Teck Cominco Goes “Into The Blue”!

 

NEWS FLASH – NOVEMBER 10, 2014 CITIGROUP CUTS 2015 IRON ORE PRICE EST. TO $65/TON VS $80/TON, SAYS IRON ORE PRICES MAY FALL BELOW $60/TON.

 

Welcome to the new world of decreasing commodity prices.

The business media still hasn’t got their arms around this story. And it’s a big story.

China added 5.9 billion square meters of commercial buildings between 2008 and 2012 – the equivalent of more than 50 Manhattans – in just five years and that’s a lot of steel/copper!

What do you think is happening in China now?

Are they going to build another 50 Manhattans…probably not is my guess.

Iron ore prices started around $16 per dry metric ton in 2004 and spiked to almost $200 a ton in October 2010 and now it’s on the way down as you can read from this tweet from Twitter.

This shouldn’t be any surprise to the Model Price user. There have been many negative transits of Teck Cominco since peaking in price in early 2011 and finally falling into the “Blue” – going below EBV-3 – some six weeks ago and one of our strongest sell signals. See Model Price chart below.

Teck Cominco with monthly price bars, EBV Lines (colored lines) and model price (dashed line)

Teck Cominco with monthly price bars, EBV Lines (colored lines) and model price (dashed line)

 

Now if Teck Cominco was trading at over $60 per share in early 2011 and is now trading for less than $18 today, one would think that most of the pain would be over for shareholders. And you can probably see the value orientated money managers rubbing their hands in glee. Teck now trades at about 45% of accounting book value and pays a generous 5% dividend yield.

As a matter of fact while enroute to the office kitchen last week, I overheard on the trading room television – which is always tuned into BNN – a portfolio manager recommending Teck Cominco to viewers with the usual comments…. “Great management, great assets and of course, a nice dividend”!

Really!

What Model Price Theory [MPT] is saying?

When the stock price of a public company drops below EBV-3 this signifies that balance sheet write-offs of recorded asset values will be coming sometime in the future. And when the company starts to write-off recorded assets, debtholders start to get nervous. And, you guessed it, when debtholders get nervous the dividend payout to the common shareholders will be cut if not eliminated.

In essence Teck Cominco can and probably will be a ‘value trap’ in that, yes, the company looks like it has good value, a high discount to accounting book value, and a high dividend only to potentially disappear before your very eyes.

And, yes I have noticed that our model price is calculated at $26 this year and over $40 in 2015. But this is based on equity analysts’ earnings estimates today. Will these estimates be impacted by Citigroup’s lowered forecast estimates for Iron Ore? Has the declining spot price of Iron Ore fully reflected in the estimates we are currently using? And has the declining price of Iron Ore been so precipitous that equity analysts have been frozen and have not updated Teck’s earnings waiting for some sort of stabilization in the pricing of the commodity so any earnings estimate – guesstimate – can be realistic.

Of the two pieces of information – model price value or EBV Lines – my preference is always tilted towards our EBV Lines especially in down markets. Why? It’s what the market is communicating that has more value to Model Price users than what the analysts are saying.

Most Cyclical Stocks Are Pro-Cyclical

What do I mean by this….pro-cyclical? Cyclical companies balance sheets also seem to explode in the dollar amount of net equity or net worth as a consequence of peak cyclical earnings and intra-industry acquisitions. Have a look at our long-term model price chart of Teck Cominco’s. Notice how the balance sheet of the company has grown since 2004 – upward sloping EBV Lines mirroring the growth of Teck’s balance sheet (below). Hmm…. Can this balance sheet growth be a coincidence with the price of Iron Ore? This is what I mean by pro-cyclical in that, in this case, as the price of the commodity – Iron Ore – escalates so does the balance sheet of the company.

Teck Cominco's Long-term Model Price chart from 1995 to Present

Teck Cominco’s Long-term Model Price chart from 1995 to Present

As commodity prices recede or reset, to much lower prices, the company is forced to write-off excess assets that are non-productive or non-economic relative to the cost of production versus the falling price of the commodity in question.

As the write-offs occur over a period of time or the ‘big bath’ write-off is taken – usually by new management not accountable for past investment decisions – the size of the pro-cyclical company’s balance sheet reverts back to lows seen at the bottom of previous cyclical lows. And cyclical lows for Teck’s balance sheet is a long way down as you can see.

