Monday, October 25th, 2010
by Jeffrey Saut, Chief Investment Strategist, Raymond James
October 25, 2010
“The most enduring lesson I’ve ever learned came from a janitor at New York University, which had completed a new magnificent graduate-school building that had no windows on the first nine stories. We moved in, and, you know there’s always a short brutal heat wave in New York at the end of April. The temperature went from 80° to 90° to 100° and everybody, the women included, stripped down to the barest essentials. It continued to get hotter and my patience wore out. I went down to hunt up the janitor and scream at him. Way down in the third basement I found an old toothless man and I yelled at him, ‘Can’t you read a thermometer?’ He looked at me and said, ‘Mister, if I could read a thermometer why would I be a janitor?’”
… Peter Drucker (writer, management consultant, social ecologist)
Peter Drucker is considered by many to be the man who invented the concept of “management.” He is the one who coined the phrase “management by objectives.” He would state, “Management by objectives works if you first think through your objectives, but ninety percent of the time you haven’t.” Another of his bòn móts was, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” Take the aforementioned Drucker allegory. The janitor certainly carried out his tasks efficiently, for his job was to faithfully watch the calendar because in New York City, through the 15th of May, you heat the building. Then, you turn the heat off and turn on the air conditioner. The janitor had indeed followed his orders efficiently – no questions asked!
In the stock market, many mavens also follow the calendar … you play the summer rally “long,” then around Labor Day you “sell” because of the look-out-for-October historical haunts. Said mavens read the calendar and not the temperature of the stock market. Following such dogmatic rules (see my letter of 9/27/10 titled “Rules are Rules”) has left many investors underperforming this year, for if you sold the S&P 500 (SPX/1183.08) on September 1st (at 1050) you have “missed” a 133-point rally in the SPX (or 12.7%). To be sure, going calendar-contrary, and observing the temperature-trend, has saved us from the “janitor’s job” syndrome. Categorically, my mantra going into September had been, “I think it is a mistake to get too bearish right here.” However, that rubric changed at the margin last Monday when I wrote, “I am again cautious, a state I have not found myself in since April. Still, I think any pullback will be contained.”
Almost on cue, the SPX celebrated the 23rd anniversary of the October 1987 “crash” by surrendering 3.7% last Tuesday, only to make most of that loss back by Friday’s close. Still, I can’t shake the feeling the equity markets are searching for some kind of trading peak between now and the FOMC meeting. Such a timid trading strategy would be consistent with the old stock market saw, “Buy on the cannons and sell on the trumpets” because I think the “trumpets” will be the Republicans taking back the House and the Fed announcing QE2 (quantitative easing two). Both of those events should be stock-market friendly, but are likely already discounted. Clearly, we bought on the cannons last June. Accordingly, selling on the trumpets seems like an appropriate short-term trading strategy.
Nevertheless, the proverbial “carrot in front of the horse” remains good earnings, momentum, and performance anxiety as many portfolio managers (PMs) are materially underweight in equities. Speaking to earnings, according to my friends at the invaluable Bespoke Investment Group:
“Of the 377 companies that have reported earnings, 74% have beaten estimates. Of the 132 S&P 500 companies that have reported, 81.8% have beaten estimates. . . . (Yet) While earnings have been largely better than expected, the top-line revenue numbers haven’t been as strong. As shown, 62% of companies have beaten revenue estimates this earnings season. This is a bit higher than the 58% reading we saw earlier in the week, but it’s still lower than each of the prior three earnings seasons.”
Importantly, however, is that 4Q10 earning’s guidance has been particularly strong, implying favorable earnings comparisons should continue into the first part of next year. Ladies and gentlemen, to an underinvested PM such upside earnings guidance is a nightmare. Bespoke goes on to produce a list of companies that have beaten both earnings and revenue estimates and guided estimates higher for 4Q10. Favorably rated names from Raymond James’ research universe making that list were: Polaris Industries (PII/$70.21/Strong Buy); Select Comfort Corp. (SCSS/$8.24/Strong Buy); Stanley Black & Decker (SWK/$61.11/Strong Buy); Tempur-Pedic (TPX/$35.04/Strong Buy); The Chubb Corp. (CB/$57.92/Outperform); UnitedHealth Group (UNH/$37.26/Outperform); and Altera Corporation (ALTR/$29.46/Strong Buy). I offer these names as a potential “shopping list” on any upcoming pullback. Additionally, the three sectors beating estimates by the widest margin are Technology, Energy, and the Industrials.
For months I have opined that Technology was as cheaply priced relative to the SPX as it has been in nearly 20 years. I have also been adamant on favoring energy stocks. The recent announcement by CNOOC (China National Offshore Oil Company) to purchase a ~33% interest in Chesapeake Energy’s (CHK/$21.20/Market Perform) Eagle Ford Shale project only reinforces my enthusiasm. The Industrial sector is interesting because those companies with strong balance sheets have the ability to refinance their debt at lower interest rates, and thus grow earnings, even if revenue growth remains muted. And as Peter Drucker noted, “Almost everybody today believes that nothing in economic history has ever moved as fast as, or had a greater impact than, the Information Revolution. But the Industrial Revolution moved at least as fast in the same time span, and had probably an equal impact, if not a greater one.”
