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Latest Valuentum Commentary
Jul 8, 2020
Freeport-McMoRan’s Outlook Improves Considerably
Image Source: Freeport-McMoRan Inc – February 2020 IR Presentation. Global copper, gold, and molybdenum miner Freeport-McMoRan Inc suspended its quarterly common dividend in March 2020 and provided a revised outlook for the full-year in April 2020 due to the coronavirus (‘COVID-19’) pandemic hampering both commodity prices and its operational performance. One of those hurdles involved the Peruvian government imposing restrictions on its Cerro Verde mine in March 2020 (as part of COVID-19 containment efforts), a copper mine that Freeport-McMoRan owns a ~54% stake in. Another hurdle involved the collapse in commodity prices earlier this year (though gold prices have held up quite well in 2020). First, let us provide some background before highlighting why Freeport-McMoRan’s outlook has recently improved considerably.
Jun 4, 2020
BHP Benefiting from an Industrial Rebound in China
Image Source: BHP Group – Fiscal 2019 Annual Report. In recent months, iron ore futures prices have surged higher due to an ongoing recovery in China’s industrial sector and supply concerns in Brazil, which has culminated into the Dalian Commodity Exchange’s September 2020 iron ore deliveries hitting a record high since the futures contract was first launched in 2013. Pivoting to copper, three-month copper futures prices based on trading activity on the London Metals Exchange have also perked up on the back of an apparent recovery in Chinese economic activity. Rising metals prices bodes well for major and minor miners around the globe, including BHP Group.
May 21, 2020
Southern Copper’s Payout Is Not That Healthy
Image Shown: An overview of Southern Copper’s core operations in Mexico and Peru. Image Source: Southern Copper Corporation – May 2019 IR Presentation. Copper (symbol Cu, atomic number 29) is an essential building block of modern civilization as it is used as a conductor for heat and electricity. Electrical components, utility-scale electrical transmission systems, residential and commercial heating appliances, electric vehicles, and much more all rely on copper products (electromagnets, heat exchangers, heat sinks, integrated circuits, printed circuits, copper wiring, and copper fittings are all examples of products that contain copper). The largest consumer of copper is China, accounting for roughly half of global demand making the Middle Kingdom an essential part of the copper supply chain. On the other end of the supply chain, it’s companies like Southern Copper Corp that develop and operate the copper mines in major producing regions that enable global supply to meet demand. Copper plays an essential role in the transportation, industrial, consumer goods, utilities, and construction industries/sectors. The pace of construction activity in China has an outsize impact on global copper prices.
Mar 27, 2020
Lululemon’s Pristine Balance Sheet and Digital Sales Channels Provides Support During These Harrowing Times
Image Source: Lululemon Athletica Inc – Fourth Quarter of Fiscal 2019 Earnings Infographic. On March 26, Lululemon Athletica reported fourth quarter and full-year earnings for fiscal 2019 (period ended February 2, 2020) that had some bright spots, though shares of LULU initially traded down on March 27. While the company beat on both the top- and bottom-lines, investors are growing increasingly worried about the performance of discretionary consumer goods companies in the face of the ongoing novel coronavirus (‘COVID-19’) pandemic. In fiscal 2019, Lululemon’s GAAP revenues rose 21% year-over-year and its GAAP gross margin climbed by ~65 basis points, with its financial performance supported by rising direct-to-consumer sales (up 35% year-over-year) which tend to command higher gross margins. Adjusted comparable sales rose by 9% year-over-year in fiscal 2019 (keeping in mind there was an extra week of sales in fiscal 2018), a growth rate that rises to 10% on a constant-currency basis.
Mar 25, 2020
Nike Reports Blowout Earnings in the Face of COVID-19
Image Shown: Shares of Nike reclaimed some of their lost ground on March 25 after the sports apparel company reported a blowout earnings report. On March 24, Nike Inc reported blowout earnings for its third quarter of fiscal 2020 (period ended February 29, 2020) with its revenues and non-GAAP EPS figures coming in well above consensus estimates. The sports apparel firm’s sales rose by 5% year-over-year on a GAAP basis, and 7% on a constant currency non-GAAP basis, due to strong growth at its Nike Direct offering (a digitally oriented direct to consumer distribution system) which helped drive 36% digital sales growth. Please note that Nike sold off its Hurley brand last fiscal quarter, which management noted shaved 100-200 basis points off Nike’s North American sales growth. This strength in the face of the ongoing novel coronavirus (‘COVID-19’) pandemic saw shares of NKE leap during the trading session on March 25.