Conclusion

So don’t be fooled. Yes, Teck Cominco seems cheap. Yes, the company is paying out a healthy dividend. And, yes, our model price calculation is above where Teck’s currently trading at what appears to be a 43% upside. But our model price calculation is only as good as the group of analysts with their earnings estimates and nobody I know has a crystal ball or better still knows what is going on in China.

The very important “tell” here is the share price of Teck going below our EBV-3 or as we say in our office ‘Going into the Blue’. This is very important information alerting investors that serious balance sheet realignment (write-offs) will be coming.

Yes, you can see the future in this situation and the counter-cyclical forces will play havoc on investors who think they are purchasing Teck’s recorded assets at 55 cents on the dollar and a dividend stream – yes, getting paid to wait (cough!) – that may not last beyond a few quarters!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 2014, S&P/TSX Composite Market Strategy Update

My friends this Canadian Index is far more interesting to talk about!

The last month and a half has been brutal to all commodities especially gold. As I have noted in previous blogs the sub-index sectors of Energy and Materials (which includes gold stocks) represents 36% of the Canadian Composite Index weightings compared to 13% of the S&P 500 Index. With such a large weighting in commodities obviously the S&P/TSX Composite Index has been adversely impacted.

Model Price Chart of the S&P/TSX Composite Index

 

S&P/TSX Composite Index with weekly price bars and EBV Lines (colored lines).

S&P/TSX Composite Index with weekly price bars and EBV Lines (colored lines).

 

The first very apparent observation you can make of the above model price chart is the negative transit of EBV+2 in the middle of October – annotated by the arrow.

This is significant.

Negative transits, as I have written about many times, indicates a change in fundamentals. Unfortunately, as longtime followers of Model Price Theory [MPT] know, negative transits usually corresponds to negative future economic fundamentals.

I have said numerous times Model Price Theory [MPT] is NOT ‘Technical Analysis’ in the traditional sense however because we extensively use price graphs to display mathematical fundamentals repeatable ‘graphical formations’ are inevitable.

Keen observers will note that this Composite Index closed above our EBV+2 line on the same week as the negative transit. Unfortunately this is a normal repeatable ‘graphical formation’ of negative transits and I’m speaking with 15 years of experience here.

The first negative transit is usually the market testing or whether the index belongs in a lower zone, in this case between EBV+1 and EBV+2. Again, in general, the market (I’m talking about indices here) usually rallies above the EBV Line it just negatively transited.

And sometime later – could be weeks/months/quarters another negative transit will occur confirming the initial negative transit.

THIS SECOND NEGATIVE TRANSIT WOULD CONFIRM THAT THE CANADIAN MARKET HAS ENTERED INTO A BEAR MARKET.

Do I have your attention!

Does this mean the world comes to an end? Of course not! It’s just that an investor/trader has to adjust their expectations. My most profitable trading has occurred in BEAR markets of the past. You just have to know what kind of market you are in (Bull market vs. Bear) when trades are initiated and rates of return are assessed.

CONCLUSION

The last couple of months in the Canadian market have been interesting and eventful from a Model Price Theory [MPT] prospective. The highly cyclical market weight portion of the S&P/TSX Composite has been “taken out to the woodshed and shot.” Because of the negative transit of EBV+2 in the middle of October, market participants in Canadian equities should be on guard for a second negative transit that would be a negative sign and possible signaling of negative markets in the future. (As of this writing if the S&P/TSX Composite Index fell below an index level of 14,329 a second negative transit would have resulted.) Can you make money in BEAR markets…absolutely. Model Price will lead the way!

November 2014, Monthly S&P 500 Market Strategy Update

Looking at what the US market did for the month of October, I reminded of what I would call a “Crazy Ivan”.

Yes, this is reference to the infamous movie, “The Hunt For Red October” where we were introduced to Russian submarine captains making aggressive maneuvers, turns, on a random basis to see if a US submarine was shadowing the aforementioned Russian sub.

Have a look at our model price chart below and see if you don’t agree.

S&P 500 Index with weekly price bars and EBV Lines (colored lines).

S&P 500 Index with weekly price bars and EBV Lines (colored lines).

 

As a reminder we aggregate all companies in the S&P 500 Index into one chart on a market capitalized basis (like the S&P 500 Index itself), so we can see where the market – S&P 500 – is trading relative to its EBV lines.

