Morning in Arizona

Morning in Arizona
Rainbows over Canyonlands - Dave Stoker

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Welcome to Earnings Reporting Season

Financial Review

Welcome to Earnings Reporting Season

DOW – 200 = 18,128
SPX – 26 = 2136
NAS – 81 = 5246
10 Y + .02 = 1.76%
OIL – .49 = 50.86
GOLD – 7.00 = 1253.40

Alcoa reported third quarter earnings before the bell today, in what has been traditionally known as the start of earnings season. The raw aluminum and specialty parts maker missed estimates on both top and bottom lines. S&P 500 companies are expected to post their sixth straight quarter of declining earnings, according to FactSet data. And while sales are expected to break their six-quarter streak of declines, that optimism may be overdone, based on the dozens of sales warnings to pop up in the last several weeks.

When you look at a chart of the S&P 500, you’ll see we’ve been in a sideways or consolidation pattern since mid-July. Earnings season could be the catalyst for a breakout or a breakdown; with the S&P 500 trading at an historical high valuation in terms of P/E and P/S, the pressure is towards the downside.

In fact, stocks must justify the current 12-month trailing P/E of 25 and the current CAPE ratio of 27 (cyclically adjusted price to earnings ratio) through positive earnings growth. Analysts are usually very conservative on their predictions. Actual earnings have beaten analyst’s estimates since 2014. As this is well known by investors, one should not get too optimistic over the possibility that earnings may beat estimates by a small margin.

In fact, be careful to buy on slightly better than expected earnings given that valuations are high. Now, the good news is that most of the bad news has already been baked into price; by that, I mean we are all aware of concerns with Brexit, China, the price of oil, the US election, and a possible Fed rate hike. The bad news is that the market is complacent. The VIX is low at around 15.

Except for a couple of weeks in September, where the S&P took a big hit and then bounced back, the tight range has been getting tighter, like a rubber band wound to the limit. A break above the September highs of 2180 would serve as a bullish sign that could lead to new all-time highs. Today’s close below 2140 exposes weakness and a break down below 2120 looks dangerous.

Long-term bond yields continued to rise. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was slightly higher at 1.76%. Earlier Tuesday it hit 1.8% for the first time since early June, marking a four-month high. Futures markets are now pricing in roughly 70% odds of a rate hike at the Fed’s December meeting. We should learn more tomorrow, when the Fed releases minutes of its last policy meeting.

British cabinet ministers are being warned that the Treasury could lose up to £66-billion-pounds a year in tax revenues under a “hard Brexit,” according to leaked government papers seen by The Times. The document also cautions that leaving the single market and switching to WTO rules could cause GDP to fall between 5.4%-9.5%.

The British pound sterling slipped below $1.23 and €1.11 in morning trading to its lowest value since last week’s flash crash. The fall in the pound has boosted the FTSE 100 as many of the companies in the index generate most of their revenues abroad. The UK’s benchmark index broke through its previous record intra-day level to hit 7,129.83 before losing some ground.

Igor Sechin, Russia’s most influential oil executive and the head of state-controlled energy giant Rosneft, said his company will not cap oil production as part of a possible agreement with OPEC. Sechin told reporters that Rosneft planned this year to raise its oil production, already the world’s largest among listed producers. Sechin said he doubted some OPEC countries, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, would cut their output. Yesterday, WTI pushed above $51 per barrel after Vladimir Putin said Russia was ready to join an output freeze, but not one world producer has willingly taken one solitary barrel off the table this fall.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 has been permanently discontinued, following a problematic recall operation that replaced Note 7 phones with faulty batteries at risk of explosion… with new phones that have the same batteries. The replacement lithium ion batteries in the phone tend to catch fire. The cost to Samsung of the Galaxy Note 7 could be $17 billion, the amount the company was expected to bring in from the sales cycle of the phone.

That figure doesn’t include the damage to the Samsung brand, though. Samsung shares have lost $18 billion in market cap since the problems started. If you have a Galaxy Note 7, and it doesn’t matter if it was the original phone or a phone with a replacement battery, just turn it off and get a refund and buy a phone that doesn’t explode.

Although Salesforce was thought to be out of the mix as of this weekend, a new report suggests the company is still evaluating the benefits of a Twitter deal and what an appropriate valuation might be. Meanwhile, in an internal memo reportedly sent to Twitter employees last week, CEO Jack Dorsey made no mention of any deals, instead highlighting initiatives revolving around the company’s live strategy and other merits.

General Electric said it would buy LM Wind Power, a maker of rotor blades used in wind turbines, from private equity firm Doughty Hanson for $1.65 billion, as it looks to capture a bigger share of the fast-growing renewable energy market. GE separated its renewable energy business from its power unit last year, following the $13.6 billion acquisition of Alstom SA’s power business. Denmark-based LM Wind Power is the largest supplier of rotor blades to GE.

Fiat Chrysler has reached a tentative deal with unionized workers in Canada by agreeing to make more than $300 million in investments for local operations. The pact was announced just minutes ahead of a midnight strike deadline that could have sent more than 9,000 Fiat workers off the job. Union members will vote on the accord at ratification meetings on October 16.

Chicago’s schools and its teachers’ union agreed to a contract proposal late on Monday, averting a strike set for today in the third largest U.S. public school system. Teachers contribute 2 percent to their pension, with the school board chipping in an additional 7 percent. Under Monday’s deal, new hires will not get the 7-percent “pension pickup,” but will get a salary adjustment to compensate for that.

Airbus plans to slow the assembly rate of its A380 to one aircraft per month from 2018 as the European plane maker struggles to revive sales of the world’s largest passenger jet.  Airbus’ assembly rate for the superjumbo currently stands at 2.5 aircraft per month.

Theranos has been sued by one of the blood testing start-up’s biggest backers, Partner Fund Management, for attracting $96 million in investment “through a series of lies, material misstatements, and omissions.” The suit accuses Elizabeth Holmes of deceiving the hedge fund by claiming Theranos had developed “proprietary technologies that worked” and was close to getting regulatory approvals. The suit comes less than a week after Theranos stopped all of its clinical operations, cutting 340 positions and closing its Wellness Centers where blood tests were performed.

A recent update from the Arizona Multiple Listing Service shows Phoenix real estate sales in September were up 6.3% year-over-year. Active inventory was up 3.4% year-over-year, marking the seventh consecutive month of increases in inventory. Cash sales declined to 20.2% of total sales. Meanwhile, foreclosure inventory continues to plunge across the nation, with the foreclosure inventory rate at 0.9% in August, down 29.6% compared to last year. Arizona has one of the lowest levels of foreclosure inventory, at just 0.3%.

Americans are increasingly shopping online and we have been spending less at the malls; overall, we just got tighter with money following the financial crisis. According to a new report from Morningstar, we have a shopping mall problem. The US has 23.5 square feet of retail space per person, compared with 16.4 square feet in Canada and 11.1 square feet in Australia – the next two countries with the highest retail space per capita.

Department stores like Sears, Macy’s, and JCPenney have been closing stores to try and get rid of unprofitable stores, and that’s had a devastating effect on malls. When an anchor stores closes, it often triggers a downward spiral in performance for shopping malls that in some cases has led to massive losses on loans.

When an anchor store closes, shopping malls don’t only lose the income and shopper traffic from that store’s business. It often triggers “co-tenancy clauses” that allow the remaining mall tenants to exercise the right to terminate their leases or renegotiate the terms, typically with a period of lower rents, until another retailer moves into the vacant anchor space. The Morningstar report supports a recent analysis from Credit Suisse that said about 200 shopping malls are at risk of shutting down if Sears continues to close stores.

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