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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Stocks Zig, Fundamentals Zag? Psychology is Wild Card - Still Good News Out There for Those Interested

Today's market action and headlines can paralyze even those with the strongest stomachs. Some headlines from Yahoo! Finance's (YHOO) main page as of 9:45pm EST:
In our view, technology improves productivity and efficiency, and makes life more interesting by facilitating access to people and information from diverse and far away geographies. Still, we can see how the rapid flow of media information via the Internet could negatively impact consumer behavior because everyone seemingly remains "on edge" and people often overemphasize the negative over the positive. Consumer confidence no doubt dipped in June on the heals of the Greek/Europe debt crisis and, potentially, in conjunction with the truly frustrating and saddening oil spill. Note that we also covered some negative concerns in our our How's the Economy Doing post and Debt-to-GDP post the other week.

STILL, here are some positive headlines from the shipping/trade arena today (via Journal of Commerce) that were likely NOT featured front and center on Yahoo!, MSN, Google, and all of the other sites the whole world frequents daily:

Global Air Cargo Tops Pre-Recession Levels 
Global air cargo traffic soared 34.3 percent in May from a year ago and is now above pre-recession levels, the International Air Transport Association said.

NAFTA Trade Jumps 32 Percent in April 
Truck, train and pipeline shipments between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico totaled $65.8 billion in April, a 32.4 percent increase from a year earlier, the Transportation Department reported.

While certainly favorable, the NAFTA Y/Y comparison benefits from an easy year over year "comp." However, we see the air cargo news as 100%, honest-to-goodness impressive news and consistent with positive shipping news we've been highlighting.

Where else can we find "good" news? We shared news from Pier One Imports (PIR) and Select Comfort (SCSS) last week, yet for those wondering about the state of plain old U.S. manufacturing in the American heartland, see Baldor Electric (BEZ) in Arkansas and Lincoln Electric (LECO) in Ohio -

From Baldor on 6/3/10:
  • Baldor Electric Company markets, designs, and manufactures industrial electric motors, mechanical power transmission products, drives, and generators and is based in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
  • Today, members of Baldor's management team are visiting with investors at the KeyBanc Industrial Conference in Boston and have updated sales guidance for 2nd quarter 2010. Due to continued strength in incoming orders for all products, Baldor now believes sales for 2nd quarter will be in the range of $435 to $445 million. This is an increase from the previous guidance of $415 to $430 million provided on April 28, 2010. At these higher levels of sales, Baldor believes the operating margin will be slightly better than the peak quarterly operating margin of 14.2%.
  • Baldor expects to release 2nd quarter 2010 earnings results on Thursday, July 29, 2010, after the market closes.
From Lincoln on 4/27/10:
  • Lincoln Electric is the world leader in the design, development and manufacture of arc welding products, robotic arc-welding systems, plasma and oxyfuel cutting equipment and has a leading global position in the brazing and soldering alloys market.  
  • Sales were $471.0 million in the first quarter versus $411.8 million in the comparable 2009 period, an increase of 14.4%. Operating income for the first quarter increased to $34.7 million, or 7.4% of sales, from $1.0 million, or 0.3% of sales, in the first quarter of 2009.  Excluding special items, operating income in the quarter was $35.5 million or 7.5% of sales.
  • "We are pleased that we have started the year off with much stronger operating income compared with the first quarter of 2009," said John M. Stropki, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. "The actions we took throughout 2009 to rationalize our operations and reduce our overall cost structure coupled with an improving economic environment drove significantly better results in the first quarter of 2010 compared with the prior year period.
  • "We continue to experience sequential improvements in demand levels in many market segments and geographic regions. Also, key economic indicators suggest a cautiously optimistic view that market conditions will continue to improve as the year progresses. As always, our strong financial position will allow us to execute on investment opportunities that further our long-term strategic objectives."
Now, are things so bad? In some ways, perhaps yes (e.g. tough decisions need to be made around government expenditures and entitlement programs - see our earlier post re: debt levels); in others, clearly not (see above and reference links). Fortunately, we see some good signs to counterbalance some of the negative signs. Fundamentals are what matter, both near-term and long-term. Negative psychology may present more bargain values for patient capital.

Happy investing,

Jeffrey Walkenhorst

Disclosure: long YHOO.

© 2010 Jeffrey Walkenhorst
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