As you can observe the US market, as defined by the S&P 500, is still in the middle of the zone bookmarked by EBV+3 and EBV+4. If the market rallied to EBV+4 (2199) this would represent a gain of some 9%. If the market corrected back to EBV+3 (1759) investors would be suffering losses of almost 13%.

For people new to Model Price Theory [MPT] the index value or price can move within an EBV zone with no real consequence. However when a transit occurs – index value or price crosses one of our parallel lines – an EBV line, either positive or negative this gives Model Price users a signal that fundamentals are improving or deteriorating, respectfully.

IS THERE ANY MEANING TO OCTOBER’S MARKET ACTION?

As I have said previously, any and all index moves within ‘the zone’ – between EBV Levels – is without consequence. What we try to do is measure risk levels intra-zone. In other words when the index level or stock price recedes to the lower EBV Line then investors are taking lower risk than if the index level or stock price closes in at the top or upper EBV Line. This should make some sense.

Transits are another matter. Any transit, index level or stock price piercing an EBV Level, is giving model price users information that the fundamentals are changing depending on the transit. If there is a positive transit, the index level or stock price increases through the upper EBV level, this signifies a positive change in fundamentals is occurring. The opposite is true if negative transits occur.

So as you can see from the above model price chart the US market as represented by the S&P 500 Index sold off in the first two and a half weeks of October, only to rebound to new highs in the second half of the month. This ‘high jinx’ in market action was certainly noteworthy however since all this action took place intra-zone no fundamental economic conclusions can be interpreted via Model Price Theory [MPT].

CONCLUSION

The market was certainly more volatile in the month of October than we have seen in awhile. However according to Model Price Theory [MPT] this volatility is par for the course because all the market action took place intra-zone – between EBV+3 and EBV+4.

Until evidence to the contrary, a negative transit of EBV+3, the bull market in US equities is still intact. So the US market did a “Crazy Ivan”, making some investors nervous and of course giving the permabears something to talk about in the financial press. But fundamentally and according to Model Price nothing has changed by October’s market action.

I’m on Market Call!

On Tuesday, October 14th, 2014, I will be on Market Call on BNN (Canadian Business Show) 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm (eastern standard) with Mark Bunting.

 

Take this opportunity, open our Model Price Facebook application and follow along while I’m on the show answering viewer’s questions about individual stocks.

 

Would you say anything different based on your interpretation of Model Price Theory and chart? You can make your comments via Facebook.

 

Should be fun!

‘King’ U.S. Dollar Returning!

If you listen carefully the groundwater beneath the global financial markets is beginning to shift. And you should be paying attention.

I’m talking about the U.S. dollar. After more than a decade in the doldrums global financial flows are beginning to find its’ way into the greenback and the financial press have noticed this in the last few weeks.

I believe these global funds flow into the U.S. dollar is a secular (long-term) decade long financial phenomena that will have large impacts on investors’ rates of return for years to come.

And most equity investors have no idea that currency trends have big impacts on potential future gains/losses. Hell, do you know what the academic community says about shifting currency trends. Ignore it! They repeat this mantra like a skipping vinyl record, if anybody knows what this means anymore, that currency movements over the long-term have no impact on equity investment returns.

Really!

I especially focus on the U.S. – Canadian dollar exchange rate – no surprise here – because the majority of our clients at Acker Finley spend Canadian dollars at the end of the day including myself. Getting this exchange rate right is critical to preserving any sort of purchasing power for spending time, whether retirement or vacation time, in the Unites States where the majority of Canadian folks want to spend their leisure time.

I’m also interested in accruing larger rates of return in Canadian dollars from equity asset allocations with little to no added potential risk. And by getting this secular trend correct, the U.S./CDN exchange rate trend, I can easily accomplish this.

Want an example?

To howls of laughter, back in 2001-02, when the Canadian dollar was selling at $0.65 – $0.68 to the U.S. dollar, I predicted the Canadian dollar would eventually be selling at par to the U.S. dollar. I had lunch roundtables at our offices at Acker Finley, made predictions on BNN and made sure all Acker Finley clients didn’t have U.S. dominated assets held in their accounts. (When we started our Acker Finley Select US Value 50 fund in November 2003, we made sure the fund’s assets in U.S. securities were hedged – one of only a handful of foreign mutual funds at the time – so that a rising Canadian dollar wouldn’t reduce the fund’s performance over the long-term. Looking back this decision to hedge our U.S. portfolio materially boosted Canadian dollar returns over the last ten or so years.)

