Thursday, March 15, 2018

Improved Earnings Growth Expectations Broadly Reduce PEG Ratios

Before passage of The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December, earnings growth for the S&P 500 was expected to be low double digits in calendar year 2018. Since passage of tax reform, a significant improvement in earnings growth expectations has occurred. The below table shows I/B/E/S earnings growth expectations in October by sector and for the S&P 500 Index compared to expectations as of the end of last week.

Every sector except utilities and real estate have seen significant increases in earnings growth expectations. For some sectors the growth rate has more than double, e.g., telecommunications, energy, financials and industrials sectors. Additionally, the valuation of some sectors has improved fairly significantly.

What has seen marked improvement too is the PEG ratio or P/E to earnings growth ratio. I have written a few articles covering the PEG ratio and include a reference to the CFA Institute's Inside Investing blog and the article, Is It Overvalued? Look at the PEG Ratio. Readers wanting more insight into the PEG ratio should read the CFA Institute article as well as my post, A Look At The PEG Ratio: Earnings Growth Versus Valuation.

Continuing though, as the below chart shows, five sectors in the S&P 500 Index are trading with PEG ratios below 1.0, even the S&P 500 Index itself has a PEG less than 1.0. When I wrote the article, Equity Valuations No Longer Matter?, in July of last year, only one sector had a PEG ratio less than 1.0 and that was the energy sector.

The CFA Institute article referenced above appropriately notes the PEG ratio is not "the 'be all and end all' measure, but it does provide a quick and dirty yardstick for identifying potentially under- or overvalued securities." When only looking at earnings growth, vis-à-vis valuations or the P/E ratio, stocks broadly appear more attractive today than they did as recently as mid year last year.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Near Record Small Business Optimism

Today the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) reported small businesses are showing unprecedented optimism. The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index was reported at 107.6, the second highest reading in the 45-year history of the Index. The highest reading recorded was 108.0 in 1983.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Bond Yield To Stock Yield Spread Sufficiently Wide To Challenge Stock Returns

A little over a year ago I noted the yield on the 10-year Treasury surpassed the dividend yield of the S&P 500 Index. With rising bond yields, there becomes a point when the bond yield is sufficiently high relative to the yield on stocks that bonds can challenge stock returns. In that earlier article I referenced a research article written by CFRA Research's Sam Stovall and titled, Rising Prices, Shrinking Yields. In the research article it was noted prospective stock returns became most challenged when the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury exceeded the dividend yield of the S&P 500 Index by at least one full percentage point, i.e. 100 basis points. The forward return at varying spreads is detailed below.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Individual Investors Favoring Technology Stocks

Periodically I review the most active stocks individual members of Better Investing indicate they are purchasing. A notable feature on the current list is the fact technology related stocks are dominating member purchases.

Additionally, after the market's close on Friday, I posted a tweet noting Fidelity customers' top purchases. Again, technology stocks are gaining the interest of Fidelity's individual investors.

With both the technology sector SPDR (XLK) and the Nasdaq Index both achieving record highs on Friday, one might believe the technology sector is getting over heated. The interest in technology has led to acronyms for various groups of stocks, with the most familiar being the FAANGs, representing Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), Netflix (NFLX) and Google (GOOGL), now known as Alphabet. As the below chart shows, the technology sector in the S&P 500 Index accounts for 25.2% of the index weighting and is approaching the technology bubble peak of 32.9%. One major difference today though is the fact the valuation of the technology sector holdings is not even close to the bubble peak valuation. At the height of the technology bubble in 2000, the technology sector P/E equaled 82 times trailing earnings. Today, the trailing technology sector P/E is 23 times earnings.

In spite of the fact a few technology or technology related stocks trade at higher P/E multiples, the valuations are far from bubble levels seen in 2000.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Sentiment And Economic Data Laying The Foundation For Higher Stock Prices

The headline number of an increase of 313,000 in February's non-farm payrolls this morning was big. This is the largest monthly increase since July 2016. The high end of consensus estimates was for a 230,000 increase in payrolls. December and January reports were also revised higher.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Trade Deficit And Tariffs: It Is Complicated

President Donald Trump's announcement that he is instituting tariffs on imported steel and aluminum came as a surprise to some although reducing the trade deficit was one of his campaign promises. Dealing with the trade deficit issue is a complicated one since no one factor impacts trade. What is complicating a necessary discussion at the moment is the vitriol in which President Trump's tariff proposal is being discussed. For example, the media repeated commentary that the market would collapse once President Trump signed the tariff executive order; yet the S&P 500 Index closed almost .50% higher today.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Rising Interest Rates A Headwind For Dividend Paying Stocks

Since July 2016 the yield on the 10-year US Treasury Note has increased from 1.32% to nearly 3% today. This doubling of longer term interest rates is creating a headwind for dividend paying stocks resulting in their underperformance versus their non-dividend paying counterparts as well as the broader S&P 500 Index.

The maroon line in the below chart represents the total return for the S&P 500 Index divided by the total return for the iShares Select Dividend ETF (DVY), When the maroon line is moving higher, the S&P 500 Index is outperforming the iShares Dividend ETF. Clearly the broader S&P 500 Index has been outperforming the dividend payers since July 2016. The blue line on the chart represents the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury Note and it is not a coincidence that the dividend payers are underperforming just as the 10-year Treasury yield began to rise in July of 2016.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Sentiment And Economic Data Mostly Positive

A colleague and I just returned from a week long trip in south Florida visiting some of our clients on both the east and west coast of the state. One notable factor was the very high level of activity everywhere we visited. Restaurants were all packed, road traffic was unbelievably jam packed and the number of semis on the road seemed higher than usual, and usually those trucks do not drive around empty. We visited a new golf course development and the activity was anything but recessionary like. The bottom line is sentiment is highly positive and supports recent economic data releases focused on sentiment and economic indicators.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Continuing To Favor U.S. Large Cap Stocks Over U.S. Small Cap Stocks

With the passage of tax reform, one market segment one might believe experiences an outsized benefit to earnings is U.S small cap stocks. This certainly seems plausible due to the fact smaller companies tend to have less direct exposure to foreign revenue; therefore, likely generating most of their profits in the U.S.

Our firm exited completely the U.S. small cap space in late 2013 based on a number of factors, with one being the relative valuation of small cap stocks versus large cap stocks. Reviewing the relative valuation of small caps versus large caps based on price earnings ratios has certainly turned to favor small over large as can be seen in the chart below.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Small Businesses Remain Highly Optimistic

Tuesday's report by NFIB on small business optimism for the month of January places the reading in the top five highest coming in at 106.9. According to NFIB the response to "Now Is A Good Time To Expand" was 32% and is the highest level for this category in the Indexes 45-year history. Today's strong NFIB report comes on the heals of a record level of optimism in 2017. NFIB President and CEO, Juanita Duggan noted,