Fears over Argentina’s default sent equity markets tumbling Thursday, as analysts say that investors are becoming less forgiving of worrisome economic and geopolitical news, warning that a stock correction could be looming. The S&P 500 fell 39.4 points or 2%, or to close at 1,930.67, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average saw its gains for the year erased after falling 317.06 points or 1.9% to 16,563.30. The S&P/TSX Composite slid 194.08 points or 1.3% to 15,330.74. “We are witnessing … classic signs of an impending correction,” said Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch who was once seen as the biggest cheerleader of the current rally. “We expect volatility will rise in coming months. TORONTO — North American stock markets had their biggest one-day tumble since early February on Thursday but analysts were hard-pressed to identify a single reason for the drop. The S&P/TSX composite index in Toronto fell 194.08 points to 15,330.74, as a number of big Canadian corporations missed earnings forecasts, but the index remained up about 1,736 points since the beginning of the year. New York’s Dow Jones industrials plunged 317.06 points to 16,563.3, leaving the index below where it started the year by about a dozen points. The Nasdaq lost 93.13 points to 4,369.77 and the S&P 500 index declined 39.4 points to 1,930.67. The loonie closed down 0.02 of a cent to And volume is less than usual with many market participants on holidays. But the stock market declines also come at a time when many investors have registered substantial gains. “You get thinner markets and it doesn‘t take much to move things around,” said Wes Mills, chief investment officer Scotia Private Client Group. “Clearly everyone has made good money and there is no evidence that people are taking money off the table yet. It‘s probably just an overdue correction in a thin summer market with a combination of factors.” Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., which is making a hostile takeover bid for Botox maker Allergan, posted a quarterly net profit of $126 million or 37 cents a share. Adjusted income was $651 million, or $1.91 per share, missing estimates of $1.98 a share, and its shares fell $9.59 or 7% to $127.83. Barrick Gold Corp. delivered a US$269-million quarterly net loss and $159-million of adjusted earnings in the second quarter, missing analyst estimates on both counts. The adjusted profit amounted to 14 cents US per share, two cents below estimates. Barrick shares dipped 44 cents to $19.70. 91.71 cents US. The U.S. Federal Reserve indicated Wednesday that it will keep short-term interest rates low “for a considerable time” after it ends its bond purchases, likely in October. The Fed is expected to start hiking rates mid-2015, but stronger than expected economic growth in the second quarter has investors concerned that the Fed could raise rates sooner. Argentina moved into a debt default for the second time in 13 years after a deadline of midnight Wednesday night came and went without a deal with bondholders.
BlackBerry Ltd. (BBRY), pushing further into security services, agreed to buy Secusmart GmbH, a provider of anti-eavesdropping technology whose clients include German officials such as Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Secusmart, a Dusseldorf, Germany-based company that already had a partnership with BlackBerry, makes voice and data encryption for mobile phones. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. The acquisition is BlackBerry’s first since the hiring last November of Chief Executive Officer John Chen, who vowed to cut losses by focusing on services to corporations and governments.
Now, having stabilized the Waterloo, Ontario-based company, Chen said in an interview yesterday that he’s laying the groundwork for hiring and sales growth. With Secusmart, BlackBerry aims to capitalize on demand for spy-proofing technology in the wake of revelations about U.S. government surveillance tactics, including allegations that Merkel’s mobile phone was tapped.
The deal is still subject to regulatory approval. Chen said he’s confident Germany will approve the sale, especially since the government already uses BlackBerry phones and software.
At a time of backlash against U.S. companies, including the German government’s decision not to renew a Verizon Communications Inc. contract, Chen said it doesn’t hurt being a Canadian company.
“Canadians are very neutral, as you know,” said Chen, who grew up in Hong Kong and is a naturalized U.S. citizen. “Canadians always do business with everybody else and it’s fine.”
Germany’s government has already distributed about 3,000 encrypted smartphones made by BlackBerry to federal officials, and has plans to order more such devices, Tobias Plate, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said yesterday at a news conference in Berlin.
Last month, Germany’s top prosecutor said it would start a formal investigation into whether U.S. intelligence agents tapped Merkel’s phone. The White House has said agents aren’t spying on Merkel and has pledged not to do so in the future.
Chen’s goal is to return BlackBerry to profitability by the company’s next fiscal year, which ends in March 2016. The company is seeking to counter declining demand for its phones by focusing on supplying software and hardware to customers in regulated industries such as finance, government, health care and law, which have higher standards for security and risk management.
