The stock market finally broke out of its trading range this week. Unfortunately, it was to the downside. More troubles from Europe, including shake-up elections in France and Greece, helped the S&P 500 close Wednesday at its lowest level in nine weeks. However, the initial jobless claims report on Thursday helped us make up a little lost ground.
In this week’s CWS Market Review, I’ll explain why everyone’s so freaked out (again) by events in Europe. I’ll also talk about the latest revelations from JPMorgan Chase ($JPM). The bank just told investors that it lost $2 effing billion on effing derivatives trades gone effing bad. I’ll have more to say on that in a bit. We also had more strong earnings reports from our Buy List stocks DirecTV ($DTV) and CA Technologies ($CA), and shares of CR Bard ($BCR) just hit a 10-month high.
Greece Is Bad but the Real Story Is Spain
But first, let’s get to Greece. Here’s the 411: The bailout deals reached by Greece required them to get their fiscal house in order. The problem is that no one asked the voters. Now they’ve been asked and the voters don’t like it at all. Actually, I understated that—they’re royally PO’d.
Greece is massively in debt. They owe the equivalent of Switzerland’s entire GDP. Politically, everything has been upended. In Greece, there are two dominant political parties and both got creamed in the recent election. Seventy percent of Greeks voted for parties opposed to the bailouts. Mind you, the supposed beneficiaries of the bailout are the ones most opposed to them.
Since there was no clear-cut winner in the election, folks are scrambling to build a governing coalition. This won’t be easy. Whatever they do come up with probably won’t last long and they’ll need new elections. As investors, we fortunately don’t need to worry about the minutia of Greek politics. The important aspect for us is that the Greek public wants to ditch the austerity measures into the Aegean, but that means giving up all that euro cash that was promised them.
My take is that the bigwigs in Greece will do their best to stay in the euro but try to get the bailout terms renegotiated. That puts the ball in Europe’s court, and by Europe, I mean Germany. Too many people have invested too much to see the European project go down in flames. I think the Europeans will ultimately make some concessions in order to keep the euro going. If one country leaves the euro, it sets a precedent for others to leave—and that could start a flood.
As bad of a shape as Greece is in, they’re small potatoes (olives?). The real story is what’s happening in Spain. For the fourth time, the country is trying to convince investors that its screwed-up banks aren’t screwed-up. The problem is that Spanish banks are loaded down with toxic real estate debt.
The Spanish government is trying to prop up the banks, but it may delay the problem rather than solve it. It just took control of Bankia which itself was formed when the government forced some smaller banks together in an effort to save them. What’s most troubling about the problems in Spain is that the future is so cloudy. I really can’t say what will happen. Nouriel Roubini said that Spain will need an external bailout. If so, that may lead to a replay of what we’re seeing in Greece, except it would be much, much larger.
The immediate impact of the nervousness from Europe is that it spooked our markets. On May 1st, the Dow got to its highest point since 2007. The index then fell for six straight days which was its longest losing streak since August. But here’s the key: not all stocks are falling in the same manner.
Investors have been rushing away from cyclical sectors and towards defensive sectors. For example, the Utilities Sector ETF ($XLU) closed slightly higher on Thursday than it did on May 1st. Low-risk bonds are also doing well. Two months ago, the 30-year Treasury nearly broke above 3.5%. This past week, it dipped below 3%. On Thursday, Uncle Sam auctioned off $16 billion in 30-year bonds and it drew the heaviest bidding in months.
The trend towards defensive stocks is holding back some of our favorite cyclical stocks like Ford ($F), Moog ($MOG-A) and AFLAC ($AFL). Let me assure investors that these stocks are very good buys right now and I expect them to rally once the skies clear up.
JPMorgan Chase Reveals Huge Trading Losses
Now let’s turn to some recent news about our Buy List stocks. The big news came after Thursday’s closing bell when JPMorgan Chase ($JPM) announced a special conference call. CEO Jamie Dimon told investors that the bank took $2 billion in trading losses in derivatives and that it could take another $1 billion this quarter. Jamie, WTF?
For his part, Dimon was clear that the bank messed up. This is very embarrassing for JPM and frankly, I don’t expect this type of mismanagement from them. The stock will take a big hit from this news, but it doesn’t change my positive outlook for the bank. (Matt Levine at Dealbreaker has the best explanation of the losses: “This was not driven by the market moving against them (though it seems to have); it was driven by them getting the math wrong”).
