Coronavirus induced slowdown is coming!

U.S. factory orders undershot estimates in January

U.S. factory orders undershot estimates in January, with declines of -0.5% for the headline and -0.1% ex-transportation, alongside a -0.1% factory inventory drop. Note that this report reflects the period prior to the spread of Covid-19 or Coronavirus.

Covid-19 spreads across the World.

The undershoot reflected declines of -0.8% for nondurable shipments and orders, and -0.2% for nondurable inventories, after downward December revisions, with a headwind for both from energy prices.

Factory Orders Slow in January

The equipment data from the durables report were revised modestly lower, alongside slight downward tweaks in the December levels for orders, shipments, and inventories.

The data still show encouraging January gains for most of the equipment data despite downward bumps, but lean shipments and inventory data, with January pull-backs for transportation and defense after December gains.

Analysts still expect a Q4 GDP growth boost to 2.2% from 2.1% but with -$1 B revisions for both factory inventories and equipment spending.

Factory orders fall in January

Analysts expect GDP growth of 2.0% in Q1, with a -5% (was -4%) Q1 contraction rate for real equipment spending after an estimated -4.8% (was -4.4%) Q4 pace. Analysts expect a -$20 B Q1 inventory subtraction that leaves a $9 B liquidation rate, with a big hit to inventories from reduced imports from China.

Analysts assume a -0.1% (was flat) January business inventory drop after a flat (was 0.1%) figure in December.

Earlier, we had a blog regarding slow down in truck sales was flashing an economic slowdown on the horizon. Read the blog here.

Feds Panic

Fed funds futures have continued to rally as the market prices in another 25 bps of easing at the upcoming March 17, 18 FOMC, on top of this week’s 50 bp reduction.

FOMC emergency 50bp rate cut may have hurt the market.

The market is also supported from flight from risk with declines of over 2% on Wall Street in pre-open action.

The futures are now fully priced for a 25 bps easing in two weeks, to be followed by another 25 bps at the April 28, 29 FOMC with about 75% risk, while June is now seeing about a 50-50 bet for yet one more 25 bp cut at the June 9, 10 FOMC.

Jerome Powell gives in to WH pressure and cuts rates.

That would see the policy band at 0% to 0.50%. Analysts continue believe the Fed and the markets are over-reacting and analysts doubt the economic impact of COVID-19 will be as disastrous as the market’s are pricing in.

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Truck sales decline in November

Classes 5-8 truck orders soften in November amid trade and tariff worries

Truck sales downturn could be canary in the coal mine

There are eight classes of commercial motor vehicles in the United States, and they’re divided into three, more general categories: light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty. Commercial motor vehicles or trucks that operate on U.S. highways can be classified based on their gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR).

ACT Research said in an earlier report:

“Preliminary November data show that Classes 5-8 net order volumes were uniformly soft. Combined NA Classes 5-8 intake fell 15% m/m and 38% y/y in November on a nominal basis. Preliminary North America Class 8 net order data show the industry booked 17,500 units in November, down 20% from October, while Classes 5-7 orders fell 8% m/m, to 15,300 units.

Complete industry data for November, including final order numbers, will be published by ACT Research in mid-December.

Various Classes of Vehicles, Stockwinners

ACT’s State of the Industry:

Classes 5-8 report provides a monthly look at the current production, sales, and general state of the on-road heavy and medium duty commercial vehicle markets in North America. It differentiates market indicators by Class 5, Classes 6-7 chassis and Class 8 trucks and tractors, detailing measures such as backlog, build, inventory, new orders, cancellations, net orders, and retail sales.

Additionally, Class 5 and Classes 6-7 are segmented by trucks, buses, RVs, and step van configurations, while Class 8 is segmented by trucks and tractors with and without sleeper cabs.

This report includes a six-month industry build plan, backlog timing analysis, historical data from 1996 to the present in spreadsheet format, and a ready-to-use graph package.

A first-look at preliminary net orders is also published in conjunction with this report.

“Preliminary November data show that Class 8 net orders failed to sustain October’s encouraging start to the order season,” said Tim Denoyer, ACT’s Vice President and Senior Analyst.

He continued, “The freight market downturn worsened in the past month and uncertainty surrounding trade and tariffs continue to weigh on truck buyers’ psyches. With rising pressure on carrier profits from the combined impact of lower rates and the recent, rather sudden jump in insurance premia, recent events have not developed in the industry’s favor.” Denoyer concluded,

“While private fleets continue to add capacity on the retail end, the market is increasingly heeding for-hire price signals and the stage is being set to right-size the fleet, bringing it closer to equilibrium with the work to be done.”

Historically, Dow Jones Transports have sold off prior to the rest of the market. The .djt has turned bearish as is shown above.

