As I alluded to in my longer posts about oil, I stated that there was some potential for some short-term upside, due to today's inventory report and pending Fed rate-cut decision.
I pointed out that when inventory reports were negative, they were dismissed as irrelevant, but when bullish, they were said to be the most important data ever. That was supported today; a slight decline in inventory popped oil up to a new record high.
Thankfully, I'm still holding my COP calls.
If the Fed cuts this afternoon, oil could go even higher.
It's a matter of momentum vs. fundamentals. As an investor that tries to trade on fundamentals, oil shouldn't be $94. However, just like in a stock like BIDU or CMG, momentum can, and will, push the price higher even when its illogical.
I think I'm going to hang tight in my COP calls position until after the Fed reports. I don't know when to exit... it's so hard to predict when people will realize that this price is ludicrous. Oil may very well hit $100 within a week, but I want to keep reaffirming that in 3 months, I think it'll be closer to $70.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
As I alluded to in my longer posts about oil, I stated that there was some potential for some short-term upside, due to today's inventory report and pending Fed rate-cut decision.
The events of last night and today, concerning two stocks, literally baffle me.
The two stocks are Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) and Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG).
Both companies reported earnings last night.
CMG came into earnings trading at a 80 trailing P/E and a 50+ forward P/E. Perfection is clearly already priced in. BWLD, on the other hand, traded at a much more modest 40 trailing, high-20s-forward P/E. It wasn't cheap, but it was clearly cheapER.
Chipotle reported numbers that were in-line with estimates. They had a mixed future outlook; they plan to open new stores internationally, but at the same time, existing store sales are expected to fall from 12% this past quarter, to "high single digits" for all of 2007, to "low to mid-single digits" for 2008.
Though the new stores will be a source of growth, a company cannot expand infinitely. Don't you think investors might be shaken by the bleak outlook for future same-store sales growth?
At the same time, Buffalo Wild Wings reported revenue that met the street's expectations, with earnings that were just two pennies lower. They, however, reiterated their forecast for next year: 15% unit growth, 20% revenue growth, and 25% earnings growth. (They had the same goals this year, and have met them thus far). There are some minor challenges, like gambling licenses in Las Vegas and higher prices due to bigger wings. However, the overall outlook was very promising without any glaring problem.
So how did Wall Street react to these two different reports? Logically, you'd expect BWLD to be flat, or even up, while CMG seems like it should be flat or down.
However, rationality is apparently dead amongst investors.
Buffalo Wild Wings dropped almost 30% at one point. Currently, it's trading down 20%.
Chipotle is UP $5, or 4%.
To me, this is literally insane. How do investors see any value in a company with a 55 forward P/E? Yes, the company is growing quickly, but it can't grow as quickly forever, and mature companies DON'T have P/Es of 55.
McDonalds has a forward P/E of 19. Yum Brands (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco bell, and more) has a forward P/E of 21.
Buffalo Wild Wings is now trading at that same valuation - a 21 forward P/E. The company is supposed to grow at 25% - much better than YUM's 17%.
Chipotle has grown very quickly over the past, but is only predicted to grow at about the same 25% next year.
As a value oriented investor, I'm buying BWLD. I actually purchased some after-hours yesterday (because I thought at 15% decline after the non-awful numbers was a little dramatic), and I picked up some more today after it dropped a few more points.
I have no position in CMG, but I wouldn't be long right now. Who knows, maybe hysteria will pump CMG to 160 while BWLD hangs around 30 for the next month or two. But as a long-term value investor, I see value in Buffalo Wild Wings, and nothing but hype in Chipotle.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
As an augmentation to my previous post, I'm going to outline the possibilities for the Fed's decision tomorrow, and the market's reaction.
In the past, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Open Market Committee, has been known as "Helicopter Ben." That nickname relates to an image of Ben hanging out of a helicopter, dumping out money over all the land. The ease of capital certainly can be a good thing, but is it needed now?
Our economy is growing strongly, and cutting rates just to try to ease the sub-prime woes is not necessarily helpful. Encouraging people to make risky investments because of bailouts will only promote economic irresponsibility, both in the stock market and in general spending.
