On Friday, the 10th trading week of 2012 ended in the green. The week was filled with anticipation, vindication, frustration and many talks on the topic of recession. This includes the 203 point drop that investors witnessed on Tuesday - the worst one-day drop so far this year. This time it was the jobs report that boosted optimism that U.S. economic recovery should never be in doubt. Investors welcomed the news that employers added 227,000 jobs in February - this also represents the best three months for hiring since the recession began while keeping the unemployment rate at 8.3%.
Maybe it's the fact that I'm a huge bull on this country, but it's hard for me to doubt that progress is indeed taking place, yet concerns appear everywhere. I never did quite understand how the two remain unrelated. I tend to think that Americans are smarter than to place all of their bets on stocks absent some conviction that the economy could sustain corporate profits. Yet, each week we are somehow needing confirmation of this, while the stocks continue to gain. I don't get it.
It was evident on Friday that the gains were curbed somewhat as news surfaced surrounding Greece and a big debt write-down that could cause big losses for some banks. Again, more European shackles and lack of autonomy shown by the U.S. It continues to appear as if regardless of what improvements we make in our domestic policies, it will be offset by concerns abroad.
For the day Friday, the Dow edged up 14.08 points, or 0.1%, at 12,922.02 while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq gained 4.96 and 17.92 respectively. However, for the week, the Dow lost 55.55 points, or 0.4%. It was the second straight week of modest losses. Is this the beginning of the pullback that we have discussed so extensively? There were several stocks that contributed to the ebbs and flows of the market during the week as I mentioned "anticipation, vindication as well as frustration. " Let's see which ones fit your category.
Sirius XM (SIRI) - Anticipation
Everything leading into Monday of last week was about Liberty Media (LMCA) and what it was going to do with Sirius XM leading into March 7 when its restrictions were lifted. I think the air has been let out a little bit to the extent that the same people who were pumping for some type of a buyout or should I say "bailout" are now saying - well, this might be the best thing for Sirius after all. Let's let the stock grow organically. It is interesting the psychology that is now at play here. But the more remarkable observation is that anyone would think that they really had a say in the matter. The new talk is, "let's embrace what is now." Now, all that matters is free cash flow. That's until of course another Liberty rumor surfaces.
On Thursday Mel made an appearance on Jim Cramer's Mad Money. Overall, I was moderately impressed with the interview. I felt Jim offered too many low ball questions and failed to ask some very important ones regarding the recent insider transactions. But I do give Mel a lot of credit for his appearance and his willingness to sell the company as any CEO should. But it would be a mistake for investors take this for more than what it really was - a hug and an apology from Cramer to Mel. But more poignantly, I think investors should continue doing their due diligence and don't discount the slip of the impact that the price increase might have on subscriber growth. This is why the focus was on cash flow growth - subscribers might have now reached its peak. We shall see.
Apple (AAPL) - Anticipation
The real event occurring on March 7 was the launch of Apple's new tablet. For a company such as Apple which continues to defy logic and common sense, it is surprising that the market is still surprised by what the company is able to do. The talk for the past two months has been the iPad 3 now termed "The New iPad" - the most highly anticipated device since the iPad 2. And guess what held the record before that? You've guessed it, the original iPad. As great as the new iPad will likely be, I sense that it was somewhat of a letdown by some analysts as some have suggested that it lacks two new features that one senior research analyst had been hoping for. These include the ability to engage in FaceTime on 4G and make phone calls using LTE technology.
I keep thinking that there were several analysts that previously complained about the fact that the original iPad didn't support Adobe's Flash player. I think it did pretty well regardless. The new iPad's high-end model will be able to operate on a high-speed 4G "LTE," or Long-Term Evolution, network. This new network will function at speeds roughly 10 times faster than the current 3G technology.
Texas Instruments (TXN) - Frustration
On Tuesday, I talked about why it might have been time to exit my position in chip giant Texas Instruments in favor of another giant Broadcom (BRCM). But my premise was simple - it was not that I had suddenly turned bearish on the company, but rather, my calculations had indicated that the stock had gotten expensive on the concerns that I felt it would be tough for it to sustain the growth necessary to support its P/E.