As ugly as this is, it’s not a reflection of JPM’s core business operations. Sure, it’s terrible risk-management. But as far as banking goes, JPM is in good shape. Don’t be concerned that JPM faces a similar fate as the banks in Spain. They don’t. In fact, most banks in the U.S. are pretty safe right now. Warren Buffett recently contrasted U.S. banks with European banks when he said that our banks have “liquidity coming out of their ears.” He’s right. JPMorgan Chase remains a very good buy up to $50 per share.
Bed Bath & Beyond ($BBBY) surprised us this week by buying Cost Plus ($CPWM) for a half billion dollars. The deal is all-cash which is what I like to hear. The best option for any company is to pay for an acquisition without incurring new debt.
BBBY said they expect the deal to be slightly accretive. That means that BBBY is “buying” CPWM’s earnings at a price less than the going rate for BBBY’s earnings. As a result, the deal will show a net increase to BBBY’s bottom line for this year. The press release also said: “Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. continues to model a high single digit to a low double digit percentage increase in net earnings per diluted share in fiscal 2012.” I’m keeping my buy price at $75.
Now let’s look at some earnings. On Monday, Sysco ($SYY) had a decent earnings report although the CEO said the results “fell short of our expectations.” Sysco is a perfect example of a defensive stock since the food service industry isn’t adversely impacted by a downturn in the business cycle. The key with investing in Sysco is the rich dividend. The company has increased their payout for 42 years in a row, and I think we’ll get #43 later this year, although it will be a small increase. Going by Thursday’s close, Sysco yields 3.87%. Sysco is a good buy up to $30.
DirecTV ($DTV) reported Q1 earnings of $1.07 per share. That’s a nice jump over the 85 cents per share they earned a year ago. DirecTV’s sales rose 12% to $7.05 billion which was $10 million more than consensus. The company has done well in North America, but they see their future lying in Latin America. DTV added 81,000 subscribers in the U.S. last quarter. In Latin America, they added 593,000. Yet there are more than twice as many current subscribers in the U.S. as there are in Latin America. Last year, revenue from Latin America revenue grew by 42%.
DirecTV has projected earnings of $4 per share for this year and $5 for 2013. This earnings report tells me they should have little trouble hitting those goals. The shares are currently going for less than 11 times this year’s earnings estimate. They’re buying back stock at the rate of $100 million per week. DirecTV is a solid buy below $48 per share.
On Thursday, CA Technologies ($CA) reported fiscal Q4 earnings of 56 cents per share. That’s a good result and it was four cents better than Wall Street’s estimates. For the year, CA made $2.27 per share which is a nice increase over the $1.92 from last year. For fiscal 2013, CA sees revenues ranging between $4.85 billion and $4.95 billion and earnings-per-share ranging between $2.45 and $2.53. I’m impressed with that forecast, but Wall Street had been expecting revenues of $5 billion and earnings of $2.50 per share. The stock was down in the after-hours market on Thursday, but I don ’t expect any weakness to last. CA is going for less than 11 times the low-end of their forecast.
A quick note on Oracle ($ORCL): The stock took a hit this week on the news of Cisco’s ($CSCO) lousy outlook. Oracle is also in the middle of a complicated intellectual property trial with Google ($GOOG). I doubt the trial will go Oracle’s way, but the dollar amounts involved are pretty small compared with the size of these two firms. On Thur sday, Oracle fell below $27 for the first time since January. That’s a very good price. The stock is a good buy up to $32.
That’s all for now. Wall Street will be focused on Facebook’s massive IPO scheduled for next Friday. The stock might fetch 99 times earnings. I’m steering clear of this one. Be sure to keep checking the blog for daily updates. I’ll have more market analysis for you in the next issue of CWS Market Review!
Named by CNN/Money as the best buy-and-hold blogger, Eddy Elfenbein is the editor of Crossing Wall Street. His free Buy List has beaten the S&P 500 for the last five years in a row. This email was sent by Eddy Elfenbein through StockTwits with mailing address at 5110 N. 40th Street #108, Phoenix, AZ 85018; Telephone: 1-888-785-8948 / firstname.lastname@example.org