Publicly traded companies in the space include ArcBest (ARCB), J.B. Hunt (JBHT), Knight-Swift (KNX), Old Dominion (ODFL), Swift Transportation (SWFT), Werner (WERN), Paccar (PCAR), Navistar (NAV)and Cummins (CMI).

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Anixter sold for $3.8 billion

Anixter to be acquired by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice for $81.00 per share in cash

Anixter (AXE) has entered into a definitive agreement with an affiliate of Clayton, Dubilier & Rice to be acquired in an all cash transaction valued at approximately $3.8B.

Anixter sold for $3.8B, Stockwinners

The transaction will result in Anixter becoming a private company and is expected to close by the end of the first quarter of 2020.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, CD&R-managed funds will acquire all of the outstanding shares of Anixter common stock for $81.00 per share in cash.

This represents a premium of approximately 13% over Anixter’s closing price on October 29, and a premium of approximately 27% over the 90-day volume-weighted average price of Anixter’s common stock for the period ended October 29.

Clayton, Dubilier & Rice buys Anixter, Stockwinners

Anixter International Inc. distributes enterprise cabling and security solutions, electrical and electronic wire and cable solutions, and utility power solutions worldwide. The company operates through Network & Security Solutions (NSS), Electrical & Electronic Solutions (EES), and Utility Power Solutions (UPS) segments. 

It is anticipated that upon completion of the transaction, Bill Galvin, along with other members of Anixter’s executive management team, will continue to lead the company.

Anixter’s Board of Directors has unanimously approved the agreement with CD&R and recommends that Anixter stockholders approve the proposed merger and merger agreement.

Anixter expects to hold a Special Meeting of Stockholders to consider and vote on the proposed merger and merger agreement as soon as practicable after the mailing of the proxy statement to its stockholders.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, Anixter may solicit superior proposals from third parties for a period of 40 calendar days continuing through December 9, 2019.

In accordance with the merger agreement, Anixter’s Board of Directors, with the assistance of its advisors, intends to solicit superior proposals during this period.

In addition, Anixter may, at any time, subject to the provisions of the merger agreement, respond to unsolicited proposals that are reasonably likely to result in a superior proposal.

Anixter advises that there can be no assurance that the solicitation process will result in an alternative transaction.

To the extent that a superior proposal received prior to December 9, 2019 or, in certain circumstances, 10 days thereafter leads to the execution of a definitive agreement, Anixter would be obligated to pay a $45M break-up fee to CD&R.

Anixter does not intend to disclose developments with respect to this solicitation process unless and until it determines it is appropriate to do so.

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US Ecology and NRC Group to merge

US Ecology, NRC Group to merge in all-stock transaction

US Ecology and NRC Group to merge, Stockwinners

US Ecology (ECOL) announced that it has entered into a definitive merger agreement with NRC Group Holdings (NRCG) in an all-stock transaction with an enterprise value of $966M.

U.S. Ecology and NRC Group to merge, Stockwinners

The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter and is subject to clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, as amended, respective stockholder approvals and other customary closing conditions.

The transaction will create a nationwide leader in industrial and hazardous waste management services and is projected to be mid-single digit accretive to US Ecology’s 2020 adjusted earnings per share, before synergies.

The transaction has been approved by both companies’ Boards of Directors.

Upon completion of the transaction, US Ecology stockholders will own approximately 70% of the combined company, and NRCG stockholders will own approximately 30% on a fully diluted basis.

The combined company will use the US Ecology name, and its shares will continue to be listed on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the ticker ECOL.

Jeffrey Feeler will continue to serve as President, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors.

The company will maintain its headquarters in Boise, Idaho with regional support centers in Boise, Detroit, New York and Houston.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, US Ecology will form a new holding company which will take the name of US Ecology, Inc. immediately upon the closing of the transaction and will own both US Ecology and NRCG.

US Ecology stockholders will receive 1 share of common stock of the new holding company for each share of US Ecology common stock they own upon closing of the transaction.

NRCG common stockholders will receive 0.196 shares of common stock of the new holding company for each share of NRCG common stock they own upon closing of the transaction.

The exchange ratio represents a price of $12.00 per share of NRCG stock, based on the US Ecology average share price over the last 15-trading days.

The $12.00 price per share represents a premium of approximately 36% to NRCG’s June 21 closing price of $8.83.

Each share of NRCG’s 7.00% Series A Convertible Cumulative Preferred Stock is expected to be converted in the merger into approximately 1.8 common shares of the new holding company.

NRCG’s 19.249M outstanding Warrants to purchase NRCG common stock will be converted to 3.773M Warrants to purchase common stock of the new holding company, with a strike price of $58.67 each.

