Tuesday, September 10, 2013

When Will They Ever Learn? II

“The Big Picture” blogger and Fusion IQ CEO Barry Ritholtz looks back at the events of 2008 and makes the case for the true legacy of the financial collapse and ask, "Did Anyone Learn From the Financial Crisis?"

How Bad Is It to Get Kicked Out of the Dow?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is just that: an average.  It is not a stock price index.  Yet it is the oldest stock market indicator in use today and as the flagship indicator of Dow Jones (Wall Street Journal, Barron's, Market Watch, etc.) it gets far more notoriety than any of the stock price indices.  When the Dow changes, it is big news.

The powers that be are kicking Alcoa ($14-15), Hewlett-Packert (c.$22), and Bank of America (c. $8) out and adding Goldman Sachs ($165), Nike ($66) and Visa ($184).  The stock prices in parentheses tell the story.  The Dow is implicitly weighted by stock price.  Companies with low stock prices have little effect on the Average, while companies with higher prices have a bigger impact.  It has nothing to do with their market capitalization, sales, or assets.

Look at the evictees and the newcomers' betas: Alcoa (1.89), Hewlett-Packert (1.64), and Bank of America (2.07) Goldman Sachs (1.85), Nike (.61) and Visa (.45). The changes appear to reduce the Dow's systematic risk.

MoneyBeat's Paul Vigna interviews David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee S&P Dow Jones Indices, to get the scoop:

Is Koch overpaying for Molex?

Yesterday's (9/9) Wall Street Journal proclaimed that Koch Industries (a "conglomerate known for unglamorous industries") is buying Molex.  Koch, privately held, is one of Wichita's largest employers and one of the two largest privately held U.S. companies.  Cargill is the other.

The current Merger and Acquisition market is pricey, if not frothy.  According to the Journal, Koch is paying 38.50 a share or $7.2 billion.  Given the scanty numbers in the article, that seems rich: about twice sales, thirty times earnings, and 1.78 times enterprise value.

Nevertheless, Koch only buys companies when it thinks its Market Based Management philosophy can produce positive results.  It has found that it has a core competence in managing process business.  Still this is an industry with powerful customers including Apple (14% of Molex's revenues) and the automotive industry.  They do not roll over for suppliers.

James Haggerty and Bob Tita report in the Wall Street Journal, "Molex, based in Lisle, Ill., makes products including connectors, sockets, antennas and switches used in cars, computers, cellphones and factory equipment, among other things."

MOLEX is traded on the NASDAQ. You can find their SEC filings online.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Cheap Or Dear?

Cheap or dear? That is the question: Whether it is nobler for the pocketbook to buy stocks or sell them! Aye, there's the rub.  

The FT's John Authers squares Robert Shiller off against Jeremy Siegel in a debate over whether stocks are over priced or under priced.

I met Robert Shiller when he was first attacking the Efficient Market Hypothesis, a dogma that commanded stronger belief among finance professors than the Real Presence did from Catholics at the time.  He showed statistically that if stocks represent the present value of future earnings and/or dividends, stock prices are much too volatile to be correctly valued.  Later he took the profession on using the Cyclically Adjusted Price Earnings Ratio as his lance.  You can link to his data online.

Market strategists and the like have tried to use it to guage when the market as a whole is too dear or too cheap.  Shiller's measure is signalling stock prices are too rich in Great Britain and the U.S.  

Jeremy Siegel, like Shiller a student of long data trends, argues against this conclusion and, specifically, that "The ratio’s pessimistic predictions are based on biased data."  The problem with any P/E ratio is measuring the denominator.  Earnings reflect accounting and even adjusted for inflation, as Shiller does, may not be the proper measure.  Earnings are affected by companies' use of leverage and the growth in earnings is affected by firms dividend payout practices.  Faster earnings growth should be associated with higher valuations.

One factor neither seems to address is my observation that the business cycle is now a ten year cycle in the image of the nineteenth century British trade cycle.  This is a departure from the immediate postwar cycle which was a five year inventory cycle.

As an investor, you still have to choose whether to buy and hold or make timly entries into and out of the market:  "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings."