August’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) report, due to be released on September 13, 2023, holds immense significance as it will influence the Federal Reserve’s upcoming policy decision. The Fed’s decision on raising interest rates at the next FOMC meeting scheduled on September 19-20, 2023, could be a significant determinant of the market movement.
August’s CPI figures are important, especially after a surprising rise in prices in July, with the headline CPI rising 3.2% year-over-year, the first acceleration in more than twelve months. August’s inflation numbers would offer insight into whether inflation is easing and July’s rise in prices was a one-off.
The central bank had last raised rates by 25 basis points in late July, pushing the benchmark interest rate to the 5.25% - 5.50% range. The recent economic data has been mixed with the U.S. consumer spending in July rising the most in six months, and nonfarm payrolls increased by 187,000 in August.
However, the unemployment rate rose 3.8% in August, the highest since February 2022. Additionally, job openings edged down to 8.8 million, falling to their lowest level since March 2021. Towards the end of last month, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said that inflation is still too high and could require additional interest rate increases. However, he noted that policymakers would carefully proceed as they assess the incoming data.
A rise in energy prices is expected to have driven the increase in headline inflation last month. Economists forecast headline inflation to rise 3.6% year-over-year and 0.6% sequentially in August. Federal Reserve governor Christopher Waller said he currently sees nothing that would force the Fed to raise the short-term borrowing rates again.
In an interview with CNBC, he stated, “The biggest thing is just inflation. We got two good reports in a row.” The key now is to “see whether this low inflation is a trend or if it was just an outlier or a fluke.”
When asked if rate increases can stop, Waller said, “That depends on the data.” “We have to wait and see if this inflation trend is continuing. We’ve been burned twice before. In 2021, we saw it coming down, and then it shot up. The end of 2022, we saw it coming down, then it all got revised away.”
“So, I want to be very careful about saying we’ve kind of done the job on inflation until we see a couple of months continuing along this trajectory before I say we’re done doing anything,” he added.
Usually, interest rates and the stock market have an inverse relationship. If the prices rise higher than expected in August, the Fed might be compelled to raise interest rates, which could hurt the performance of stocks. In this scenario, investors may consider investing in stocks that are less sensitive to inflation, such as Unilever PLC (UL), Dominion Energy, Inc. (D), and Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. (TMO).
On the other hand, if inflation shows signs of easing in August, the Fed may keep the benchmark interest rate steady. This could help stock prices to rise. In this scenario, investors may consider investing in cyclical names like Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) and NIKE, Inc. (NKE). They are deemed cyclical due to their sensitivity to rising interest rates. Without rate increases, these stocks are likely to perform well.
Let’s discuss these stocks in detail.
MSFT develops, licenses, and supports software, services, devices, and solutions worldwide. The company operates in three segments: Productivity and Business Processes, Intelligent Cloud, and More Personal Computing.
On April 17, 2023, MSFT and Epic announced the expansion of their strategic collaboration to develop and integrate generative AI into healthcare by combining the scale and power of Azure OpenAI Service with Epic’s electronic health record (EHR) software.
MSFT’s corporate vice president of AI platform, Eric Boyd, said, “Our expanded partnership builds on a long history of collaboration between Microsoft, Nuance, and Epic, including our work to help healthcare organizations migrate their Epic environments to Azure. Together, we can help providers deliver significant clinical and business outcomes leveraging the power of the Microsoft Cloud and Epic.”
MSFT’s revenue grew at a CAGR of 14% over the past three years. Its net income grew at a CAGR of 17.8% over the past three years. In addition, its EBIT grew at a CAGR of 18.7% in the same time frame.
In terms of trailing-12-month gross profit margin, MSFT’s 68.92% is 43% higher than the 48.20% industry average. Likewise, its 48.14% trailing-12-month EBITDA margin is 432.7% higher than the industry average of 9.04%. Furthermore, the stock’s trailing-12-month Capex/Sales came in at 13.26%, compared to the industry average of 2.42%.
MSFT’s total revenue increased 8.3% year-over-year to $56.19 billion for the fourth quarter ended June 30, 2023. Its net cash from operations increased 16.8% year-over-year to $28.77 billion. The company’s net income increased 20% year-over-year to $20.08 billion. Also, its EPS came in at $2.69, representing an increase of 20.6% year-over-year.
Analysts expect MSFT’s EPS and revenue for the quarter ending September 30, 2023, to increase 12.5% and 8.8% year-over-year to $2.64 and $54.51 billion, respectively. It surpassed the Street EPS estimates in each of the trailing four quarters. The stock has gained 39.4% year-to-date to close the last trading session at $334.27.
TMO provides life sciences solutions, analytical instruments, specialty diagnostics, and laboratory products, and biopharma services.
On August 14, 2023, TMO announced the completion of the acquisition of CorEvitas, LLC, a provider of regulatory-grade, real-world evidence for approved medical treatments and therapies, from Audax Private Equity.
TMO’s Chairman, President, and CEO Marc N. Casper said, “CorEvitas expands our clinical research business with highly complementary real-world evidence solutions, which is an increasingly important area and will help to enhance decision-making as well as the time and cost of drug development.”
“We are excited by the opportunity to further accelerate innovation and advance productivity for our pharma and biotech customers in their new work to deliver new medicines and therapeutics to benefit patients,” he added.
TMO’s revenue grew at a CAGR of 18.4% over the past three years. Its net income grew at a CAGR of 15.6% over the past three years. In addition, its EBITDA grew at a CAGR of 15.5% in the same time frame.
In terms of trailing-12-month net income margin, TMO’s 13.14% compares to the negative 5.71% industry average. Likewise, its 24.43% trailing-12-month EBITDA margin is 373.9% higher than the industry average of 5.15%. Furthermore, the stock’s 10.09% trailing-12-month levered FCF margin is significantly higher than the industry average of 0.23%.