The transaction will provide NRCG stockholders with continued participation in the future prospects expected to result from the combination through their ownership of approximately 30% of the stock of the new holding company, on a fully diluted basis.

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Canary in the mine, Homebuilders

Homebuilders continue tumble as Credit Suisse downgrades several in space

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Homebuilder shares tumble; Stockwinners

Many believe that housing market is the engine of the economy. If that is the case, we should expect a slow down in the economy. Housing prices have always been one of the first indicators of a slowdown or a coming out of a recession for the economy. We should brace ourselves for lower home prices!

Shares of homebuilders continued their decline after an analyst at Credit Suisse downgraded several companies in the space, saying that she expects more tempered demand and rising affordability concerns to weigh on homebuilding sentiment and broader group valuation, offsetting any near-term earnings beats.

A different analyst at the firm downgraded home improvement retailers Home Depot (HD) and Lowe’s (LOW) this morning, due to his concern that their recent results and stock prices have disconnected from housing.

HOMEBUILDERS DOWNGRADED

Credit Suisse analyst Susan Maklari told investors in a research note this morning that although she believes housing and macro fundamentals remain “intact,” including high consumer confidence and sustained low unemployment, unit gains are likely to moderate.

She sees any near-term earnings beats to be offset by even more tempered demand and rising affordability concerns. She sees average order growth for 2019 of 8%, compared to 11% in 2018 and 12% in 2017, and sees “relative” outperformance from builders who are able to capture above-trend gains due to product mix, like D.R. Horton (DHI), and geographic positioning, like PulteGroup (PHM). Maklari downgraded Lennar (LEN) and Meritage Homes (MTH) to Neutral from Outperform and lowered her respective price targets for the shares to $45 from $55 and to $36 from $50.

The analyst sees more limited upside to Lennar looking ahead as its strategic initiatives, as well as geographic exposure, are reflected in its current valuation.

While Meritage has benefited from efforts to drive improvements in operations in its East region as well as the rollout of its entry level targeted homes, Maklari believes much of the initial gains have been captured and she expects limited upside to the current valuation as comparisons become more difficult.

The analyst also downgraded KB Home (KBH) to Underperform from Neutral and lowered her price target to $18 from $27, saying that over the last several months her channel checks and Realtor Survey have pointed to slowing demand in higher cost MSAs, including California, which accounted for about 50% of the company’s 2017 revenues.

HOME DEPOT, LOWE’S ALSO DOWNGRADED

Another analyst at Credit Suisse, Seth Sigman, this morning downgraded Home Depot and Lowe’s, both to Neutral from Outperform, citing his concern that their recent results and stock prices have disconnected from housing. In a research note of his own, Sigman said his key concern is that home prices will continue to moderate, at least temporarily, as higher rates weigh on affordability.

Overall, Sigman still sees EPS growing, but sees less upside over the next 12 months relative to current estimates.

The analyst continues to view Home Depot as best-in-class in retail, but struggles to find multiple upside from its current premium level as housing sentiment shifts and some uncertainty arises. While he continues to expect meaningful improvement in sales and operating profit at Lowe’s under new CEO Marvin Ellison, Sigman thinks consensus estimates are baking that in. The analyst cut his price target on Home Depot to $204 from $222 and on Lowe’s to $111 from $115.

PRICE ACTION

Shares of Lennar dropped 3%, while Meritage Homes dropped 6.6% and KB Home declined 4.4%. Other homebuilders were dragged lower, including D.R. Horton, PulteGroup and Toll Brothers (TOL), which are all down over 3%.

Additionally, Home Depot and Lowe’s both declined over 4%. Further, XHB, the homebuilding ETF, is down nearly 3% today and about 10% month-to-date.


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ModSpace sold for $1.1 billion

Williams Scotsman to acquire ModSpace for approx. $1.1B

ModSpace sold for $1.1 billion, Stockwinners
ModSpace sold for $1.1 billion, Stockwinners

WillScot Corporation (WSC) announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Modular Space Holdings, the parent holding company of Modular Space Corporation, for an enterprise value of approximately $1.1B. Williams Scotsman will indirectly acquire MS Holdings for a purchase price comprising $1,063,750,000 of cash consideration, 6,458,500 shares of WSC Class A common stock and warrants to purchase 10,000,000 shares of WSC Class A common stock at an exercise price of $15.50 per share, subject to customary adjustments.

The transaction, which is subject to customary closing conditions, is expected to close in 3Q18.

ModSpace, a privately-owned provider of office trailers, portable storage units and modular buildings, had approximately $1.1B of total assets as of March 31, 2018.