I have changed my opinion on the U.S./CDN exchange rate ….two years ago!

Yes, I have now changed my opinion on the U.S. dollar, actually two years ago, and this decision can be traced to the elimination of the currency hedge we instituted in the aforementioned Acker Finley Select US Value 50 mutual fund. We substantially eliminated all our Canadian dollar forwards on our U.S. portfolio of equities in June of 2012 at $1.0217 cents U.S.

Yes, I bought Canadian dollars at $0.68 cents some ten years ago and sold them at $1.0217 a couple of years ago, not a bad trade! Of course the academic community says ‘in theory’ nobody can do this successfully – trade an undervalued currency for an overvalued one – but to me it’s obvious and I’m doing what I feel my clients are paying me to do even though it may not be obvious to their overall rates of return as purchasing an individual bond or stock!)

Why mention this?

Review all great U.S. ‘Bull’ markets of equities in the past 30 years and they coincided with a bull market in the U.S. dollar. As global funds flow moves into the greenback these now U.S. dollar funds start to look for rates of return. The most convenient risk free instruments are usually U.S. Treasuries but for risk assets the instrument of choice will probably be the S&P 500 Index ETF or ‘Spiders’, as it was in the late 1990’s.

Yes, it’s just that easy. A virtual and prosperous two-step cycle will occur as global funds flow converted into U.S. dollars will positively impact the value of the U.S. dollar against other major currencies (US Dollar Index – see below). Followed by the second step of an allocation of U.S. dollar holdings by foreigners to large capitalized equities having past positive rates of return. Which begets more global funds flow.

Am I guessing here?

No, as with my Canadian dollar call back in 2002, I’m using Model Price Theory [MPT] as the basis for my call. All national governments have balance sheets like public companies that form a basis for our model price calculations that you see in our Facebook application. Back in 1995 the Canadian federal government set us on a road of improved balance sheet solvency by cutting back on federal spending and deficits. The model price math was obvious and my call on the Canadian dollar was equally as obvious by-product of the math. The exciting part is the U.S. federal government’s balance sheet is starting to look at lot better than two years ago (deficits are coming down) and the model price math is pointing to increased solvency, much in the same way as Canada’s federal balance sheet back a decade ago.

U.S. Dollar Index

Here is a chart of the U.S. Dollar Index reproduced from the Wall Street Journal.

Notice this chart goes all the way back to 1997 and shows a weak U.S. dollar relative to a basket of currencies that make up this index.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Source: Wall Street Journal

I know I keep on repeating this often but I’m no Technical Analyst (TA) however I like what I see here. I do like to look for market bottoms especially bottoms that occur over long periods of time and I do believe this U.S. Dollar Index qualifies.

Yes, we are finally witnessing the U.S. dollar is starting to gain in strength after a decade of being the red headed stepchild compared to most of the world’s currencies. Just a couple of years ago financial experts were predicting the end of the U.S. dollar’s world reserve currency status when we, Acker Finley, was buying U.S. dollars on any sign of weakness.

If this U.S. Dollar Index breaks above 90, as illustrated, I believe a long-term rally will be confirmed to all trend followers and momentum investors alike driving U.S. dollar demand to US Dollar Index levels that we haven’t witnessed in over two decades (1982 to 1986 period).

I’m on Market Call!

On Wednesday, September 17th, 2014, I will be on the show ‘Market Call’ on BNN (Canadian Business Show) 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm (eastern standard) with Mark Bunting.

 

Take this opportunity, open our Model Price Facebook application and follow along while I’m on the show answering viewer’s questions about individual stocks.

 

Would you say anything different based on your interpretation of Model Price Theory and chart? You can make your comments via Facebook.

 

Should be fun!

 

modelprice

September 2014 – S&P/TSX Composite Market Strategy Update

Since it’s September and everyone is back to work or school, and I haven’t reviewed the Canadian market for a while, let’s have a look at our model price charts.

First, let’s have a look at the long-term model price chart of the S&P/TSX Composite Index to get some context of where we are and more importantly where we are going – probably.

