Facebook - Another PR Disaster

Another Public Relations Disaster

The recent internal allegation against Facebook (FB) is not the company’s first public relations debacle, nor will it be the last. Facebook has a long history of public relations fiascos with Cambridge Analytica, widespread advertising boycott, various data breaches, and the most recent issues exposing internal memos that allege the company put profits before safety on its platforms. The stock has been battered and bruised, falling from $384 to $325 after these bombshell allegations and testimony on capital hill. The stock is now down 15% from its 52-week high heading into earnings. This double-digit decline places Facebook in inexpensive valuation territory relative to its technology peers, one of the cheapest high-growth stocks. Let’s not be remiss here and acknowledge the fact that these public relations issues can linger for long periods, and the regulatory implications may be significant. However, Facebook’s valuation is very appealing at this juncture.

Social Media Goliath

Facebook continues to demonstrate its ever-expanding and massive moat in the social media space. Facebook’s core social media platform, in combination with its other properties such as Instagram and WhatsApp, continues to grow while expanding margins and unlocking revenue verticals. Despite being faced with several public relations challenges over the past couple of years (i.e., Cambridge Analytica, coordinated boycotts, government inquiries into privacy, jumbled earnings calls, anti-competitive testimonies, and the recent internal release of sensitive information suggesting profits supersede safety), Facebook has triumphed to all-times after each event. Facebook had to contend with scaled back advertising spending amid the COVID-19 pandemic in conjunction with the public relations issues. Facebook continues to grow across all business segments, with its user base continuing to expand slowly. Facebook’s moat is undeniable, and any meaningful sell-off like the recent public relations-induced weakness could provide an entry point for the long-term investor. The stock is off 15% from its all-time highs, and the stock is inexpensive relative to its technology cohort. Continue reading "Facebook - Another PR Disaster"

Market Swoon - Deploying Capital

Market Swoon

Inflation, interest rates, employment, Fed taper, pandemic backdrop, Washington wrangling, supply chain disruptions, slowing growth, and the seasonally weak period for stocks are all aggregating and resulting in the current market swoon. The month of September saw a 4.8% market drawdown, breaking a seven-month winning streak. The initial portion of October was met with heavy losses as well. Many individual stocks have reached correction territory, technically a 10% drop, while the Nasdaq is also closing in on that 10% correction level. Many high-quality names are selling at deep discounts of 10%-30% off their 52-week highs. The outlook for equities remains positive after the weak September as the economy continues to move past the pandemic. During these correction/near correction periods in the market, putting cash to work in high-quality long equity is a great way to capitalize on the market weakness for long-term investors. Absent of any systemic risk, there’s a lot of appealing entry points for many large-cap names. Don’t’ be too bearish or remiss and ignore this potential buying opportunity.

Deploying Capital

For any portfolio structure, having cash on hand is essential. This cash position provides investors with flexibility and agility when faced with market corrections. Cash enables investors to be opportunistic and capitalize on stocks that have sold off and become de-risked. Initiating new positions or dollar-cost averaging in these weak periods are great long-term drivers of portfolio appreciation. Many household names such as Starbucks (SBUX), UnitedHealth (UNH), Apple (AAPL), Amazon (AMZN), Micron (MU), Adobe (ADBE), Qualcomm (QCOM), 3M (MMM), Facebook (FB), Johnson and Johnson (JNJ), Mastercard (MA), Nike (NKE), PayPal (PYPL) and FedEx (FDX) are off 10%-30% from their 52-week highs. Even the broad market indices such as Dow Jones (DIA), S&P 500 (SPY), Nasdaq (QQQ), and the Russell 2000 (IWM) are significantly off their 52-week highs. All of these are examples of potentially buying opportunities via deploying some of the cash on hand. Continue reading "Market Swoon - Deploying Capital"

Ominous Inflationary Signs Evident

Inflation Revving Up

Earnings season is getting underway, and thus far Costco (COST), Federal Express (FDX), and Nike (NKE) have warned that inflation is real and is bound to hit consumers as the holidays approach. Costco, Federal Express, and Nike are seeing rising shipping costs and supply chain disruptions that persist and should continue through the upcoming holiday season. In particular, the cost to ship containers overseas has skyrocketed over the past few months. These rising inflation expectations and the realization of these inflationary pressured could cause the Federal Reserve to change policy course sooner rather than later. It’s going to be a tug-a-war between inflation, employment, Washington wrangling, and the delta variant backdrop. CPI reports will become more significant as these readings are used to identify periods of inflation. The recent CPI readings result in a much stronger influence on the Federal Reserve’s monetary policies hence the recent taper guidance.