ModSpace generated $453M of total revenue, $18M of net income and $106M of Adjusted EBITDA for the twelve months ended March 31, 2018. Once combined, Williams Scotsman will have over 160,000 modular space and portable storage units serving a diverse customer base from approximately 120 locations across the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Williams Scotsman expects to capture $60M in annual cost synergies after integration, with approximately 80% of the forecast synergies expected to be realized on a full run-rate basis by the end of 2019.

Williams Scotsman also expects to benefit from the net operating tax loss carryforwards to be acquired in the transaction, and for the transaction to be accretive to earnings in 2019.

Williams Scotsman expects to expand its “Ready to Work” value proposition across the ModSpace fleet and customer base, a strategy that has driven double-digit organic Adjusted EBITDA growth in Williams Scotsman’s U.S. Modular segment in recent years and proven successful in Williams Scotsman’s acquisitions of Acton Mobile and Tyson Onsite.

Until the transaction closes, both companies will operate independently and execute on their respective strategic priorities. Williams Scotsman has secured committed financing to fund the transaction, which includes an amendment and expansion of its existing revolving ABL credit facility to $1.35B with an accordion feature allowing up to $1.8B of total capacity, a $280M secured bridge credit facility, and $320M unsecured bridge credit facility.

Williams Scotsman expects the permanent financing plan to include a combination of long-term debt and equity or equity-linked securities.

WSC closed at $12.15, it last traded at $14.10.


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Changes to the S&P 400, 500, 600 indices

S&P announces changes to S&P 400, 500, 600 indices

Stocks to buy, stocks to watch, upgrades, downgrades, earningsS&P Dow Jones Indices will make the following index adjustments to the S&P 500, S&P MidCap 400 and S&P SmallCap 600 to ensure each index more appropriately represents its market capitalization range.

The changes will be effective prior to the open on Monday, March 19 to coincide with the March rebalance.

All companies moving to the S&P 500 have total market capitalizations above $12B.

All companies moving to the S&P MidCap 400 and S&P SmallCap 600 are more appropriate for those indices.

S&P MidCap 400 constituents Take-Two Interactive Software (TTWO) and SVB Financial Group (SIVB) will switch places with Signet Jewelers (SIG) and Patterson Companies (PDCO) respectively in the S&P 500.

S&P SmallCap 600 constituent Nektar Therapeutics (NKTR) will replace Chesapeake Energy (CHK) in the S&P 500, Chesapeake Energy will replace Dean Foods (DF) in the S&P MidCap 400, and Dean Foods will replace Nektar Therapeutics in the S&P SmallCap 600.

S&P SmallCap 600 constituents Cantel Medical (CMD) and ICU Medical (ICUI) will switch places with Avon Products (AVP) and Owens & Minor (OMI) in the S&P MidCap 400.


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Layne Christensen sold for $565M

Granite Construction to acquire Layne Christensen in $565M stock merger

Granite Construction to acquire Layne Christensen. Stockwinners.com
Granite Construction to acquire Layne Christensen 

Granite Construction Incorporated (GVA) and Layne Christensen Company (LAYN) announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement whereby Granite will acquire all of the outstanding shares of Layne in a stock-for-stock transaction valued at $565 million, including the assumption of net debt.

The transaction, which was unanimously approved by the Boards of Directors of both companies, is expected to close in the second quarter of 2018.

Granite Construction to acquire Layne Christensen. Stockwinners.com
Granite Construction to acquire Layne Christensen

Under the terms of the agreement, Layne shareholders will receive a fixed exchange ratio of 0.270 Granite shares for each share of Layne common stock they own. This represents $17.00 per Layne share, or a premium of 33%, based on the volume-weighted average prices for Granite and Layne shares over the past 90 trading days.

Following the close of the transaction, Layne shareholders will own approximately 12% of Granite shares on a fully diluted basis, and Granite’s Board will be expanded to include one additional director from Layne.

The transaction represents an enterprise value multiple of 8.2x 2018 expected EBITDA.

Granite expects to achieve approximately $20 million of annual run-rate cost savings by the third year following the close of the transaction, with approximately one-third realized in 2018.

Granite expects to incur approximately $11 million in one-time costs to achieve these savings.

The transaction is expected to be accretive to Granite’s adjusted earnings per share, and high single-digit accretive to Granite’s adjusted cash earnings per share in the first year after closing.

Granite expects to assume outstanding Layne convertible debt with principal value of $170 million and honor the terms and existing maturity date provisions of the indentures.

The transaction is not expected to trigger any change of control provisions under Layne’s indentures.

Granite also expects to fund the cash financing requirements of the transaction of approximately $70 million through a combination of existing cash on hand and availability under Granite’s revolving credit facility.

Following close, Granite will maintain an investment grade credit profile and significant financial flexibility.