 

Long-term Model Price Chart

 

S&P/TSX Composite Index with monthly price bars and EBV Lines (colored lines)

S&P/TSX Composite Index with monthly price bars and EBV Lines (colored lines)

 

As you can observe the S&P/TSX Composite is in the zone between EBV+2 and EBV+3. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that this index will probably reach EBV+3 over a period of time especially if the US market reaches EBV+4. Again timing is difficult for us but at least we have a roadmap.

And like my comments on the S&P 500, I believe the most likely scenario will be for this Canadian index to rise to EBV+3 (Red Line) and then crawl along EBV+3 when the S&P/TSX Index finally achieves this EBV level – see illustrated on model price chart above.

Zeroing in to our short-term model price chart reveals the following

 

S&P/TSX Composite Index with weekly price bars and EBV Lines (colored lines)

S&P/TSX Composite Index with weekly price bars and EBV Lines (colored lines)

 

As a reminder we aggregate all companies in the S&P/TSX Composite Index into one chart on a market capitalized basis (like the Index itself), so we can see where the market – S&P/TSX Composite Index – is trading relative to its EBV lines.

As you can observe the Canadian market, as defined by the S&P/TSX Composite, is in the middle of the zone bookmarked by EBV+2 and EBV+3. If the market rallied to EBV+3 (19,592) this would represent a gain of some 26%. If the market corrected back to EBV+2 (14189) investors would be suffering losses of almost 9%.

For people new to Model Price Theory [MPT] the index value or price can move within an EBV zone with no real consequence. However when a transit occurs – index value or price crosses one of our parallel lines – an EBV line, either positive or negative this gives Model Price users a signal that fundamentals are improving or deteriorating, respectively.

So the question of the day is, “What industry sectors need to rally in order for the S&P/TSX Composite to rally up to EBV+3?”

When one looks at the S&P/TSX Composite Index three industry sectors make up 84% of the total Canadian composite index value. Financials make up a large 34.4%, with Energy 26.2% and Utilities/Telecoms 23.4% making up the balance (of the total 84%). So let’s do a quick review of each sector to get a sense what these three sectors need to do for the S&P/TSX Composite Index to achieve EBV+3.

Financials

Canadian financial stocks have been buoyant for much of 2014 as you can see from our long-term model price chart on the S&P/TSX Financial Sector.

S&P/TSX Financial Sector Index with monthly price bars and EBV Lines (colored lines)

S&P/TSX Financial Sector Index with monthly price bars and EBV Lines (colored lines)

 

But as you can observe from the above chart the overall sector valuation was substantially higher, over EBV+2, in 2007. Even in 1998 the Canadian financial sector peaked in valuation over EBV+1.

So a reasonable person can conclude that valuations in this sector could go higher, at least history does show higher past valuations.

Energy

Canadian energy stocks have had a good 2014, even though the sector has become stalled in the last month. This is logical because one can observe from the below S&P/TSX Energy Sector Model Price chart that the sector of energy companies has rallied just under EBV+3 and encountering resistance.

 

S&P/TSX Energy Sector Index with monthly price bars and EBV Lines (colored lines)

S&P/TSX Energy Sector Index with monthly price bars and EBV Lines (colored lines)

 

Looking at past valuations one can observe the positive transit of EBV+3 back in 2004, with the sector rallying to an eye popping EBV+5! One can also observe a positive transit of EBV+3 back in 1996 and rallying mid-way between EBV zones 4 and 5.

Clearly the Canadian energy sector does have room to rally and probably has to rally past EBV+3 to take the S&P/TSX Composite Index to EBV+3.

Telecoms

S&P/TSX Telecom Sector Index with monthly price bars and EBV Lines (colored lines)

S&P/TSX Telecom Sector Index with monthly price bars and EBV Lines (colored lines)

 

Hmm…. No surprise here.

Looking at the S&P/TSX Telecom sector we are at valuation highs going back to 1995. Some may point to 1998 to 2000 to say this index was at EBV+5 and higher. I discount this because Nortel was part of BCE at the time – remember – skewing both the valuation of BCE and our EBV valuation.

The bottom line here is the telecom index won’t provide much help in the S&P/TSX Composite index reaching EBV+3

Utilities

Now this was a surprise to me.

I thought ‘interest sensitives’ would be at the highest equity valuation since interest rates are currently at historic lows. But as you see on our S&P/TSX Utilities sector model price chart there is some headroom for the Utilities sector to reach EBV+3, as it did back in 2007.