At a time when the dollar is at multi-year lows against many major currencies, why cheapen it further? Yes, it does help exporters, but it also reduces the appeal of foreign investors, and as hundreds of billions of American dollars (and other wealth) are in the vaults of the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, we should pro-actively encourage reinvestment in America.
So what will the FOMC do tomorrow? I think they're going to cut rates .25%, simply to appease the market. Another .50% cut would be irresponsible, as the dollar would fall and oil would rise. Though keeping rates steady may be the ideal decision, the market has priced in a cut, and a non-action may have negative repercussions.
So, my extent of economic knowledge is a half-semester of Macro Economics, so take what I say with many grains of salt. But I think we'll see a small cut at 2:15 tomorrow.
A quarter-point cut will probably buoy the markets slightly; maybe we'll see a +100-200 point day on the Dow. If there's a bigger cut, maybe it will please the markets, but I think it would be a bad thing, and the reaction SHOULD be negative if such a drastic cut is made. If there's no action, the markets may be down a percent or two in the last two hours of trading, but the long term effects will probably be the most ideal.
There's some major (and minor) events in the next few days that I'm going to try to predict here.
First, since I've been following the stock (with no position) lately, I'll comment on Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG), releasing earnings after the bell today:
I think they're going to meet current estimates, and possibly revise downward for the future. But even if they meet or slightly exceed, watch out for a negative reaction, as the stock has a 80 trailing and 50 forward P/E.
Oil was down over 3% today, a huge deal as it's been hitting new highs lately. Tomorrow's going to be a big day. Inventory reports come out in the morning, and the Fed will release the new funds rate at 2:15. If inventory shrinks and the Fed cuts, watch for today's losses to be wiped away. If inventory increases and the Fed keeps rates steady, watch out for further price declines. Read my previous article about the bubble in the current price of oil; the second scenario I outlined could be the catalyst for a major price correction. I'm looking to get out of my Conoco calls, and get into some Exxon or Chevron puts....
...because both Exxon and Chevron report earnings later this week, and they will probably disappoint, as Conoco, BP, and other companies have done thus far. Refining margins were terrible during the 3rd quarter, squeezing profits. A bad quarter and falling profits could mean a major drop in oil stocks, which have enjoyed 20+% price increases this year.
So, concerning oil, I think that the Fed cuts .25%, oil is flat after a flat inventory report, but begins to weaken during the winter season.. I think I'm going to get some long-term puts, and see how that works out for me.
Disclosure: Long Marathon Oil stock, Conoco Calls. Could become long puts at some time soon.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
I'm actually taking a class on the history of oil right now; it's quite interesting.
But anyway, to the point:
In overnight electronic trading, oil is now putting up new record highs. As of the most recent quite while I'm writing this, it's over $93/barrel, up over $1 from its previous high.
(In the short term, this could be good for me... I currently own some ConocoPhillips calls, and on most otherwise-newsless days, the price of oil stocks will track the price of oil).
However, as I published earlier, I that there is no merit to these inflated prices. Just this weekend, Barrons published their own articles about how the price of oil is looking quite high. There are some tensions in the Middle East right now, but there's really no tangible reason for oil to be setting new daily highs.
One of the dumbest price-triggers of the previous week's run-up was the midweek inventory report that propped up the price 3%.
During the previous weeks, the reports had been bearish, as inventories grew. The bulls that spin the media wrote off the reports as unimportant, when considering the big picture.
Then, the first report that shows a decline in inventory sends the price skyrocking. It's really illogical and dumb.
That's why I'm trying to milk this bubble for all it is worth. I owned some Conoco puts going into earnings, and about $5 of negative price movement nearly tripled my options. As the stock appeared to be bottoming out (I did a good job predicting the bottom, within about $1) I switched to some calls, as the price of oil is now trending upwards.
So, as I said when oil was $10 cheaper, there's really no fundimental reason for oil to be this expensive. If you're an experienced trader/investor, maybe think about playing the swings, like I am. If you're a long term-oriented investor, I'd suggest getting into one of the oil companies with lower P/Es - like Conoco - or just sitting on the sidelines for a while. I truly believe that oil is quite overvalued, but there's no telling if, or when, people will come to their senses.
