Be a Predator, Shun the Herd
By Marc Courtenay - 06/19/12 - 6:00 AM EDT
NEW YORK (TheStreet
) -- We've survived the Greek elections and this chapter of the so-called "Eurozone Turmoil" appears to be behind us.
The narrow victory by the so-called "conservative New Democracy" has done next to nothing
when it comes to reducing the risks of a eurozone contagion and all the anxiety and fear surrounding it.
So the stock market and commodity markets for now
will be in a holding pattern with a negative bias. The Nervous Nellie types and those who won't dive into the murky markets will wait and see.
The herd will do what the herd always does...follow and eat each other's dust!
This is not the time to take on that infamous herd mentality. It is way too mindless and far too naïve. For months now the herd keeps chasing yield. It's been very dividend-centric.
In an article I read Monday a senior equity strategist for Wells Fargo Advisors echoed the perspective of the herd, which currently has been running after U.S.-based companies that offer dividends over 2%.
Here's his main comment: "In this type of global environment, our modest growth and modest inflation economy looks pretty good.
"Our domestic growth is viewed as dependable, something you can count on. Given that, I believe the U.S. has become the safe-haven equity market for global investors, much like our Treasury market has always been."
In case you haven't noticed, trading volume has been in decline. The day after the Greek elections is no different, and may be the new norm until Ben Bernanke uncorks the next round of massive, globally coordinated quantitative easing.
That could happen as soon as Wednesday or as far away as the week after the U.S. presidential election in November.
What the herd has been doing is central to what's going on. The herd consists less and less of small investors and more and more of institutions, hedge funds and sovereign wealth Funds.
If the herd all heads in one direction too long you know what will happen? It will come to the end of the road or the edge of the cliff or to the shores of a large body of water.
If the herd doesn't stop before it's too late it will fall over the cliff or plunge into the ocean in panicked frenzy. The results are never pretty.
With today's herd of investors and traders, the ones who are chasing stocks with decent dividend yields are getting closer to the proverbial end of the road.
It wasn't that long ago that no one wanted to buy big, best-of-breed, over-stuffed geese that lay golden eggs (one quarter at a time) such as Intel
and Wal-Mart Stores
Wal-Mart is a good example
. For the longest time it was trading close to $50 and seemed stuck there with its 3% plus dividend yield. Suddenly the herd moved in. The chart below tells the story.
Around December 2011 the 100-day moving average price moved above the 200-day moving average. Except for a couple of nasty corrections it has moved steadily towards Monday's 52-week high price.
The Microsoft chart is unsurprisingly similar, and you'll also see the spikes in selling and buying volume that accompanied pullbacks or stellar rallies to new highs.
You'll also notice that since Microsoft is a technology company, it has gone the way of Intel and Cisco
and moved downward in share price. The herd feels safer on the plains of Wal-Mart than in the cyber-world of Microsoft
, as the chart below illustrates with unmistaken clarity:
And so the Masters of The Stock Market Universe, as well as the Titans of Financial Management and Monetary Policy have made it very tempting for the herd to continue to chase yield.
Here's where the caveat comes in. History shows us time and time again that just as the entire herd assumes it can feed safely on the shores of "The Sea of Dividends," the predators begin to circle.
The predators are very wily and use stealth. Unlike the herd, they make their meals by catching the herd off-guard. It's like shooting deer fixated by headlights, and it works every time.
The herd will pay almost any price to buy something that the rest of the herd is buying. The predators have their sights set on companies that almost no one wants.
The herd doesn't want to touch companies like Barrick Gold
. Even though it is by many measures the largest gold-producing company in the world, and even though it pays a current dividend of 2%, it gets little if any respect (like the complaint of the late Rodney Dangerfield).
The predators know that Barrick Gold is selling at a forward P/E ratio of 6.88 and has a PEG ratio (5-year expected) of a deliriously low 0.24 (any PEG ratio below 1 indicates serious undervaluation).
Or take Nabors Industries
. Nabors? Are you crazy? The herd would rather you take its wives and husbands than buy a stock selling at a price-to-sales ratio of 0.58 and a price-to-book ratio of 0.65.
Put another way, Nabors is selling at almost half of what you could get if you auctioned off the company's assets, subtracted its liabilities and divided what is left among shareholders. Ludicrous!
By the way, Nabors has an unbelievably low PEG ratio of 0.29. NBR is a company that in the trailing 12 months made $6.58 billion in revenue. That's $22.86 per share in revenue.
In its year-over-year quarterly earnings it announced growth of 62%. Yet, on Monday the stock was selling for $13.04 while the book value per share is $20.
Out of 21 analysts who cover Nabors the mean target price is $25.10 and the median target is $26. With a forward PE of around 5, you'd think this company sold hula hoops or portable radios.
Instead, this former contract land energy drilling services company has been actively expanding into new business opportunities globally.
As its informative website explains, "These businesses provide our customers with information technology, drilling systems, engineering, transportation, construction, maintenance, well logging and other support services in selected domestic and international markets."
By the time the herd learns the fair market value of companies like Nabors and Barrick Gold the predators will be putting in their sell orders and preparing to pocket big gains.
History will have been repeated again. The predators buy when no one in the herd is paying any attention, and sell their shares to the herd when prices start hitting 52-week highs.
Those who are forewarned are forearmed. Predators, I've noticed, are powerfully forearmed. No surprise there!
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