walt Bogdanich, NYT, July 25, 2019.
Perhaps the wave of opioid lawsuits won’t hurt JNJ substantially. Cases involving Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceutical in Oklahoma have settled for $270 million. That’s pocket money for JNJ. But that’s just one case in one state. Good luck with JNJ. Follow up on Stryker(SYK) instead. They even pay a 0.96% dividend. Price $217.00.
Another Monkey manager prime pick.
If Spam can survive a nuclear blast, it oughta be up for a trade war right?
things make sense. Others don’t. For perspective we rifle the “Huh?” file. It can prove difficult to suss out the thinking, or lack thereof, informing many recommendations. Learning to expect such aides in avoiding them. Think 3M(MMM), offered up again by Allen Bond of the Jensen Quality Growth Fund(JENYX), and Hormel(HRL), offered up by Kevin Caron of Washington Crossing Advisors.
Caron, “It’s an environment that’s more difficult overseas so what we focus on are U.S. companies with good balance sheets, low debt, and consistent cash flow. There’s Hormel…a very solid company, good cash flow, and I think there’s a 2% dividend, or something close to that, which should make the income investor happy, since that’s higher than the treasury yield. If you’re looking out three to five years, if something goes wrong it(Hormel) should hold up pretty well.”
With auto-reinvested dividends Hormel’s returned a not horrible 12.3% 1Y, 19.7% 3Y, and a 92.5% 5Y. Current yield 2.03%. Current price $41.54. Hate volatility? 52wk range $36.25-46.26, on a Beta of nothing–0.06. Why Hormel? Good balance sheet and it can survive. Again, Spam can survive the blast. And the 3M call?
How bad can you be, and yet get a call?
like 3M are puzzling. Jensen Quality Growth Fund manager Allen Bond just made that call for 3M. MMM’s even worse than Omnicom. 3M’s racked -15.76% YTD and -23.14% over 6 months. Out of the 17 industrials we track it ranks 16th, one click above the worst, TESLA. It’s returns are negative over all time periods; 5D, 20D, YTD, 6M, 1Y -19%, and 3Y -5.3%. Do you really care if it pays a dividend? Again, why go through this? Because naming quality has absolutely nothing to do with running a fund or being asked for your opinion on television.
We don’t call it surviving when your one and three year total returns are both negative–down 19% one year. That includes the dividend. MMM’s lost 23.68% over six months. 3M makes some great products but 34.3% over five years, with reinvested dividends, is simply called under-performance, despite Friday’s 2.97% divine intervention.
Not the worst play, but if consumers tighten?
60% of SYY’s business is restaurant based, thus consumer sensitive.
the confusing Hormel call, Caron comes up with Sysco(SYY), the food distributor. He suggests on the Nightly Business Report that its’ a “dominant leader in its’ space, with a very consistent business with good cash flow, with well managed debt. They’ve been buying back shares, and it has potential for very good dividend growth.” Wouldn’t you rather simply have a good dividend? Is a 2.16% yield good?
Five days ago research firm CFRA lowered SYY from “Hold” to “Sell” on “softening restaurant trends and an increasingly competitive landscape.” They lowered their FY ’20 EPS estimate by $0.12 to $3.68. SYY’s indeed domestically harbored, but on the down side SYY’s expensive on cash flow and book value. It does trade at a third of the market average on sales. Cheap on sales. It also sports a stunning return on equity(ROE) of 63.9 vs. the benchmark of 16. It has far more debt than the S&P average. AT&T’s better.
You gonna stop shopping Amazon?
Darkness brings out the Stars.
a fortress, a fortress under scrutiny. AMZN will thrive nonetheless, not just survive. This trade war will pass, along with any geopolitical pest. Under the visionary leadership of Jeff Bezos Amazon has constructed the largest retailing business in history. Amazon Web Services(AWS) is growing at 40% with massive margins. No one will eat AMZN’s lunch. Recently AWS has also become a formidable digital advertising player, one now challenging the current duopoly of Alphabet and Faceplant. But, is Amazon a good stock now?
If you’re thinking WMT, you’re right about Wal-Mart’s punching power. It’s almost as big-time as it gets. But WMT has no AWS, and 51% of revenues flow from it’s very low margin grocery side. No dividend makes that better. Amazon Web Services 40% growth rate is a hgih-margin beast of goodness. It’s huge now.
Such success guarantees criticisms. Low pay and poor working conditions in warehouses. When applying for a warehouse position did you expect it to be plush? Amazon’s raised that pay anyway. The European Union is charging improper use of 3rd party seller data. That battle’s brewing. Claims have arisen concerning counterfeiting of 3rd party products and summary removal of sellers from the site, without explanation or appeal. Now an appeals process exists.
-Anti-trust and Criticisms-
been targeted for the “Accelerator” program. That program’s designed to assist sellers in raising their profile and building brand. The program includes a clause allowing Amazon to buy the business of 3rd party program participants on 60 day’s notice, for a set price, said to often total $10,000. The argument from a recent WSJ article suggests Amazon does this in order to boost its’ own sales. Yet that story has a second side.
Another WSJ article states that Amazon is indeed motivated by its’ own interests, but those interests are misunderstood. The company actually has no interest in co-opting 3rd party businesses. Why? Amazon reaps higher margins from 3rd party sales, as those sellers carry the costs and risks of their own inventory, rather than Amazon.
Let’s face it, nowhere on Earth will any seller find greater profile and exposure than with Amazon. Message to 3rd party sellers. If you can find a better sales platform, move there. For investors Amazon is a fortress. At $1790.06 it’s trading at a discount to the $2000.00 it was trading at when it missed EPS by 6.4% on July 25th. And the miss? Big deal. AMZN’s a market share story, growing revenues by an annualized 5y rate of 25.6%, and cash flow by–wait for it–49%.
Some companies have staying power, like Facebook. FB treats users like trash and those users stay on like it’s all good. What do they say? “where we gonna go?” Facebook’s taken more big shots than a pro boxer. They’re the biggest liars om the block. They pimp out users by leveraging their data in every way possible, and people stay, and shareholders yet swarm about like flies.
treats customers better than anyone, ships faster than god, for Fa King free, offers everything, and usually at stunningly good prices. A strong shareholder base will stay as well, regardless of anything. Meanwhile, institutions will use AMZN like a cash machine. But the Death Star will grow on. Simply buy thoughtfully. Start now and build a bit as conditions indicate.
Jumping in and out of the market doesn’t create long term gains. Think Buffet. Traders will always talk like staying’s madness. Why not just dodge the ugly? Because no one knows what, or when, is coming. Timings not about whether to be in or out. Good timing’s about building positions and taking profits. Domestic, secular growth, large cap, and a dividend, at the right cost basis, are all good right now. There are others as well. We’re bringing you those next.
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