BlackBerry announced plans to fire 4,500 employees, or a third of its workforce, less than two months before Chen took over as it tried to streamline the business for a buyout deal that eventually fell through. As the turnaround plan unfolds, Chen said he’s ready to start hiring again, with a focus on sales, software development and customer care.
“I have a plan to start slowly adding headcount into the company, and now we’re in that phase,” Chen said.
While BlackBerry shares are up 34 percent this year through yesterday with Chen at the helm, other technology companies are eyeing the same corporate niche he’s going after. BlackBerry fell less than 1 percent to $9.91 at 10:33 a.m. New York time.
This month, Apple Inc. and International Business Machines Corp. said they would work together to develop mobile applications for businesses. BlackBerry dropped 12 percent the day of the announcement.
“I’m paying a lot of attention” to the partnership, Chen said. “I’m giving them due respect that they could get something done, although they’re going to have to come from way behind,” he said.
Part of his plan to stay ahead might include acquisitions, he said. Areas BlackBerry is interested in include server technology and identity management, Chen said.
Still, he said he’s being careful not to risk too much in potential deals.
“It’s not, ‘Because the future is so bright, I’ve got to bet the farm,'” he said. “I’m a very safe, conservative guy.”
Bulls Fleeing Natural Gas as Goldman Sees Further Decline
Speculators are fleeing natural gas after prices dropped below $4 for the first time since December and power plant production fell to a 13-year seasonal low.
Hedge funds reduced net-long positions, or bets on rising prices, by 11 percent in the week ended July 22, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission said. Bullish wagers have declined 51 percent since February.
Futures slid as the output from electricity generators, the biggest consumers of the fuel, fell 11 percent in the week ended July 19 from a year earlier to the least for the period since 2001, according to the Edison Electric Institute. Mild weather and a record pace of inventory gains may push prices lower in the next three months, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said.
“The move down in prices this early in the summer is surprising,” Breanne Dougherty, a natural gas analyst at Societe General SA in New York, said in a phone interview on July 25. “The power generation load makes and breaks summers and it’s extremely sensitive to weather.”
Natural gas dropped 7.9 percent to $3.772 per million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange in the period covered by the CFTC report. The contract for August delivery closed at $3.781 on July 25, capping a sixth weekly decline, the longest stretch of losses since the first quarter of 2010. It was at $3.771 in electronic trading today.
Gas inventories, which declined to an 11-year low in late March, have rebounded at the fastest pace since 2001, U.S. Energy Information Administration data show.
Stockpiles rose by 90 billion cubic feet to 2.219 trillion in the week ended July 18, a gain bigger than the five-year average for the 14th straight week, according to the EIA.
“While we previously believed that risks to 2014 prices were skewed to the upside, we now see downside risks to U.S. gas prices in the next three months,” Daniel Quigley, a Goldman analyst in London, said in a note on July 22.
Power generation in the lower 48 states totaled 82,614 gigawatt-hours in the seven days ended July 19, the least since the week ended June 13, Edison Electric data show.
This month has been the coolest July since 2009, Matt Rogers, the president of Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland, said in an e-mail on July 25. “We’re expecting the cool pattern to continue into August.”
Gas deliveries to power plants dropped 13 percent this month to average 25.9 billion cubic feet a day as of July 25, the lowest for the period since 2009, according to LCI Energy Insight in El Paso, Texas.
Futures may find support between $3.50 and $3.75 for the rest of the stockpiling season, with those prices prompting power plants to switch from coal, Teri Viswanath, the director of commodities strategy at BNP Paribas SA in New York, said by phone on July 24.
“The problem with the emergence of this cool fall-like weather is that we don’t expect to see a slowdown in those inventory injections until the reemergence of heating demand,” she said.
In other markets, the downing of a civilian airplane in Ukraine and crude stockpiles at Cushing, Oklahoma, at a six-year low enticed speculators back to the oil market, boosting bullish bets from a six-month low.
Money managers raised net-long positions in benchmark West Texas Intermediate futures by 7.3 percent to 278,116 futures and options combined in the week ended July 22, CFTC data show. Long positions rose 1.1 percent 307,739 while shorts dropped 35 percent to 29,623.