The transaction, which is expected to close in the second quarter of 2018, is subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including applicable regulatory approvals and the approval of the shareholders of Layne.

Wynnefield Capital, which has an approximate 9% voting interest in Layne, has agreed to vote in favor of the transaction.

In connection with the transaction, Granite will issue approximately 5.4 million shares of Granite common stock to Layne common stockholders.

LAYN closed at $12.62. GVA closed at $60.08.


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Ply Gem sold for $2.4B

Ply Gem to be acquired by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice in deal valued at $2.4B

Ply Gem to be acquired by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice in deal valued at $2.4B. Stockwinners.com
Ply Gem sold for $2.4B

Ply Gem Holdings (PGEM) and Clayton, Dubilier & Rice announced a definitive agreement under which CD&R funds will acquire all of the outstanding shares of Ply Gem common stock in a go-private transaction valued at approximately $2.4B.

Ply Gem’s board of directors unanimously approved the agreement, which provides for the payment of $21.64 per share in cash to all holders of Ply Gem common stock.

The cash purchase price represents a premium of approximately 20% over Ply Gem’s closing stock price on January 30, 2018.

Promptly following entry into the agreement, stockholders holding greater than 50% of the outstanding shares of Ply Gem common stock executed a written consent to approve the transaction, thereby providing the required stockholder approval.

CD&R has also entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Atrium Windows & Doors and combine the company with Ply Gem to create an exterior building products company with total revenue of more than $2.4B in 2017.

The transactions are expected to close simultaneously in the second quarter of 2018 and are subject to the receipt of customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals.

Closing of the acquisition of Ply Gem is not subject to the closing of the acquisition of Atrium.

However, assuming both transactions close simultaneously, CD&R funds will own approximately 70% of the new privately-held company, and Atrium shareholders, which include funds managed by Golden Gate Capital, will hold approximately 30%.

The new Ply Gem will continue to be headquartered in Cary, NC, and Gary E. Robinette, currently Chairman and CEO of Ply Gem, will continue as Chairman and CEO. John Krenicki, a CD&R Operating Partner and former Vice Chairman of General Electric Company, will become Lead Director of the Board.

Ply Gem Holdings, Inc. manufactures and sells residential and commercial building products primarily in the United States and Canada.


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Barron’s is bullish on Goldman Sachs, bearish on Snap On

Barron’s, the weekly publication owned by the Wall Street Journal, in its latest issue mentions several names:  

Stockwinners offers Barron's review of Stockwinners offers stocks to buy, stocks to watch, upgrades, downgrades, earnings, Stocks to Buy On Margin
Stockwinners offers Barron’s review of stocks to buy, stocks to watch

BULLISH   MENTIONS:

Biotech could be headed for a revival – Big biotechnology stocks could be headed for a revival, Ben Levisohn writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. Biogen (BIIB) and Celgene (CELG) finished the week higher, AbbVie (ABBV) gained 14% after releasing earnings, and Gilead (GILD) rose 5% after a rating upgraded, he notes. Overall, the sector should also benefit from increased merger activity, lower taxes, and a less-onerous regulatory regime, the report adds.

Goldman Sachs regaining ‘its touch,’  – While Goldman Sachs’ (GS) overall financial results have been strong, with three out of four of its main business units thriving, trading has been reduced to crumbs, Jack Hough writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. Further, its competitor, Morgan Stanley (MS), surpassed it in market value for the first time in a decade, despite Goldman Sachs shares hitting a new 52-week high, he notes. Nonetheless, this makes an opportune time to buy Goldman Sachs stock, he argues, as the bank is more diversified than it was before the financial crisis and as it becomes more prosperous given expansion in mergers, lending and money management.

Domestic companies to go on spending spree – Capital spending has picked up and shows signs of staying strong this year, with help from tax overhaul as it lowers the corporate tax and offers a chance for companies to repatriate overseas cash, Lawrence Strauss writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. Apple, for instance, has announced that it expects to invest more than $30B in capex in the U.S. over the next five years, he notes.

BEARISH  MENTIONS

Investors should sell First Solar (FSLR), pocket gain – In a follow-up story, Barron’s notes that President Trump has imposed 30% tariffs on solar cells and modules, which will likely drive the panel’s prices higher and reshuffle the renewable-energy industry. First Solar’s products will be exempt from the tariff and its stock has jumped 54% since then, the report says, adding that investors should sell the stock and pocket that gain. Most solar stocks remain risky bets as the tariff will drive up prices in the U.S. and given the supply-demand imbalance, Barron’s contends.

