Archives for September 2014

Alibaba, Twitter and Facebook Oh My!

“Hot” IPOs like Alibaba, Twitter and Facebook are usually very emotional, much anticipated and huge financial media events.  As I have discussed over and over, emotion in investing can have a very detrimental impact on your portfolio! I went back and found similar, much anticipated, “hot” IPOs to show you what transpired over the coming few months. The results should not be surprising.

Twitter really bucked the trend over the past few years. While it initially dropped 20% from its $50 first day high, that set off a very powerful rally of almost 100% to $75 before seeing the customary 60% IPO collapse to $30. End result: investors were mostly better off waiting than buying right away.



Facebook had all kinds of problems right out of the gate and you are welcome to search the archives on the blog for my very opinionated view. As you can see, it was almost straight downhill for four months before THE bottom was hit. End result: investors were absolutely better off waiting than buying right away.


LinkedIN is next and similar to Facebook, there was immediate and significant weakness before a good low was seen. End result: It was basically a toss up.


Just like with LinkedIN, Groupon experienced the ole buyer’s remorse right from the start with the first meaningful trough coming about a month later. End result: investors were better off waiting than buying right away.


Yelp bucked the trend somewhat with only a shallow initial pullback, but the stock didn’t escape the carnage as you can over the first three months. End result: investors were better off waiting than buying right away.


Zynga was just like the others with an immediate month long decline to a good trading low. End result: investors were better off buying sooner than later.


Google is below and this is certainly not a social media company like the others. But at the time, it was an incredibly hot IPO. It was also during a very different investing climate back in 2005 with vastly different results. It does not belong in the group above, but I figured I would answer the question before it was asked. End result: investors were rewarded almost immediately.


The moral of the story is that most times, investors are rewarded by having patience with hot IPOs. Personally, I would rather be late and pay up than be early and lose a lot of money.

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Alibaba… No Bubble to Me

With the Fed meeting, press conference and Scotland out of the way, markets turned to Alibaba’s initial public offering (IPO) to close a very busy week last Friday. Looking at possibly a record $20+ billion IPO, the money had to come from somewhere. And judging by tech stocks behavior over the prior week or so, it certainly looked like institutional investors were paring back holdings to pay for Alibaba.

The hugely anticipated IPO priced at $68 and promptly opened at $92.70. You would think the exuberance could be felt across individual investor land, but one poll I saw showed 75% of Americans had no idea what Alibaba even was. In tomorrow’s piece, I will show previous “hot” IPOs and how they fared. I vividly remember pundits calling Facebook and Twitter bubbles in tech, stocks and IPOs. How did those calls work out?

I went out for lunch with a good friend on Friday at a local popular spot. He asked what was new in the investment world, to which I replied “Alibaba!” He said, “Ali what?” My friend said he never heard of the company nor was familiar with this hot offering. This all made me very curious, so I emailed a list of random people I know to ask what they knew about Alibaba. Only 20% knew anything about it. Not a single one knew they were going public today. No one really cared.

Of course, my “research” is anything but scientific or academically meaningful, but it’s very hard for me to buy the notion of a massive bubble in stocks, tech or IPOs when the average person in my universe hasn’t a clue about what is being touted as “bubble’esque” or just like the Dotcom era. When the last tech bubble hit in 1999-2000, I couldn’t go to the gym, the golf course or even the supermarket without someone asking me about a tech stock or giving me a tip.

Today and for the most part over the past few years, on a 9:1 ratio, comments from friends who are not clients fall in the disbelief camp. Most disavow the bull market and some outright hate it. More than likely the haters are also probably sitting on a lot of cash wishing they were invested.

The disavow camp typically asks questions like, “how can the Dow be at 17,000?” or “isn’t this all smoke and mirrors from the Fed?” The bottom line is that it really doesn’t matter. Price is the final arbiter. Disavowing the bull market from 6500 to 17,000 because the Fed is operating in uncharted waters is a poor investing strategy. People forget that after stocks collapsed 89% from 1929 to 1932, they “bounced” more than 400% with the government’s very heavy hand in the mix using “extraordinary measures.”

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Beware of Most Negative Seasonals of the Year

For the past three weeks I have written about the need for a short-term pullback in stocks. I have been and remain positive on the intermediate and long-term view for the stock market. Remember, pullbacks can come by stocks going sideways for a period of time or by price declining enough to entice buyers back in. In the major indices we saw a split pullback with the Dow, S&P 500 and NASDAQ 100 going sideways while the S&P 400 and Russell 2000 declines 2.65% – 3.70%. The former indices are now sitting at fresh highs and the pullback clearly ended this past Monday.