 

S&P/TSX Utilities Sector Index with monthly price bars and EBV Lines (colored lines)

S&P/TSX Utilities Sector Index with monthly price bars and EBV Lines (colored lines)

 

You can also see back in 1998 this sector almost reached EBV+3.

Conclusion

Can the S&P/TSX Composite Index reach EBV+3?

Sure, there seems to be headroom, for valuation increases based on past years valuation highs, in the sectors that make up 84% of the Composite index that I have illustrated.

Can the S&P/TSX Composite Index reach this important valuation level, EBV+3, without the help of U.S. equity markets? No, of course not. But as the most watched S&P 500 Index pushes up to EBV+4 the less globally watched Canadian composite index will probably get pulled higher as well. This makes sense and jives with financial history.

Am I saying this is a slam-dunk that equity markets, on both sides of the North American border, will trade substantially higher in the near future and without risk? Of course not! But viewing valuation through the prism of our model price charts not only at the composite level but also at the individual sector level can give an investor an invaluable insight and a roadmap on a probable future valuation levels that equity markets can achieve based on the past valuation highs (and lows).

September 2014 – Monthly S&P 500 Market Strategy Update

There are no ‘Cheerleaders!’

If you want to put your finger on ‘what’s wrong’ with this market it’s that no one wants to cheerlead this thing. In the run up to the market crashes of 1987, 2000 and 2007 equities were the only game in town with the investment public along with institutional investors shaking pom-poms with excitement. Everyone back then, and I do mean everyone was invested with both feet with the financial press leading the charge.

Comparatively today as the S&P 500 Index hits all-time highs, on a daily basis, nobody seems to care. (See CNBC’s latest ratings courtesy of ZeroHedge here) Better still who or what group of people or institutions can be seen as leading the charge to invest in equities. Giving everybody the all-clear signal that it’s OK to be invested.

In the past bull markets we had Abby Joseph Cohen, George Soros and even Alan Greenspan for goodness sake! Industry leaders publicly announcing bullish price targets and trumpeting America’s inherit abilities and strength. Who and where are these people today? Anybody?

Or is having no ‘Cheerleaders’ the single biggest positive for the US equity market going forward?

Confusing…. maybe?

And the institutions and retail investors who I talk to everyday – who are invested – seem to have the confidence only to have one foot in this market. It seems to me that for any reason if something were to happen – from a myriad of Global hot issues – or if a correction were to start tomorrow seemingly everyone would hit the sell button immediately.

Talk about ‘knife edged’ investing!

However look at our model price chart for the S&P 500 – below. It looks tranquil and upward sloping. Remember our index price bars show weekly movement of the S&P 500 and what does it indicate? Index price gains with no intra weekly price volatility.

In other words a perfect market to ‘Cheerlead’!

S&P 500 Index with weekly price bars and EBV Lines (colored lines).

S&P 500 Index with weekly price bars and EBV Lines (colored lines).

 

As a reminder we aggregate all companies in the S&P 500 Index into one chart on a market capitalized basis (like the S&P 500 Index itself), so we can see where the market – S&P 500 – is trading relative to its EBV lines.

As you can observe the US market, as defined by the S&P 500, is still in the middle of the zone bookmarked by EBV+3 and EBV+4. If the market rallied to EBV+4 (2190) this would represent a gain of some 9%. If the market corrected back to EBV+3 (1751) investors would be suffering losses of almost 13%.

For people new to Model Price Theory [MPT] the index value or price can move within an EBV zone with no real consequence. However when a transit occurs – index value or price crosses one of our parallel lines – an EBV line, either positive or negative this gives Model Price users a signal that fundamentals are improving or deteriorating, respectively.

Two Ways of Making Gains in the Market

Model Price charts can help investors differentiate between the two ways of making gains in the equity market. As the index price value increases and moves up in the zone between EBV levels, the valuation of the overall market is increasing. In other words the market, collective buyers and sellers at the margin are willing to pay more in price terms for the earnings generated by the companies included in the index or in this case the S&P 500. As the S&P 500 Index crawls to EBV+4 investors are benefiting from an ever-increasing valuation.