Snap-On could miss consensus EPS this year. – Shares of Snap-On (SNA) have tooled along nicely for years, but the joyride may be over soon as potential headwinds could cause the company to miss consensus earnings per share expectations this year, Vito Racanelli writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. An increasing number of borrowers are falling behind and recent evidence points to a slowdown in organic growth in the main tools division, the biggest of Snap-on’s businesses, he notes.


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Barron’s is bullish on Gold and FedEx, bearish on Caterpillar

Barron’s, the weekly publication owned by the Wall Street Journal, in its latest issue mentions several names: 

Stockwinners offers Barron's review of Stockwinners offers stocks to buy, stocks to watch, upgrades, downgrades, earnings, Stocks to Buy On Margin
Stockwinners offers Barron’s review of stocks to buy, stocks to watch

BULLISH  MENTIONS:

FedEx EPS (FDX) growth should more than triple next year – U.S. postal rates look likely to rise, pinching Amazon (AMZN) and benefiting FedEx and UPS (UPS), Jack Hough writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. While for now UPS enjoys higher profit margins, investors should favor FedEx as years-long investment in automating and expanding its hubs has given the company a speed and efficiency advantage over the former, he adds. Earnings per share growth for FedEx should more than triple next year as tax cuts kick in, the report notes.

Deal makers now ‘on the clock.’  – Deal makers may be on the clock, especially if one believes that the bull market is in its waning stages and the Federal Reserve is serious about interest rate hikes, Alex Eule writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. 2018 merger speculation already kicked off in a big way, with headlines that Amazon (AMZN) could buy Target (TGT) and Apple could acquire Netflix (NFLX), he notes, adding that M&A may be necessary to grow and even to survive.

Valero, Home Depot among companies expected to raise dividend – Charles Schwab (SCHW), Home Depot (HD), Valero Energy (VLO), NextEra Energy (NEE), Allstate (ALL) and Cisco Systems (CSCO) are among the large companies expected to announce healthy dividend increases soon, Lawrence Strauss writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. These projected boosts come amid a solid outlook for dividend growth in the U.S. and globally, he adds.

Intel not to be blamed for failures of computer security – Intel (INTC) came under fire for the revelation that its chips were vulnerable, but the nature of technology and how the industry approaches computer security are the real problem, not Intel chips, Tiernan Ray writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. There may be things Intel can do, and in fact AMD (AMD), whose chips run the same software, said its products are less vulnerable than Intel’s, he notes, but difference here are just relative as hackers’ inventiveness will continue.

Kohl’s making right moves to grow earnings. – Until recently, Kohl’s (KSS) was largely written off as a casualty of Amazon’s (AMZN) domination of the retail sector, but the stock has become one of the hottest plays in retail as investors increasingly believe that the e-Commerce giant could acquire the company, Steven Sears writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. Even without Amazon, Kohl’s seems to be making the right moves to grow earnings, he adds.

Gold rally may be ‘just the start.’  – Gold’s recent rally could be just the start, and investors betting on a new bull market in gold can buy physical gold, mining stocks or funds that track the metal and mining shares, with junior miners typically outperforming big-caps in a gold bull market, John Kimelman writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. Publicly traded companies in the sector include Newmont Mining (NEM), Barrick Gold (ABX), Goldcorp (GG) and Agnico Eagle (AEM).

BEARISH  MENTIONS:

Bank earnings could ‘be messy.’ – The backdrop for banks could not be much better but earnings season is about to begin – with JPMorgan (JPM), Wells Fargo (WFC) and PNC Financial (PNC) expected to report on Friday – and it could “be messy,” Ben Levisohn writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. While tax reform should be a boon for banks, it will also produce one-time charges and gains that will need to be accounted for, he adds.

Time to sell Caterpillar – In a follow-up story, Barron’s says that with Caterpillar (CAT) soaring, it is time to sell. Investors should not expect the stock to move quickly from here, as cyclical companies like Caterpillar tend to trade at high multiples of earnings at the bottom of the cycle and low multiples at the top, it adds.


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Hubbell to acquire Aclara Technologies for $1.1B

Hubbell to acquire Aclara Technologies for $1.1B

Hubbell to acquire Aclara Technologies for $1.1B. Stockwinners.com
Hubbell to acquire Aclara Technologies for $1.1B

Hubbell (HUBB) announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Aclara Technologies, an affiliate of Sun Capital Partners for approximately $1.1B in an all- cash transaction.

Hubbell Incorporated designs, manufactures, and sells electrical and electronic products in the United States and internationally.

The transaction strengthens and broadens Hubbell Power Systems’ competitive position across utility markets.

The acquisition will combine the complementary strengths of Aclara and Hubbell Power Systems, providing the opportunity to integrate Aclara’s strong customer relationships and smart infrastructure solutions into the Hubbell portfolio and accelerate ongoing innovation efforts to address utility customer demand for data and integrated solutions.