Let me be clear; I remain positive over the intermediate and long-term. However, before you assume that stocks are going to rocket higher from here, which they may, there are still a few hurdles to overcome in the seasonality department. This week, the markets bullishly digested the Fed meeting, Janet Yellen’s news conference and the Scottish vote to leave the United Kingdom.
Alibaba came public on Friday with an article devoted below. Like previous very high profile public offerings with stocks at or close to new highs, the bears came out of the woodwork last week, predicting the perfect end of the bull market on “Baba Day”. While I completely disagree with that assessment, the stock market has entered the most negative seasonal period of the year which sounds a lot worse than it actually is.

From Friday’s up opening through September 30, no other calendar period is as negative historically than right now. But before you jump into that super bear camp, realize than seasonal trends or seasonality are nothing more than a headwind or tailwind. Markets do not reverse course simply because of seasonality. It just helps add a little energy.

Besides the specific calendar challenges, there is also an added negative that follows the September expiration of options and futures which occurred on Friday. That trend shows a headwind most of this week, but particularly earlier in the week. Finally, with stocks rallying into the Fed statement as well as after it, there is another little trend I call the “Fed Hangover” which indicates some very short-term weakness this week.

How is all this research best used? From my seat since I remain positive over the intermediate and long-term, I think it will be very instructive to see how the stock market performs through month end. If stocks can hang in and only see another mild pullback, worst case, that would reinforce the bullish case and set the stage for a run to Dow 18,000 in the fourth quarter.

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Textbook Consolidation Ends

Late last month, I wrote a piece concluding that stocks looked a bit tired at all time highs. Nothing terribly damaging, but they were in need of some rest. Routine, normal and healthy pullbacks can come in different forms. The easiest way for stocks to digest is to decline 2-5% fairly quickly, while another way is to see sideways movement with a slightly downward tilt for a period of weeks.

The Dow Jones, S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 all saw the latter from September 3 through the 15th. The S&P 400 and Russell 2000 saw the former with modest declines of 2.65% and 3.70% respectively. With the Dow, S&P and Nasdaq 100 all hitting fresh highs, it’s very hard to argue that the recent pullback is not over. Action in the S&P 400 and Russell 2000 are definitely cause for concern with the Russell living on bull market life support now.

There have been a number of recent headwinds that will dissipate one by one through month end. Markets interpreted Janet Yellen’s announcement and press conference dovish and hawking depending on who you listen to. Yields on the five year note are up 22% over the past month while the 10 year has risen by 14%, certainly not a dovish anticipation or response. Stocks, however, are up 3%, certainly not hawkish and not only responded positively after 2pm on Fed statement day,  but also followed through the day after. With many more headwinds to overcome by month end, it will be a very bullish sign if stocks can hang in within a few percent of new highs.

With the Fed gone for now, markets are squarely focused on Alibaba’s much ballyhooed IPO set for September 19. It certainly looks like institutional investors have raised the necessary cash to fund the $20+ billion offering by selling tech stocks into the Fed meeting. Additionally, Scots head to the polls to vote on leaving the UK, a move that I believe would catastrophic for their economy.

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Headwinds Abound This Week

Almost all markets finished on a sour note last week and that spilled over to begin the new week. While I have written about stocks needing a short-term breather, I was surprised that treasury bonds could not get a lift as stocks weakened. In fact, both stocks and bonds peaked the same week, but bonds sold off more significantly, something that is unusual.

The major stock market indices certainly look like they want at least a little rally, but the bigger question is will that occur right here or perhaps after the Fed concludes their two day meeting on Wednesday at 2pm. So far, the bulls are trying to mount an attack. Investors are concerned that Yellen & Co. might strike the words “considerable period” from the statement, which would be interpreted as the Fed hiking rates sooner than the 6 months initially described by Ms. Yellen’s at her first foot in mouth chat, also known as her press conference.

Besides tomorrow’s FOMC announcement, the market has also been facing three distinct headwinds this week. First, on a calendar basis, this is a particularly weak time of year through the end of the month. Second, market sentiment into last week had become very bullish, which can signal that investors have much of their money already in the market. Historically though, sentiment impact beyond a few weeks usually requires a catalyst to get the snowball moving downhill.