Barrons recommended avoiding Petrochina; It's P/E is in the 20s, versus about 8-11 for the big American companies. It's tempting to get into a hot, well-performing Chinese stock, but I'd recommend staying on the sidelines, too.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
I don't closely follow Baidu.com simply because it's valuation is too high for me, but...
If i had to say, based on Amazon's earnings, there's a bigger chance of a decline than a big pop after tonight's earnings.
There's so much speculation already priced into BIDU that a on-target or modest positive surprise probably won't do much to prop up the stock's lofty price. However, a miss could be devastating.
I'm going to start trying to predict earnings on stocks I actually know about; Baidu is not one of those. However, I'll try to predict some movement. If it absolutely blows out results and raises estimates, I don't see more than a 10% increase within the next week. However, if it is on-par or disappoints, a 30% haircut isn't unfathomable.
One prediction: Microsoft will come in well today, because of Halo 3, Xbox 360 sales, and favorable exchange rates.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Pardon me if I sound a little bitter, because I am on the sidelines, missing out on the spectacular gains.
But the enduring bull run of the hot tech stocks like BIDU, GOOG, RIMM, AMZN, AAPL, and others truly baffles me.
Apple gets some leeway, because it did just report excellent earnings, and it seems to be the most fundimentally-solid out of the above mentioned companies. However, it was one of the laggards of the group today, up ONLY 7%. (Of course there's nothing to prove this next claim, but if my father is reading this he could agree: I actually thought Apple would blow out the quarter on good Mac numbers. In my opinion, that's going to be the the main (or only) thing that will allow them to keep up their hypergrowth.)
Google was up $25 to $675 on no real substantial news; it looks to blow through $700 easily. The momentum is simply unstoppable.
Amazon was up 10% today purely in speculation of good earnings. With at trailing P/E of 140 and a forward P/E of 70, the earnings are going to have to be unbelievably good to merit the gains.
And best of all, BIDU and RIMM were both up a solid 10% on no major news. I guess if you have a four-letter symbol and are either selling smartphones, a search engine, or have a website, the value of your shares will ALWAYS be too low at the current prices.
Meanwhile, there's companies like NutriSystem (NTRI), which trades at a current P/E of 9 and a forward P/E of 8, that are getting no love during the rally around them. Sun Microsystems (JAVA), a reliable producer of tangible software and goods, has been flat lately as the gains of the intellectual-tech companies are halfway to the moon.
Whenever people write articles like these, Techlovers will always reply that this is what people said when Google was at $160 and after AAPL and RIMM had merely doubled (both are up much more since then).
However, people were obviously still buying tech stocks at the height of the bubble in 1999 and 2000. There are huge difference between then and now; the above-mentioned companies all ARE making money, while 7 years ago, many techies were not. However, the above companies will not all grow at 30% or 50% indefinitely; if Apple can't think up the next "IT" product, or if Google can't enter a market besides search, growth rates will surely fall, and P/Es should too, back down to earthly levels.
Just think: If Amazon's forward P/E fell to the level of Apple's - a generous 30-35x, it would be trading at half of its current price.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Note: The chance of this actually happening is minute. This isn't a prediction of what WILL happen, but just speculation over an event that has a tiny chance of occurring.
Investors marked the 20th anniversary of Black Monday on Friday by selling off each of the major exchanges by 2-3%. Bad earnings may have initially triggered the downturn, but it seemed as though investors simply wanted to mark the anniversary with a decline.
However, as the official anniversary passes, I think that the conditions now are the most reminiscent of 1987. If there was or is a time to speculate about a crash, that time is this weekend.
During the week preceeding the crash, the Dow lost about 10% of its value. This past week was not nearly as bad, as the market lost a little less than 5%, or about 600 points. Though not as severe as a drop, it still bears a very eerie resemblance to what happened then. Here's a chart of the Dow over the past week:
As it's been stated in every other writeup about a potential 2007 crash, the general market conditions are similar; high oil, weakening dollar, and more.