On Thursday, the company lowered its guidance for first quarter earnings citing lower demand for wireless products. Texas Instruments says that it now expects profits for the first quarter to arrive between 15 to 19 cents per share - lower than the 16 to 24 cents that it had previously forecast. While doing so, it also cut its quarterly revenue expectations, where it now expects revenue in a range of $2.99 billion to $3.11 billion, compared to previous estimates of $3.02 billion to $3.28 billion.
It's hard to say that this news came as much of a surprise. As noted previously, I remain bullish long term on the company but for now, there are also much sexier chip names out there such as Qualcomm (QCOM) and Intel (INTC), but there is also Nvidia (NVDA) as well as Atmel (ATML) that represent (at the moment) relatively more value. But for Texas Instruments, it goes back to that cycle that apparently is going to take a bit longer than investors expected in terms of a recovery - slowness that started a few months ago when it first revised down its fourth quarter guidance while citing an overall chip weakness within the market.
Hewlett Packard (HPQ) - Frustration
On Monday, I asked investors to continue to have faith in Meg Whitman. As unsettling and as murky as things once looked for computer and printing giant Hewlett Packard (HPQ), it is evident that the word "stability" is now at the top of its new direction - one that included the appointment of a new CEO in Meg Whitman. It goes without saying that whenever new leadership is installed in any company, considerable amount of change typically is the norm, otherwise what would have been the point? In the company's first couple of quarters since her appointment, I think it is fair to say that she hasn't exactly wooed the critics yet to her side as many still wish to bring up that she has little to no hardware experience. But these same critics must realize that it is still early.
However, be that as it may, it already seems that she has indeed placed her stamp on the company and seems to be more dedicated and focused on improving the company's existing businesses rather than hiding that they might be flawed fundamentally as well as within its execution. One of these concerns was evident with the company's indecisiveness regarding its PCs and ToughPad tablet initiatives. However since it has now decided to keep both units, the question regarding its new direction is how far outside its paradigm is the company willing to think and can it outsmart and out-innovate its rivals in Dell (DELL) and Apple?
Microsoft (MSFT) - Vindication
Microsoft is now getting its just due on Wall Street. The company is now trading at $32 and is poised to climb $20 more. However, this time it is getting ready for a successful product launch. The company faces a daunting task of trying to battle how it is perceived by analysts as well as its own investors. But I think the best way to assess Microsoft and its value is on its own performance rather than on what the competition is doing. And for the most part, the competition specifically from Apple is the source of Microsoft's less than favorable appeal by the investment community. I get it that Wall Street analysts are not huge fans of the company's management team - its CEO in particular. However, it's now time to give credit to the company where credit is due. And as the company's share price continues its ascent, I want to argue that investors should try to catch its rise before it gets too high.
Microsoft continues to be undervalued, and is worth at least $20 more than its current share price. I feel that investors should expect it to get there within the next 12 to 24 months. Now before you start shifting in your seat, this is purely from some fundamental analysis done with respect to its recent earnings announcement. First, the basis of my argument starts with the fact that Microsoft has had earnings per share that have consistently climbed for the past two decades while also making some conservative assumptions.
With the company currently trading at $32 per share, I continue to think that its share price has not grown commensurate to its earnings. This is in contrast to its pre-tech bubble valuation where the argument can be made that it was then overvalued because it simply rose too much and too quickly. The stagnation in the share price since then has had a lot to do with the fact that it has not been able to fully recover from that drop by virtue of its (then) inflated valuation back in the late '90s. But clearly investors can now see evidence that its uptrend is primed for resurgence - one that started at the beginning of this year.
Given that the past two decades the company has traded on an average price-to-diluted-earnings ratio of 26.70, multiplying those averages with the earnings per share each year, the company is undervalued by at least over 50% - this is also taken into account its low P/E of the last five years as well as some conservative assumptions. I will concede that my model is not perfect and highly biased, but the company should be trading right around $52 per share if the market made any sense at all. But you don't have to take my word for it as the company more than demonstrated its worth during its most recent earnings announcement.