Finally, the largest initial public offering of all time, Alibaba, comes to market this week. With current pricing indications, it looks like the company will raise roughly $22-24 billion. That money has to come from somewhere and it stands to reason that it’s likely coming from funds using some spare cash and selling current tech holdings.

The rest of the week is going to be action packed, but the bull market remains alive, albeit, a little wounded.

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More Airstrikes Announced… Markets Don’t Care

Last night, President Obama announced an expansion of the campaign against ISIS with targeted airstrikes in Syria. And as we have seen so many times over the past 10 years, the financial markets responded with a big yawn as if to say that, financially, nobody really cares.

Are investors being complacent or realistic?

My theory on geopolitical news is twofold. First, reaction depends on how solid a footing the markets are on. Cherry picking with the benefit of hindsight, in July 2006, for example, Israel and Lebanon were involved in armed conflict. Stocks peaked in early May and sold off roughly 10% to their momentum low in mid June before the fighting ever began. After a feeble market bounce, the news out of the Middle East took a turn for the worse in mid July and stocks sold off again with the strong tailwind of poor market underpinnings. Today, we have many of the major stock market indices close to all time highs on solid but not great footing, very different from a market that is already in decline.

The second way I form an opinion on market impact from geopolitical news is to take a worst case scenario and see what economic impact it might have. If Russia fully invaded Ukraine and then began to march into Belarus or elsewhere, the worst case scenario would be a return to a Soviet Union style dictatorship from a very large and resource rich economy as well as a modern day Cold War with the West. That would likely cause global markets to become unglued for a long period of time.

The worst case in Syria and/or Iraq with airstrikes and even limited group troops does not move the needle for our economy, let alone the global economy. Similar to when Assad used chemical weapons on his own people, certainly a horrific worst case scenario, global markets did not respond negatively for more than a few hours as there was not going to be any impact on the global economy.

From my seat, investors responded appropriately and realistically to the president’s speech last night. Complacency is already in our stock market judging from the extreme level of bullishness in the various sentiment surveys, but sentiment alone does not usually have a direct impact on stocks. There is usually a catalyst first.

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Don’t Fall Asleep

Over the past few weeks I have written that stocks seem “tired” or “in need of a pullback or consolidation.” Remember, stock market digestion can occur two different ways; one by price declining 2-5% or price simply moves sideways for an extended period. Right now, it looks like we are getting the latter as the S&P 500 has essentially gone nowhere for more than two weeks.

While all this boredom was occurring, we had a weak employment report, Russia/Ukraine cease fire signed and broken and QE Europe announced by the ECB, certainly lots of news to get stocks moving in some direction if they were ready. Eventually, the market will begin to move again with some significance and I would not be at all surprised if the first move fakes out the masses.

On the sector front much has changed over the past month when I had lots of trouble finding sectors that looked appealing. Now and maybe even more so in another week, most sectors look attractive in one form or another. While banks and energy are lagging and struggling, almost all other sectors look like they want to resolve higher.

I have spoken a lot about my bullish take on long-term treasuries for most of 2014 given the continued sub par economic growth conditions. Recently, however, bonds have had their issues and may need more weakness before the next rally can take hold.

I am keenly watching gold for signs of reversal and I think the shiny metal is getting closer, but as with bonds, it needs some work on the downside before a big rally begins.

Finally, there is this little company in Cupertino CA with the same name as a popular fruit that is unveiling its 6th iPhone any minute. Will the market care?

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Beware the Ominous September… or not

Each year at this time, we hear the pundits roll out the ominous stats regarding the stock market’s performance for September. “It’s the worst month of the year.” “Be careful.” “Do some selling.”

Those sound an awful lot like “Sell in May and Go Away.”

The thing about compiling market stats is that over decades and decades the averages tend to really smooth out. Additionally, much depends on when you begin and end your study. Further, if you add enough qualifiers to the study, you can make the results give almost any message you want.

Historically, on average over the past 100 years, September has been a weak month with stocks peaking during the first week and selling off to a low in mid October. That’s fact.

Ari Wald of Oppenheimer added a twist to this data. He found that when the S&P 500 was above its 200 day moving average (long-term trend) to begin the month, stocks closed higher by roughly 0.40% versus a loss of 2.70% when price was below its 200 day moving average. For what it’s worth, the S&P 500 closed August well above its long-term trend.

What’s my take as we head into the final month of the third quarter?

As I wrote here last week, stocks look a bit tired and in need of some rest. That rest could come in the form of price declining 2-4% or enter a small trading to refresh.

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