The second way of making gains is the growth of the book values of the companies included in the index. Companies over time usually increase their book value as excess earnings are accumulated on their balance sheet. We capture this growth by calculation of our EBV lines. If you observe upward sloping EBV Lines the collective companies in the S&P 500 Index are increasing their book value or net worth over time. Over long periods of time companies usually increase their book value after dividends are paid and stock buybacks are deducted from capital of about 4 or 5 percent compounded.

Why do I mention this?

Over the last soon to be six years, from the market bottom of March 9, 2009, investors have been benefiting from both increased valuation – from EBV+1 to over EBV+3 – and growth in book value of the underlying companies in the index. The past returns have been phenomenal to say the least…in the mid-twenty percent range compounded.

This however cannot last!

If you assume the S&P 500 Index goes to EBV+4 and stays there for a prolonged period – my most likely assumption like the period between 2002 to July 2007 (See long-term model price chart below) – the ever- increasing valuation portion of investors return will stop. Future stock returns will have to rely on the growth of the collective book value or the growth of our EBV Lines. So for instance, say the S&P 500 Index goes to the top of the zone or EBV+4 (2190). We calculate the value of EBV+4 in September 2015 to be 2420. This implies a return of 10.5% for the Index over the year. Which is good, don’t get me wrong, but not as good as the past 5 and a half years.

Long-term model price chart of the S&P 500 Index

S&P 500 Index with monthly price bars and EBV Lines (colored lines).

S&P 500 Index with monthly price bars and EBV Lines (colored lines).

 

Am I adjusting everyone’s expectations… Yup!

Could there be other possibilities? Yes, countless including a market correction back to EBV+3, which is always a risk.

Conclusion

The great thing about Model Price Theory [MPT] are the ‘What if’ scenarios investors can see in a graphical format that makes mathematical sense. And from these ‘What if’ scenarios investors can position their portfolios to reflect market risk and reward.

US market gains over the last 5 years have been great. However, mathematically speaking, the US markets are running “out of headroom” and lower market returns are inevitable as ever increasing valuation is unlikely to continue.

This is not the end of the world. This is just a comment on the general index itself. For those who trade individual stocks – stock pickers – this future period of time, if my most likely scenario pans out, can represent a great opportunity to significantly outperform if you or your clients are comparing yourself to the S&P 500 Index as we did using MPT during 2002 to July 2007 period.

Yes, always a bright side when using Model Price Theory [MPT].

As always see what happens.

Badger Daylighting – Catching Lighting in a Bottle

Yes, it has a funny name but big gains were made from investing in this company over the last year and a half.

We are a society that hunts for and admires winners. And when a stock climbs in a parabolic fashion we have no problem recognizing what a winner looks like.

We live in an information culture and there’s so much information that you have to feel inadequate at least some of the time. Badger, I have to admit, came from left field for me. I never heard of the company until mid way through 2013. Cable television shows, financial media – both print and the Internet – are all pushing to get your attention and making sure you and everybody else know who the winners are.

And I love looking for and actively seek out big stock winners like Badger. They attract what I call “heat” or “buzz”. Like a moth attracted to a night light investors/traders want to know everything there is to know about a winning stock – the management, the product and growth prospects in this very slow national economy. And of course the word brilliant is used a lot. One will hear the business press use the words ‘brilliant management’, ‘the best product ever to hit the market’, and of course ‘unlimited growth potential’.

But valuation is a two edged sword. The higher the stock rises the more the company has to do to maintain everyone’s expectations. And in the end an impossible task to fulfill or a self-fulfilling prophecy.

From my experience investors can’t resist such temptations. We all want to belong. We want to be part of the action. In our capitalist society you can belong by purchasing the winning company’s shares with our hard earned cash. And if you don’t have enough money the investment industry will lend it to you – happily. Leverage? Yes sir…step right up!

And of course a surging stock price confirms what you already know. It’s seems circular and self-reinforcing.

And once we’re an owner you are part of the story. You’re smart because you’re part of a group of people who are smart. The business press and a surging stock price confirm this to yourself and others you have told at the proverbial Saturday night cocktail party where your closest friends or relatives are impressed by your business acumen.

You’re a winner by default because you’re an owner.

And I could go on. You put the stock in your iPhone portfolio tracker. You become mesmerized by the flicking stock price, tick by tick. You see every research report, listen to the quarterly conference call, and check ‘StockTwits’ once an hour to see every tweet.