For the fiscal second quarter ended July 1, 2023, TMO’s revenues declined 2.6% year-over-year to $10.69 billion. Its adjusted operating income decreased 9% over the prior year quarter to $2.37 billion. The company’s adjusted net income declined 8% year-over-year to $2 billion.
Also, its adjusted EPS came in at $5.15, representing a decline of 6.5% year-over-year. On the other hand, its non-GAAP free cash flow rose 21.9% year-over-year to $1.26 billion.
Street expects its EPS and revenue for the quarter ending September 30, 2023, to increase 11.5% and 0.5% year-over-year to $5.66 and $10.73 billion, respectively. Over the past three months, the stock has gained 0.6% to close the last trading session at $518.27.
NKE is engaged in the designing, marketing, and distributing athletic footwear, apparel, equipment, and accessories for sports and fitness activities. Its brand product offerings are in Running, Basketball, the Jordan brand, Football, Training, and Sportswear.
Over the last three years, NKE’s revenue grew at an 11.1% CAGR, while its EPS grew at a 26.4% CAGR during the same time frame. Its net income grew at a 25.9% CAGR over the past three years.
In terms of trailing-12-month gross profit margin, NKE’s 43.52% is 22.8% higher than the 35.45% industry average. Likewise, its 11.55% trailing-12-month EBIT margin is 58.7% higher than the industry average of 7.28%. Furthermore, the stock’s 7.56% trailing-12-month levered FCF margin is 49% higher than the industry average of 5.08%.
NKE’s revenues for the fourth quarter ended May 31, 2023, increased 4.8% year-over-year to $12.83 billion. Its gross profit increased 1.7% year-over-year to $5.60 billion. The company’s net income declined 28.4% year-over-year to $1.03 billion. In addition, its EPS came in at $0.66, representing a decline of 26.7% year-over-year.
Analysts expect NKE’s revenue for the quarter ended August 31, 2023, to increase 2.5% year-over-year to $13 billion. Its EPS for the same quarter is expected to decline 19.3% year-over-year to $0.75. It surpassed consensus EPS estimates in three of the trailing four quarters. Over the past three months, the stock has declined 8% to close the last trading session at $97.67.
UL is based in London, the United Kingdom. It operates as a fast-moving consumer goods company. Its segments include Beauty & Wellbeing, Personal Care, Home Care, Nutrition, and Ice Cream.
UL’s revenue grew at a CAGR of 5.7% over the past three years. Its net income grew at a CAGR of 12% over the past three years. In addition, its EPS grew at a CAGR of 13.2% in the same time frame.
In terms of the trailing-12-month EBIT margin, UL’s 16.32% is 106.7% higher than the 7.89% industry average. Likewise, its 18.29% trailing-12-month EBITDA margin is 60% higher than the industry average of 11.43%. Furthermore, the stock’s 42.06% trailing-12-month Return on Common Equity is 273% higher than the industry average of 11.28%.
UL’s turnover for the first half ended June 30, 2023, increased 2.7% year-over-year to €30.43 billion ($32.55 billion). Its operating profit rose 22.6% year-over-year to €5.52 billion ($5.90 billion). The company’s net profit increased 20.7% year-over-year to €3.88 billion ($4.15 billion). Also, its EPS came in at €1.40, representing an increase of 23.6% year-over-year.
In addition, its net cash flow from operating activities increased 10.4% over the prior-year period to €3.37 billion ($3.61 billion).
For the quarter ending September 30, 2023, UL’s revenue is expected to increase 4.7% year-over-year to $16.53 billion. Its EPS for fiscal 2023 is expected to increase 4.9% year-over-year to $2.89. Over the past year, the stock has gained 12.2% to close the last trading session at $50.45.
D produces and distributes energy in the United States. It operates through four segments: Dominion Energy Virginia, Gas Distribution, Dominion Energy South Carolina, and Contracted assets.
On September 5, 2023, D announced that it concluded a robust and competitive sale process and executed three separate definitive agreements to sell its three natural gas distribution companies to Enbridge (ENB). The three LDCs include The East Ohio Gas Company, Public Service Company of North Carolina, Incorporated, Questar Gas Company, and Wexpro Company.
D's Chair, President, and CEO, Robert M. Blue, said, “The transactions announcement also represents another significant step in our business review, which is focused on repositioning the company to create maximum long-term value for shareholders, employees, customers, and other stakeholders.”
D’s net income grew at a CAGR of 62.4% over the past three years. Its EBITDA grew at a CAGR of 3.5% over the past three years. In addition, its EPS grew at a CAGR of 69.4% in the same time frame.
In terms of the trailing-12-month gross profit margin, D’s 46.31% is 19.2% higher than the 38.86% industry average. Likewise, its 45.90% trailing-12-month EBITDA margin is 40.2% higher than the industry average of 32.74%. Furthermore, the stock’s 50.59% trailing-12-month Capex/Sales is 73.2% higher than the industry average of 29.20%.
For the fiscal second quarter ended June 30, 2023, D’s operating revenue increased 5.5% year-over-year to $3.79 billion. Its adjustments to reported loss came in at $131 million, compared to adjustments to reported earnings of $1.11 billion. Its reported income per common share came in at $0.69, compared to a reported loss per common share of $0.58 in the prior-year quarter.
Street expects D’s revenue for the quarter ending September 30, 2023, to increase 3.4% year-over-year to $4.53 billion. On the other hand, its EPS for the same quarter is expected to decline 32.6% year-over-year to $0.79. It surpassed the Street EPS estimates in each of the trailing four quarters. Over the past month, the stock has declined 4.4% to close the last trading session at $47.12.