Aclara offers a comprehensive suite of solutions, including advanced metering infrastructure, meters and edge devices, software, and installation services.

Aclara reported revenues of $500M and adjusted EBITDA of $90M for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2017.

The transaction is expected to be accretive in 2018 to Hubbell’s diluted EPS, excluding intangible amortization and deal related costs, and in 2019 on a GAAP basis.

Further, Hubbell expects to maintain an investment grade rating. Hubbell has obtained fully committed bridge financing from J.P. Morgan Securities, BofA Merrill Lynch, and HSBC Securities.

Hubbell expects its debt-to-adjusted EBITD ratio to be 3.1x at the close of the transaction, and anticipates reducing this ratio over the next few years.

The transaction, which is expected to be completed in 1Q18, is subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including U.S. antitrust clearance.

HUBB closed at $135.23.


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CSX shares downgraded following CEO’s death

CSX CEO death raises questions about strategy, M&A potential

CSX CEO passes away

Shares of CSX (CSX) are off their worst levels of the session and trading fractionally higher following the death of the company’s CEO over the weekend.

 

While the news prompted a stock downgrade to Hold at TD Securities, JPMorgan analyst Brian Ossenbeck argued that Hunter #Harrison’s legacy will continue at CSX and that he sees downside in the stock being limited.
Meanwhile, Cti analyst Christian #Wetherbee pointed out that the death of the company CEO may increase the likelihood of a merger with Canadian Pacific (CP).

 

MOVING TO THE SIDELINES:

Following the unexpected medical leave of absence and subsequent death of CEO Hunter Harrison, TD Securities downgraded CSX to Hold from Buy and lowered its price target on the shares to $54 from $63. The firm argued that senior management now lacks a member with an operating background.

 

LIMITED DOWNSIDE:

Meanwhile, JPMorgan’s #Ossenbeck told investors that he believes Hunter Harrison’s legacy will continue at CSX, reiterating an Overweight rating and $63 price target on the shares. The analyst said he estimates downside in the stock to be limited to $45-$48 based on his below consensus forecasts, with U.S. tax reform and a “tighter truck market” providing positive near-term catalysts.

 

Nonetheless, Ossenbeck acknowledged that the lack of a defined management succession plan remains a near-term hurdle for CSX, and will not likely be addressed until the investor day in first quarter of 2018.

 

Voicing a similar opinion, Baird analyst Benjamin #Hartford said he believes the shares should find support in the $48-$50 level, which is where shares traded during previous periods of transition for the company.

 

While Hunter Harrison’s passing “undoubtedly” introduces incremental risk and uncertainty to the trajectory of CSX’s operating ratio improvement, and it is even more so a “show-me” story given the absence of his leadership, Hartford noted that the PSR model has been put into place, the company employs the talent needed to execute the plan, and there is no reason to diminish CSX’s expectations regarding the pace and magnitude of future progress. He reiterated an Outperform rating and $58 price target on the shares.

 

MERGER WITH CANADIAN PACIFIC

In a research note of his own, Citi’s Wetherbee told investors that he believes the death of Harrison may increase the likelihood of CSX attempting to merge with Canadian Pacific. However, the analyst noted that he is not sure a deal could be accomplished due to elevated regulatory risk.

 

Canadian Pacific and CSX may merge. Stockwinners.com
Canadian Pacific and CSX may merge.

A “large portion of the heavy lifting” related to the start of CSX’s turnaround occurred in 2017, allowing 2018 to be a year focused on executing, he contended, adding that he still believes in the company’s long-term potential. Wetherbee also pointed out that he sees Jim Foote as capable of executing Hunter’s vision, while noting that CSX’s board could move to add seasoned executives in the coming months. The analyst reiterated a Buy rating and $58 price target on the shares.

 

PRICE ACTION

In Monday afternoon trading, shares of CSX are fractionally lower to about $53 per share.


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Barron’s is bullish on Verizon

Barron’s, the weekly publication owned by the Wall Street Journal, in its latest issue mentions several names: 

Stockwinners offers Barron's review of Stockwinners offers stocks to buy, stocks to watch, upgrades, downgrades, earnings, Stocks to Buy On Margin
Stockwinners offers Barron’s review of stocks to buy, stocks to watch, Today’s Stocks, Stockwinners Voted Best Stock Research Site

BULLISH  MENTIONS

 

Rising sales may lift Mondelez (MDLZ)- There is reason to hope that growth is returning to Mondelez, with sales perking up in its latest quarter, especially in the developing markets, Bill Alpert writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. If the company and its new CEO can deliver sales growth, many analysts think Mondelez’s stock could rise to $50 or more, the report notes.