So, why do I think that there's a slight chance of a crash (or correction) in the future?
First, the emotional aspect to this coming Monday. As I am writing this post, a front-page article on MarketWatch.com compares this past week to the week proceeding the crash. As analytical articles of 1987 state "investors had a weekend to ponder losses from the week before," now, today's investors are pondering this week's losses in light of 1987. There's certainly possibility of an irrational, emotionally-driven over reaction on Monday.
The other thing that increases the possibility of a crash, and concerns me, is the high valuations of certain stocks and industries. It's true that the overall market valuation today is less than it was in 1987, with P/Es then higher than they are today.
However, certain sections of the markets have rich valuations: popular tech companies like Apple, Google, VMWare, Amazon.com, and Research in Motion all trade at 30-80 forward P/Es. A 10-20% shaving off of the top of any of those stocks would not be uncalled for.
If Apple or Google were to lose 15% of its value, it could easily trigger a ripple-effect sell off through the broader market. Those tech heroes both represent the current bull market and actually hold lots of investors assets, many of whom may have purchased recently as companies are making new all-time highs. Investors may sell off early to minimize losses, and this effect could be worsened by stop-limit orders that some investors have in place.
Lots of Chinese companies are similarly situated; speculation over the high-growth stocks has created rich valuations, and as the recent 50+% decline in some solar stocks shows, losing a significant amount of value in a very short period of time could occur.
This hypothetical crash would probably begin the same way that 1987's Black Monday did: US investors wake up to news of major, but not crash-level, sell offs in Asian and European markets, in response to US losses on Friday and their own sky-high valuations. (With India's market losing 10% of its value in one day just a week ago, and with Shanghai doing the same earlier this year, a 10% decline on any Asian market isn't too unrealistic).
American investors, shaken by the 5% drop last week and the 5-10% Asian drop overnight, coupled with the emotional fear of a repeat of Black Monday, start selling as soon as the premarket opens. Baidu falls $100, or 33%. Google loses 15%. Apple (who releases earning after the bell, which everyone now forgets about) is down 15% too. Banks, who reported bad earnings this past week, would mirror this fall due to financial fears. Investment banks, with lots of money tied up in mortgages and tech stocks, would also begin to suffer.
A wave of selling has spread throughout the entire market by noon. The tech-heavy, high-PE Nasdaq loses 15%. The Dow and S&P don't fare as poorly, but both are down about 10% too. Things could get very, very ugly.
Now that my scenario is outlined, do I believe that this WILL happen? No. If I did, 70% of my money wouldn't currently be long in equities. I do own puts in ConocoPhillips and the SPDR ETF, so I have slightly insulated my positions against a big loss. But if I thought a crash was inevitable, I'd be 100% cash, or puts, or shorted stock.
The possibility of a 1% gain tomorrow is much, much bigger than the prospect of a 10% loss, but I just figured I'd chronicle my thoughts as every investor is nervously awaiting Monday. Do I want a crash to happen? Absolutely not. But, as my position in SPDR puts suggests, I do expect a correction in the reasonable future, and wouldn't be absolutely shocked with a more sudden drop.
Friday, October 19, 2007
I'll post full writeups on both of these topics within the coming days, but I wanted to publicize some thoughts now.
Electronic Arts is one of the best video game stocks to own this year going into the holidays.
- Madden and NCAA are still selling well
- SKATE displaced Tony Hawk as the best/most popular skateboarding video game
- "Orange Box" is being heavily advertised; apparently, it's one of the best games of the year
- Rock Band, a competitor to/improvement on Guitar Hero, goes on sale for christmas
- Halo 3 has put more consoles in homes, Wii still selling well, PS3 price going to be cut
Secondly, oil prices are unbelievable.
I originally wrote about oil needing to correct when it was at 82 (and it did - I held CVX and then COP puts, and ended up not selling soon enough and approximately breaking even).
Now, after little significant news, it's at 90. It touched 90 during aftermarket/electronic trading just a few hours ago. Unless this passing of this psychological barrier encourages buying (which, at this point, I would not be surprised at), I think oil simply has to fall. The price of oil, as well as the price of oil stocks, SHOULD fall soon. Here are a few reasons why:
- Chance of a production-disrupting hurricane now is slim to none
- Driving season ending
- Warm winter predicted
- Refining margins evaporating.