Mar 18, 2020
Banking Entities: The Technicals Tell the Story
Image: The Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF has experienced a tremendous amount of pain in recent weeks. What is clear is that temporarily shutting down large parts of U.S. economy is absolutely unprecedented, and there will be substantial knock-on effects and difficulties in getting things restarted. This is most especially true if the coronavirus re-emerges following the periods of social distancing around the world, or when the weather turns colder again in the fall, and humanity could be facing a different strand of the coronavirus. Don’t forget that all bank institutions use a lot of financial leverage by their very nature, and the Fed and Treasury can never truly stop a run-on-the-bank dynamic (i.e. that which happened to WaMu in 2008). We think BOK Financial is in particular trouble given its energy loan exposure. Others to avoid include Cullen/Frost Bankers, Cadence Bancorp, and CIT Group. The credit card entities, Capital One and Synchrony Financial may be worth avoiding. We’d stay far away from the regional banks given their exposure to small business pain amid COVID-19. We don’t think the fiscal stimulus on the table does much to help small businesses. Deutsche Bank may be the first of the big European banks to topple, and this weakness could eventually spread to the U.S. banks given counterparty risk. Most foreign banks, including Santander, Credit Suisse, UBS, ING, and BBVA remain exposed to crisis scenarios. We’re also witnessing some very troubling developments with banking preferred shares, with the bank-preferred-heavy ETF, Global X SuperIncome Preferred ETF dropping ~15% during the trading session March 18. The preferreds of HSBC and Ally Financial are top weightings in that ETF. Banking technicals are raising some major red flags across the board, and given actions by the Fed and Treasury, this crisis has all the makings of being worse than the Great Financial Crisis. In any financial crisis perhaps excepting a depression, there can come a time to invest new money in bank stocks. Though it seems likely we have not yet reached the bottom in the markets yet, the highest-ground bank franchises in the US are JPMorgan and Bank of America, in our view. While sharp declines in their equity values may be expected (no one truly knows how deep the coming flood will be), they’re likely to make it to the other side with most of their equity capital firmly intact. With all that said, however, one doesn’t have to hold banking equities. It may be time to phone Mr. Buffett before things really start to unfold.
Mar 15, 2020
Fed Cuts 100 Basis Points, Launches More QE
“Now, stocks and other assets are being sold, some indiscriminately. It is truly becoming a stock pickers market as opposed to a quant-led and index-led market. It takes a different kind of bravery to buy on massive down days and one must have conviction in their research that the company will not go away if massive downside scenarios do in fact emerge.” – Matthew Warren. In this piece, we cover our assessment of what the global markets might be facing in a bull-case, base-case, and bear-case scenario. Our base case is a substantial recession in the US and a financial crisis of some unknown magnitude.
Mar 11, 2020
Worst in Energy Not Over, Stay Away from Leveraged Enterprises, Seeds of Financial Crisis Sown?
Image Shown: The energy and banking markets continue to be experiencing pain. Since we removed the Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE) and Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF) from the Best Ideas Newsletter portfolio and Dividend Growth Newsletter portfolio, the XLE has fallen more than 50% and the XLF has fallen 13%, while the SPY has held up roughly 2%. We continue to believe staying away from energy and financials/banks will be a source of significant alpha.These are challenging times. The oil price swoon has complicated an already-dire situation with COVID-19. We’re seeing cracks in the credit markets, and the European banking system is far from healthy. The US banks may face knock-on impacts from energy loan defaults and hold significant counter-party risk from their European brethren, which have breached post-Lehman lows. We’re doubtful any fiscal stimulus will stave off this crisis, and it may just set up the markets for the next leg down, if Congress ends up in a stalemate. We will continue to keep our members informed on the state of global energy markets as more information becomes available, but we think avoiding energy and banks/financials will continue to be a source of alpha. We removed the XLE and XLF from the newsletter portfolios in August of last year. We’re reiterating our 2,350-2,750 target range on the S&P 500.
Mar 9, 2020
Oil Markets Get Decimated
Image Shown: Oil prices have been decimated year-to-date. The outlook for independent upstream names has become dire. In an industry that’s generated little to no free cash flow since 2010, and instead has relied heavily on capital markets to stay afloat; for all the hype surrounding surging US production of raw energy resources there hasn’t been much shareholder value creation to show for it. Consumers and certain US states have been big winners, sure, but equity holders and now potentially credit holders have largely taken it on the chin. We will continue following the space for our members going forward, and please note there’s a very good reason we removed the Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF from our newsletter portfolios back in August 2019 (link here), the outlook for the energy space (particularly oil & gas) was lackluster at the time and has since become dire.
Mar 9, 2020
Oil Prices Collapse, Reiterating 2,350-2,750 S&P 500 Target Range; Credit Crunch Looming?
From Value Trap: “The banking sector was not the only sector that faced considerable selling pressure during the Financial Crisis of the late 2000s, of course. Other companies that required funding to maintain their business operations faced severe liquidity risk, or a situation where refinancing, or rolling over debt, might be difficult to do on fair terms, making such financing prohibitive in some cases. Those that faced outsize debt maturities during the most severe months of the credit crunch faced a real threat of Chapter 11 restructuring had the lending environment completely seized. In thinking about share prices as a range of probable fair value outcomes, equity prices tend to face pressure as downside probabilities such as a liquidity event are baked into the market price and at a higher probability. Because debtholders are higher up on the capital structure than equity holders, shareholders can sometimes get nothing in the event of a bankruptcy filing. Entities that are extremely capital-market dependent, or those that require ongoing access to new capital to fund operations, often face the greatest risk of the worst equity price declines during deteriorating credit market conditions.” Value Trap: Theory of Universal Valuation, published 2018
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