Wheat prices may rise amid cold December – A “brutal cold snap” in December is likely and could lift winter wheat prices higher than $5 a bushel, a rally that would aid the farm economy that has been hurt by steadily falling wheat prices since mid-2012, Simon Constable writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. Among companies that benefit from higher crop prices are fertilizer makers Mosaic (MOS) and Agrium (AGU), the report notes.

Infrastructure stocks should rise if Congress passes legislation – It may be easy to be skeptical about President Donald Trump’s ambitious effort to rebuild aging bridges, roads and other elements of the country’s infrastructures, but there is reason for hope, John Kimelman writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. For investors in a group of about a dozen infrastructure companies such as Vulcan Materials (VMC) and Fluor (FLR), legislation cannot be considered soon enough, he contends. Other companies that may get meaningful boosts include Martin Marietta Materials (MLM), Aecom (ACM), Jacobs Engineering Group (JEC), Granite Construction (GVA), Eagle Materials (EXP), and U.S. Concrete (USCR), Barron’s notes, adding that even equipment companies like Caterpillar (CAT) could benefit.

Tencent still has upside – While Tencent (TCEHY) is up 125% this year, the stock still has lots of upside, Assif Shameen writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s.

Verizon could return 20% over the next year – A long price war in wireless is easing, which has left Verizon’s (VZ) shares looking cheap, Jack Hough writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. They could return 20%, including a dividend yield of 5%, over the next year, he adds.

BEARISH  MENTIONS

Challenges at HP Enterprise loom large– In a follow-up story, Barron’s says that as HP Enterprise (HPE) CEO Meg Whitman prepares to retire in February, the company no longer “has to shut the lights at night to save money.” However, plenty of challenges remain, notwithstanding Whitman’s moves to reconfigure the business, the report notes. The challenges at HP Enterprise loom large, as cloud-computing leaders Amazon (AMZN), Microsoft (MSFT) and Alphabet’s (GOOGL; GOOG) increasingly buy less HPE gear because they are building their own, the report notes.


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CalAtlantic sold for $51.34 per share

Lennar, CalAtlantic to merge in deal valued at about $9.3B

CalAtlantic sold for $9.1 billion. See Stockwinners.com for details

Lennar (LEN) and CalAtlantic (CAA) announced that their respective boards of directors have unanimously approved a definitive merger agreement pursuant to which each share of CalAtlantic stock will be exchanged for 0.885 shares of Lennar Class A common stock in a transaction valued at approximately $9.3B, including $3.6B of net debt assumed.

The business combination will create the nation’s largest homebuilder with the last twelve months of revenues in excess of $17B and equity market capitalization, based on current market prices, of approximately $18B.

The combined company will control approximately 240,000 homesites and will have approximately 1,300 active communities in 49 markets across 21 states, where approximately 50% of the U.S. population currently lives.

It is currently anticipated that the transaction will generate annual cost savings and synergies of approximately $250M, with approximately $75M achieved in fiscal year 2018.

These synergies are expected to be achieved through direct cost savings, reduced overhead costs and the elimination of duplicate public company expenses.

Additional savings are also expected through production efficiencies, technology initiatives, and the roll out of Lennar’s digital marketing and dynamic pricing programs. Under the terms of the merger agreement, each share of CalAtlantic stock will be converted into the right to receive 0.885 shares of Lennar Class A common stock. Based on the closing price of Lennar’s Class A common stock on the NYSE on October 27, the implied value of the stock consideration is $51.34 per share, representing a 27% premium to CalAtlantic’s closing price that same day.

CalAtlantic’s stockholders will also have the option to elect to exchange all or a portion of their shares for cash in the amount of $48.26 per share, subject to a maximum cash amount of approximately $1.2B.

CalAtlantic stockholders will receive Lennar stock unless they exercise an option to receive cash. On a pro forma basis, CalAtlantic stockholders are expected to own approximately 26% of the combined company.

The transaction is expected to close in the first calendar quarter of 2018. The transaction is subject to approval by Lennar and CalAtlantic stockholders. Stuart Miller and the Miller Family Trusts have agreed to vote their 41.4% voting interest in Lennar in favor of the merger. MP CA Homes LLC, an affiliate of MatlinPatterson Global Opportunities Partners III L.P., has agreed to vote its 25.4% voting interest in CalAtlantic in favor of the merger.

Additionally, MP CA Homes has agreed to exercise the cash election for at least the number of shares to cause the maximum cash consideration amount to be fully subscribed by electing stockholders.

Upon completion of the transaction, Stowell, CalAtlantic’s Executive Chairman, will join the Lennar board.


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