So rationally, I think, we should see sub-$80 (maybe sub $70) oil this winter. Does that mean it WILL happen? No. As I stated, paper demand, not physical demand, is responsible for these current inflated prices.
As long as the dollar doesn't collapse, or there is no World War III, there is no reason for oil to remain at these current levels.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
I published an analysis of Heelys (HLYS) as my blog was in its infancy... about one month ago now.
Over the past month, Heelys' shares did little of anyting - they teetered around in the low $8's, trading up or down a dime every day.
However, on Friday, Heely's shares jumped after they released their Spring 2008 lineup of shoes.
The stock was up 16%, a huge jump compared to the basically-flat performance over the past two months. I don't expect the stock to hold all of it's gains from Friday simply because it was such a dramatic pop on non-major news.
However, I still find Heely's as attractive as I did a month ago. Heres are some data (provided by Yahoo! finance) that demonstrates some of the reasons why I still love Heelys:
|Average Volume (3 month)3:||606,689|
|Average Volume (10 day)3:||496,433|
|% Held by Insiders4:||33.52%|
|% Held by Institutions4:||43.70%|
|Shares Short (as of 25-Sep-07)3:||2.35M|
|Short Ratio (as of 25-Sep-07)3:||9.6|
|Short % of Float (as of 25-Sep-07)3:||28.90%|
|Shares Short (prior month)3:||2.43M|
The statistic that really screams "POSSIBLE BIG GAIN" to me is the percentage of short shares - a whopping 29% of the float. It would take 5 full trading days to completely cover the short positions.
That, in a nutshell, is why Heelys could be an explosive pick. It could very well do nothing for a long, long time, but when there is substantial positive news about Heelys, a major short squeeze will occur and the price will skyrocket.
After the terrible earnings in the summer that sent the stock plummeting, I think that virtually all bad news has been priced in. Lower orders and estimates are already incorporated into the share price; I think that the current quarter could turn out well since the estimates were revised lower.
All it will take to sent Heelys to $15 is good news and the subsequent short squeeze - say that they beat earnings, or Journeys doubles their order - a natural rise to $11 or $12 may occur, and at that point, many investors who shorted the stock on the way down may scramble to cover positions, increasing the price even further.
Will this happen tomorrow, next week, or next month? Don't count on it. I bought my Heelys position around $8.7, and I wouldn't be surprised if it stays priced between $8-$10 for a substantial period of time. However, since Heelys has virtually no long-term debt or obligations, I think the company will regain footing after the retailer's current inventory clears out, and then it will be all good things for the company.
Lastly, another thing to always consider is the possibility of a buyout. Heely's current market cap is about $250 million, which is very doable for Nike (market cap - $31 billion), Adidas, or even Crocs ($5+ billion). I'm not necessarily predicting a buyout, but for a big apparel company, acquiring a growing, popular niche brand like Heelys could be a very attractive investment.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
I am not a fan of Jim Cramer's mad money show. I have to credit him for being a great investor during his hedge fund days, but he has been reduced to a cheerleader on his television show.
Take, for example, what he said on his show just yesterday. Here is a direct excerpt from the TheStreet.com writeup about the October 10th show:
"At this point you have a duty to yourself and a duty to your wealth," Cramer said, "never to take financial advice from anyone who doesn't recommend Google." Analysts that knock Google can only be so wrong about a stock for so long before admitting they're wrong, he said, and it's time for investors to stop paying attention to the bears.
Cramer said his price target for Google has always been lower than where he actually thinks it's going to go.
Cramer then raised his price target to $750. "This is a total and unequivocal lowball estimate," Cramer said.
This estimate might seem overly exuberant, but Cramer believes it's based on genuine arithmetic. If Google earns $20 a share next year and continues its trend of 30% growth, it should hit $750. He then said that a nonconservative but rational price estimate would be $900.
