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Friday, March 12, 2010

No Recession Here? Easy Y/Y Comps Helping, but Still... More Positives

We know many mixed economic signals exist and we will soon update our "How's the Economy Doing" series, but we find the following data points interesting (even acknowledging easy Y/Y comparisons):

Mattress business:
  • MINNEAPOLIS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Select Comfort Corporation (NASDAQ: SCSS - News) today reported fourth quarter and fiscal 2009 results for the period ended Jan. 2, 2010. Net sales for the quarter totaled $136.5 million, an increase of 4 percent on same-store growth of 23 percent, compared to $131.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2008, which included a 14-week selling period as compared to 13 weeks in 2009.
Furniture business:
  • DANBURY, Conn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Ethan Allen Chairman and CEO, Farooq Kathwari, will present at the Raymond James Annual Institutional Investor Conference in Orlando, Florida on March 9, 2010. This presentation will be webcast and can be accessed via the Company website at ethanallen.com.
  • In anticipation of questions about current business trends, Ethan Allen announced today that written sales (orders) for the two months ended February 28, 2010, have increased approximately 25% over prior year.
  • Farooq Kathwari, Chairman and CEO commented, “We are pleased that our marketing programs that focus on projecting our value proposition of style, quality, and design services together with significant savings are driving traffic to our design centers. This increase in traffic is resulting in higher written orders than we have seen in some time. It is important to keep in mind that for the most part, orders taken in this period will be delivered and reported as sales in our fourth fiscal quarter ending June 30, 2010.”
AND, the Railroad business:
  • NEW YORK (AP) -- Railroad operator Kansas City Southern (KSU) said Wednesday it expects first-quarter sales to grow by more than 20 percent compared with the same period a year ago.
  • In the first quarter of 2009, revenue fell 23 percent to $346 million. A 20 percent jump would imply revenue of $415.2 million, well above the $384 million average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.
  • Speaking at the JPMorgan Aviation, Transportation and Defense Conference, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Michael W. Upchurch said shipping volume is up 13 percent through the first eight weeks of this year. Volumes during the week of March 1 through March 7 were the highest since May 2008, Upchurch said.
SO, when despair and/or concerns over the economy surface, please keep in mind positives being reported by cyclical/consumer discretionary companies. We see the higher railroad volumes as another positive indication for our container shipping companies, Seaspan (SSW) and Global Ship Lease (GSL).

Happy investing,

Jeffrey Walkenhorst

Disclosure: long SSW, GSL.

© 2010 Jeffrey Walkenhorst
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