And lastly, you start personalizing your gains. Think of a bigger house, family vacation or that new sports car you always wanted.

And your stock starts to go down!

But when do you sell?

Yikes, nobody wants to talk about selling because selling is hard. Like leaving the poker table with your pockets full. It never happens.

And when the stock starts to go down, you can’t sell. You know the story too well. You spent how many hours doing what you consider research. You know everything there is to know about the stock, about the industry and management but the stock continues to slide and the losses continue to escalate. (You calculate your losses from the 52-week high NOT from your purchase price because you could have sold at the high, couldn’t you? That money was yours to take but you didn’t, did you?)

And of course, the dreaded realization “When this stock price recovers and I can get my money back I will sell the position.”

I digress.

Badger Daylighting has had one hell of a ride. Let’s take a look at the long-term model price chart of BAD.

Badger Daylighting with monthly price bars, EBV Lines (colored lines) and model price ( purple dashed line)

Badger Daylighting with monthly price bars, EBV Lines (colored lines) and model price ( purple dashed line)

 

Observables from the above chart

 

  1. Interesting to note that Badger bottomed at EBV+2 back at the market lows in March 2009. Over the last 5 years the stock has risen from EBV+2 to over EBV+7. Giving both investors and management one hell of a ride and tremendous gains.

 

  1. Badger tried and failed to positively transit from EBV+4 at points ‘A’ and ‘B’ annotated on the model price chart above. Note that are calculation of model price supported such a transit.

 

  1. Finally at the end of 2012, Badger had a positive transit of EBV+4 and according to MPT [Model Price Theory] a buy signal.

 

  1. As Badger stock price rockets upward there are multiple positive transits after the first positive transit noted in observation number 3. The stock transited through EBVs 5,6 and 7 giving investors holding the stock confidence of future gains and good entry points for traders/investors who wanted to initiate a position in the company.

 

  1. Our calculation of model price, or our definition of fair market value, is supporting the upward movement in the stock price up to a point – it begins to flatten out at EBV+6.

 

  1. Our calculation of model price may stop at EBV+6 but Badger’s stock price continues higher as momentum traders’ pile in hoping for more and fast gains.

 

Transitioning to our short-term Model Price Chart below

Badger Daylighting with weekly price bars, EBV Lines (colored lines) and model price (purple dashed line)

Badger Daylighting with weekly price bars, EBV Lines (colored lines) and model price (purple dashed line)

 

Observables

 

  1. As you can observe Badger had a positive transit of EBV+7 in the first week of April 2014. And after spending 6 weeks above EBV+7 the stock had a negative transit in the middle of May. This is the first negative transit for Badger since 2008-09 and according to MPT [Model Price Theory] a sell signal.

 

  1. Badger tried and failed to rally back and over EBV+7 in June. This is a classic retest where investors/traders think Badger is cheap on a pull back only to find the stock goes lower in the future.

 

  1. The second sell signal for Badger comes this past week with another negative transit of EBV+6. And obviously Badger starts trading lower than our calculated model price. This, at least, is one positive but usually in these broken momentum stock stories substantial value has to be created in order for new money flows to come in and buy the name.

 

Conclusion

How many times have I seen stocks like Badger over my career? Hundreds of times would probably understate my experience.

But through the prism of Model Price Theory [MPT] you can be resistant to such stock moves. Oh sure, you can trade/play/invest in these stocks, as I have over the years. But you know these situations will probably end badly for most people. Yes, you get a feeling of schadenfreude because the happiness everyone feels with today’s winners will be just as painful for many people down the road as the stock turns lower.

Am I predicting disaster for Badger?

No!

I’m just following and observing a negative transit – actually 2 negative transits but who’s counting! Like when the tides recede one can’t tell what is going on by looking at the shoreline close up. One needs a broader perspective and hopefully a fixed marker to gauge what is happening to the water level for clarity.

Our EBV levels give you this fundamental certainty and from my experience the best sell signals in finance.

I’m on Market Call!

On Friday, August 15th, 2014, I will be on Market Call on BNN (Canadian Business Show) 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm (eastern standard) with Mark Bunting.

 

Take this opportunity, open our Model Price Facebook application and follow along while I’m on the show answering viewer’s questions about individual stocks.

 

Would you say anything different based on your interpretation of Model Price Theory and chart? You can make your comments via Facebook.

 

Should be fun!