WTI futures advanced 4.5 percent to $104.42 a barrel on the Nymex in the period covered by the report. The contract closed at $102.09 on July 25.
Net long gasoline bets fell 22 percent to 34,115. Futures slipped 0.6 percent to $2.8807 a gallon on the Nymex in the week covered by the report and settled at $2.8653 on July 25.
Gasoline at U.S. pumps, averaged nationwide, slid 0.7 cent to $3.543 a gallon on July 24, the lowest since March 28, according to data from Heathrow, Florida-based AAA, the nation’s largest motoring group. Retail prices are down 4.1 percent from a 13-month high on April 26.
Money managers’ bets on ultra-low sulfur diesel flipped to a net short position for the first time since November with 1,520 contracts, the CFTC report showed. Futures fell 0.1 percent to $2.8542 a gallon in the report week and closed at $2.9157 on July 25.
Net-long positions on four U.S. natural gas contracts declined by 25,772 futures equivalents to 201,090, the least since Dec. 3.
The measure includes an index of four contracts adjusted to futures equivalents: Nymex natural gas futures, Nymex Henry Hub Swap Futures, Nymex ClearPort Henry Hub Penultimate Swaps and the ICE Futures U.S. Henry Hub contract. Henry Hub, in Erath, Louisiana, is the delivery point for Nymex futures, a benchmark price for the fuel.
Long positions fell by 4 percent to 472,613, the least since February 2013. Bearish bets gained 2.3 percent to 271,523, the most since Dec. 10.
“I wouldn’t expect prices to go much lower,” said Societe Generale’s Dougherty. “That said, if we continue to get extremely mild weather as we saw in July through October, we will see a slightly different story.”
Looking for a stock that might be in a good position to beat earnings at its next report? Consider BlackBerry Limited (BBRY), a firm in the Wireless Industry, which could be a great candidate for another beat.
This company has seen a nice streak of beating earnings estimates, especially when looking at the previous two reports. In fact, in these reports, BBRY has beaten estimates by at least 55.0% in both cases, suggesting it has a nice short-term history of crushing expectations.
Earnings in Focus
Two quarters ago, BBRY expected to post a loss per share of 56 cents per share, while the company posted loss per share of 8 cents, a significant beat. Meanwhile, for the most recent quarter, the company looked to deliver loss per share of 27 cents, when it actually saw loss per share of 11 cents instead, representing a 59.3% positive surprise.
Thanks in part to this history, estimates have been moving higher for BlackBerry. In fact, the Earnings ESP for BBRY is positive, which is a great sign of a coming beat.
After all, the Zacks Earnings ESP compares the most accurate estimate to the broad consensus, looking to find stocks that have seen big revisions as of late, suggesting that analysts have recently become more bullish on the company’s earnings prospects. This is the case for BBRY, as the firm currently has a Zacks Earnings ESP of 59.9 %, so another beat could be around the corner.
This is particularly true when you consider that BBRY has a great Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) which can be a harbinger of outperformance and a signal for a strong earnings profile. And when you add this solid Zacks Rank to a positive Earnings ESP, a positive earnings surprise happens nearly 70% of the time, so it seems pretty likely that BBRY could see another beat at its next report, especially if recent trends are any guide.
Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) fell more than 11 percent after posting its widest loss since 2012, as its cloud-computing business showed signs of cooling and investments in new distribution warehouses and gadgets hold back profitability.
The world’s largest online retailer had a second-quarter loss of $126 million, wider than analysts’ $66.7 million average estimate and a $7 million loss a year earlier. Sales climbed 23 percent to $19.3 billion, while operating expenses increased 24 percent to $19.4 billion, Amazon said in a statement today.
Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos’s strategy since Amazon’s inception has been to invest heavily to expand and earn customer loyalty. While the approach has disrupted industries from bookstores and electronics outlets to providers of Web-computing software, it’s been expensive. Amazon began posting quarterly losses in 2012 after being consistently profitable for almost a decade.
“As long as there is money to pour into the business, they will be pouring money into the business,” said Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “If you can spend down all your profit and nobody is going to penalize you for it, why show a profit?”
The stock fell as much as 11.5 percent in extended trading. The stock rose less than 1 percent to $358.61 at the close in New York, leaving it down 10 percent this year.
Weighing on results is a price war in the cloud-computing market, where Amazon rents data storage and computing power to other companies. Amazon, whose cloud competitors include Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp., cut prices for its Amazon Web Services unit this year, Chief Financial Officer Tom Szkutak said on a conference call.