It's truly irresponsible and unprofessional for a man of Cramer's reputation to pump up a stock like that. Calling analysts that do not recommend Google sissies or idiots is disrespectful and uncalled for.
Let's see how well Cramer's "four horsemen" did today:
Research in Motion, -8%
Those numbers don't necessarily show how bad a Cramer-follower could have done; all but Amazon rebounded from intraday lows. At one point:
Google traded at prices as low as $609, after an intraday high of over $640. An ameture trader could have really gotten burnt.
Research in motion spent much of the last two hours of the day down over 10%.
Apple also fell almost 10% before recovering some ground.
It's also worth mentioning that Baidu.com, another stock Cramer pumps, lost over 10% of its value today.
My point is that Cramer's constant pumping reminiscent of the market sentiment in 1999 will only hurt his beloved viewers. As his four horsement hit daily highs, Cramer hit "Buy, Buy, Buy." If these stocks correct to appropriate levels, average, ignorant investors that fell victim to Cramer's antics will be left holding the bag.
So my two lessons:
Don't by into hype; do your own independent research. Are Google and Apple good companies? In my opinion, yes. Are they good investment ideas right now? Maybe not.
Don't be as yellow-bellied as I am; have a little courage.
I bought an Apple October 160 put contract for $1.60 on Octover 9th, looking for a pullback that I believe is due. I sold them early today for no gain, because I was worried about a continued rally.
The options closed at $3.60 today, after a few trades above $6. If i had followed my CORRECT investment instincts, I would have made out handsomely while the market got punished. However, I bought into the hype myself and it cost me a couple hundred dollars.
And, because I love being kicked while I'm down, I decided to personally add some insult to my injury.
After I sold the Apple puts, I bought Google's October 560 Puts for $.90. I sold them for a modest gain after the stock dipped for $1.20.
Once again, I should have followed my instincts; the options closed at $2.25 today after trading above $3. I would have realized returns of hundreds of percent today if I would have just believed in my ideas.
So enough rambling. My point is, I made to very, very stupid trades, influenced by the sentiment that I was trying to play against - the overhyped, artifically-inflated hysteria that had been sweeping the market.
Just to clarify, Those two trades represented less than 2% of the money that I manage; my equities were actually up today. So, I didn't lose money, but stupid, sheepish trading prevented me from making a couple hundred dollars today.
My message to you is this: be braver than I am. Do your own research, and when you come to factual conclusions and believe in your idea, stick with it.
Don't be influenced by Cramer, any talking head on TV, or even myself. I encourage independent, smart investing.
I'll admit my mistakes, and chock this one up to a powerful, yet unfortunate, learning experience.
Friday, October 5, 2007
As I stated in my last post, I currently have carpal tunnel (or some similar injury) so I can't type at length right now. But I wanted to update on some of my recent happenings:
I bought some Vonage (VN) at $1.00. It was up $.12 today, to $1.15. I think it's both a decent long term prospect, and i'm playing the bounce. If it continues upward quickly, I may dump and profit-take.
Our old friend Syntax-Brillian (BRLC) was interestingly up 25% out of nowhere today. Though I'm long, I suspect today's gain was due to a short squeeze, and may be short lived. But I hope I'm wrong.
I also purchased some Pantry (PTRY). Its stock has been up like an unbelievable 1000% or something over the last few years; I read lots of articles about it maybe six months ago. Now, it's down off of its 52-week high of 60, and only a couple bucks off of its low, and at a P/E of 13, this growth stock is now looking cheap.
I also picked up just once contract of November Calls for Nutrisystem (NTRI). They're the company that runs ads with Dan Marino and other jocks, with the pre-made food. They missed earnings and revised downward a little bit, and the stock fell 33%. It is an overreaction, to a growing brand, and I'm looking for both a bounce and a long-term gain.
Lastly, I'm currently long some ConocoPhillips (COP) puts. The company has already moved significantly, and the options are in the money. If the price of oil eases a little, it could drop like a rock. If oil keeps facing resistance at $80, I'm going to profit-take soon... I don't want to be blindsided by a hurricane or Iranian air strike that causes oil to go to $100/barrel.
That's all for now,
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