The call for this week: Eight of the S&P 500’s macro sectors are currently overbought. The two that are not, Financials and Telecom, are a neutral value by my pencil. Meanwhile, 88% of the SPX’s stocks are above their respective 50-day moving averages, leaving the index well overbought. Further, the SPX is at the top of its Bollinger Band, a chart configuration that occurred right before the January – February and the April – July declines of this year (see the nearby chart). Moreover, the D-J Industrial Average has traveled into formidable overhead resistance as it tested the April “highs” last week; and, today is session 37 in my day-count sequence without anything more than the perfunctory one- to three-day pause/pullback in the upside skein (read: pretty extended). Accordingly I am cautious, but not bearish, believing the equity markets are going to make some kind of trading top over the next few weeks. I also believe any pullback is a buying opportunity. Therefore, instead of randomly “buying” right here, I prefer to wait and see which stocks resist the envisioned decline. As for where to “park” cash, in addition to the often mentioned Putnam Diversified Income Trust (PDINX/$8.09), over the past few months I have had numerous fixed income PMs suggest that Bank Loans are the most undervalued “space” in the fixed income arena. Typically, Bank Loan maturities are five years or less, ameliorating much of the interest rate risk. Further, corporate cash flows are at all-time highs, suggesting the best credits out there are corporations. Drilling down into this strategy, I had lunch with a PM from Pioneer Funds recently (Ken Taubes) who agreed that Bank Loans are the place to be in fixed income. Unsurprisingly, the fund he recommended was the 4.8%-yielding Pioneer Floating Rate Fund (FLYRX/$6.87). Another such fund, for your consideration, was recently recommended by Raymond James’ mutual fund research department, namely Mainstay’s Floating Rate Fund (MXFAX/$9.40). I continue to invest, and trade, accordingly.
Tags: Air Conditioner, Allegory, BRIC, BRICs, Chief Investment Strategist, China, Dogma, Graduate School, Heat Wave In New York, Janitor, jeffrey saut, Labor Day, Management By Objectives, Management Consultant, Mavens, New York University, oil, Peter Drucker, Raymond James, Social Ecologist, Stock Market, Summer Rally, Thermometer, Toothless Man
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Thursday, February 14th, 2008
Hat tip to Chris Perruna – chrisperruna.com – for this collection of quotes on the subject of predictions.
- “Those who have knowledge, don’t predict. Those who predict, don’t have knowledge.” – Lao Tzu
- “He who knows, does not speak. He who speaks, does not know.” – Lao Tzu
- “Never make predictions, especially about the future.” – Casey Stengel
- “Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window.” – Peter Drucker
- “If one could foresee the next three days, one could become rich for several thousand years.” – Anonymous
- “If you learn one thing from having lived through decades of changing views, it is that all predictions are necessarily false.” – M. H. Abrams
- “I figure lots of predictions is best. People will forget the ones I get wrong and marvel over the rest.” – Alan Cox (the MEDIA!)
- “History can predict nothing except that great changes in human relationships will never come about in the form in which they have been anticipated.” – Johan Huizinga
- “You can only predict things after they have happened.” – Eugene Ionesco
- “In the future, instead of striving to be right at a high cost, it will be more appropriate to be flexible and plural at a lower cost. If you cannot accurately predict the future then you must flexibly be prepared to deal with various possible futures.” – Edward de Bono
- “You never know what the next day is going to bring. That goes for football, goes for off the field, and I gave up a long time ago trying to predict the future and trying to deal with things I couldn’t deal with.” – Brett Favre
- “Predictions of the future are never anything but projections of present automatic processes and procedures, that is, of occurrences that are likely to come to pass if men do not act and if nothing unexpected happens; every action, for better or worse, and every accident necessarily destroys the whole pattern in whose frame the prediction moves and where it finds its evidence.” – Hannah Arendt
- “To predict the behavior of ordinary people in advance, you only have to assume that they will always try to escape a disagreeable situation with the smallest possible expenditure of intelligence.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
- “The unpredictability inherent in human affairs is due largely to the fact that the by-products of a human process are more fateful than the product.” – Eric Hoffer
- “My predictions are notably inaccurate.” – Robert Caro
- “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” – Alan Kay
Tags: Alan Cox, Alan Kay, Brett Favre, by-products, Casey Stengel, Chris Perruna, Edward de Bono, Eric Hoffer, Eugene Ionesco, Friedrich Nietzsche, Hannah Arendt, Johan Huizinga, Markets, Peter Drucker, risk, Robert Caro, wisdom
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