While Amazon doesn’t disclose specific sales for Web services, it’s a part of the “other” category in financial statements, where revenue in the second quarter declined by 3 percent to $1.17 billion from the prior period.
“We had very substantial price reductions,” Szkutak said.
Shareholders have largely continued to back Bezos’s view that big investments are necessary to gain share because Amazon’s business opportunity is enormous and will pay off in the long run. Amazon is the second-highest valued company in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, trading at 573 times earnings and trailing Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Amazon’s lack of profits stands in stark contrast to Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which has better margins and is planning an initial public offering soon. The Chinese Web retailer disclosed in a prospectus in May that its profit totaled $2.8 billion for the nine months ended Dec. 31 on revenue of $6.5 billion. Amazon earned $274 million for all of 2013 on sales of $74.5 billion.
Amazon is in an investment cycle that benefits customers and will eventually end, said Szkutak, without specifying when that will be.
“We have a tremendous amount of opportunity,” he said. While it’s impacting short-term results, he said “we’ll obviously be looking to get great returns on invested capital.”
Looking ahead, Amazon projected sales of $19.7 billion to $21.5 billion for the current quarter. Operating losses are projected to be $810 million to $410 million, Amazon said.
Bezos is spending to take Amazon further away from its roots as an online seller of books. As it makes that shift, the company is increasingly competing with large technology companies such as Apple Inc., Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co.
Amazon is shipping this week its Fire smartphone, a $199 handset that lets users take a picture of a product to find and buy it quickly from Amazon. Reviewers have panned the device, citing a weak battery, lack of applications and the gimmicky nature of its 3-D display.
Amazon doesn’t disclose sales figures for devices like its Kindle e-readers and Szkutak declined to provide specific figures about orders for the new smartphone.
Strong sales or not, Bezos has proven with devices such as the Kindle Fire tablet that he’ll stick with a product and continue to invest, even if early models don’t prove popular.
“They keep investing in these incredibly capital-intensive businesses,” Mulpuru said.
By John Mauldin
It’s time for our Quarterly Review & Outlook from Lacy Hunt of Hoisington Investment Management, who leads off this month with a helpful explanation of the relationship between the U.S. GDP growth rate and 30 year treasury yields. That’s an important relationship, because long term interest rates above nominal GDP growth (as they are now) tend to retard economic activity and vice versa.
The author adds that the average four quarter growth rate of real GDP during the present recovery is 1.8%, well below the 4.2% average in all of the previous post war expansions; and despite six years of federal deficits totaling $6.27 trillion and another $3.63 trillion in quantitative easing by the Fed, the growth rate of the economy continues to erode.
So what gives? We’re simply too indebted, says Lacy; and too much of the debt is nonproductive. (Total U.S. public and private debt rose to 349.3% of GDP in the first quarter, up from 343.7% in the third quarter of 2013.) And as Hyman Minsky and Charles Kindleberger showed us, higher levels of debt slow economic growth when the debt is unbalanced toward the type of borrowing that doesn’t create an income stream sufficient to repay principal and interest.
And it’s not just the US. Lacy notes that the world’s largest economies have a higher total debt to GDP ratio today than at the onset of the Great Recession in 2008, and foreign households are living farther above their means than they were six years ago.
Simply put, the developed (and much of the developing) world is fast approaching the end of a 60-year-long debt supercycle, as I (hope I) conclusively demonstrated in Endgame and reaffirmed in Code Red.
Hoisington Investment Management Company (www.Hoisingtonmgt.com) is a registered investment advisor specializing in fixed income portfolios for large institutional clients. Located in Austin, Texas, the firm has over $5 billion under management and is the sub adviser of the Wasatch-Hoisington U.S. Treasury Fund (WHOSX).
Some readers may have noticed that there was no Thoughts from the Frontline in their inboxes this weekend. As has happened only once or twice in the last 14 years, I found myself in an intellectual cul-de-sac, and there was not enough time to back out. Knowing that I was going to be involved in a fascinating conference over the weekend, I had planned to do a rather simple analysis of a new book on how GDP is constructed. But as I got deeper into thinking about the topic and doing more research, I remembered something I read 20 years ago about the misleading nature of GDP, and I realized that a simple analysis just wouldn’t cut it.