Real World Inflationary Commentary

Supply chain disruptions, specifically in the shipping channels, have led to rising freight costs that have escalated shipping costs dramatically. The cost to ship containers overseas has soared in recent months. A standard 40-foot container from Shanghai to New York costs about $2,000 a year and a half ago pre-pandemic. Now, it runs some $16,000, per Bank of America.

Costco CFO Richard Galanti called freight costs “permanent inflationary items” and said those increases combine with things that are “somewhat permanent” to drive up pressure. They include freight and higher labor costs, rising demand for transportation and products, shortages in computer chips, oils, and chemicals, and higher commodity prices. Continue reading "Ominous Inflationary Signs Evident"

Financials - Clear Runway Ahead?

The Taper

The Federal Reserve indicated that the central bank is likely to begin withdrawing some of its stimulatory monetary policies before the end of 2021. Although interest rate hikes are likely off in the distance, the economy has reached a point where it no longer needs as much monetary policy support. This pivot in monetary policy by the Federal Reserve sets the stage for the initial reduction in asset purchases and downstream interest rate hikes. As this pivot unfolds, risk appetite towards equities hangs in the balance. The speed at which rate increases hit the markets will be in part contingent upon inflation, employment, and of course, the pandemic backdrop. Inevitably, rates will rise and likely have a negative impact on equities.

A string of robust Consumer Price Index (CPI) readings spooked the markets as a harbinger for the inevitable rise in interest rates. Although rising rates may introduce some systemic risk, the financial cohort is poised to go higher. Moreover, the confluence of rising rates, post-pandemic economic rebound, financially strong balance sheets, a robust housing market, and the easy passage of annual stress tests will be tailwinds for the big banks.

2021 Financial Stress Tests Easily Pass

The recent stress tests were easily passed and indicated that the biggest U.S. banks could easily withstand a severe recession. In addition, all 23 institutions in the 2021 exam remained "well above" minimum required capital levels during a hypothetical economic downturn. Continue reading "Financials - Clear Runway Ahead?"

Disney - Flexing Its Pricing Power Muscle

Disney (DIS) has been the sweet spot of capitalizing on the pent-up post-pandemic consumer wave of travel and spending while being the new and preferred stay-at-home content provider via Disney Plus. Over the past couple of years, Disney has rolled out and refined its wildly successful array of streaming initiatives that catered to the stay-at-home economy during the pandemic. These streaming efforts have transformed Disney’s business model, which its legacy businesses will further bolster as the world economy prospects continue to improve and reopen. Taken together, Disney has set itself up to benefit across the board with its streaming initiatives firing on all cylinders and theme parks coming back online. The company has been posting phenomenal streaming numbers that have negated the negative pandemic impact on its theme parks. This streaming-specific narrative will change as the theme park revenue comes back online and flows into the company’s earnings. Due to the tremendous success of Disney Plus, the company is now flexing its pricing power muscle and put through pricing increases on its streaming platform. This pricing power speaks to the value of Disney Plus as a standalone streaming platform while expanding its margins on this new business vertical. Disney presents a compelling buy for long-term investors as its legacy business segments get back online in conjunction with its wildly successful streaming initiatives, all of which have more pricing power down the road.

Pricing Power Flexing

Disney recently pushed through another price increase on its monthly subscription tier for its Hulu offerings. This is on top of price increases that it pushed through on its Disney Plus subscription earlier this year. Clearly, the Disney streaming platforms possess pricing power as the adoption of these steaming properties by consumers becomes more widespread. Part and parcel with these price increases is margin expansion and increased revenue. Disney has forecasted that its Disney Plus streaming platform will have up to 260 million subscribers by 2040. Thus, even marginal price increases will translate into meaningful revenue windfalls for the years to come. Continue reading "Disney - Flexing Its Pricing Power Muscle"