Many media outlets love to publish stories about bargain stocks (us included). However, there is a group of shares being pushed as a “great value” that are definitely not such, at least according to UBS. The bank says that the wide group of retail shares that have been mauled lately, including Macy’s, JC Penney, Kohl’s, TJ Maxx, and Ross are not a good value. These stocks have been hurt badly because of weak earnings and the general decline in brick and mortar, which falsely lead some to think they are a “buy”. “We think ongoing e-commerce disruption, plus tariffs, could cause not only these, but also many other public and private retailers to close stores in 2020 and beyond” says UBS, clearly showing that they don’t think the industry is out of the woods yet.
FINSUM: Retail has some juicy yields, but you really have to understand each stocks’ specific characteristics to know which ones to choose. This is an expert’s game. The cheat sheet is to lean towards discount retailers.
The economy has been in a rough patch for about a year, with major economies and emerging markets all slowing. But things may be poised to turn around. Markets have gotten very excited about the prospect for an upturn after the IMF said it expects 2020 to be better than 2019. One economist from Macquarie summarized sentiment this way, saying “As 2019 draws to a close, the market is pricing in economic recovery, with equities in the US hitting new highs and long yields well off the recent lows”. Global trade is now stabilizing, which begs the question as to whether the economy has already weathered the worst of the storm.
FINSUM: When it comes to the economy, things are very hard to forecast, but on balance the situation is looking better than worse.
It is not going to be a huge crash, but Morgan Stanley thinks US stocks will struggle in 2020. The bank thinks the US is clearly “late-cycle” and that its growth will wane from 2.3% to 1.8% next year. It believes the Dollar will weaken and stocks will struggle. The bank thinks most of the benefits of the Fed’s rate cuts have already been priced into the market. “In 2020, the economy will grow more slowly as the bulk of the positive lift from lower interest rates will have been absorbed and households balance higher income with higher prices from tariff”, says Morgan Stanley. The bank says emerging markets are likely to outperform.
FINSUM: Of all the forecasts we have seen lately, this one seems the most realistic. We don’t see a big bust coming, but a plateau seems very believable.
Hedge fund icon Ray Dalio delivered a grim speech yesterday at a gala dinner for the National Committee on US-China Relations. The investor is worried about war in all it forms. He said that “There is a trade war, there is a technology war, there is a geopolitical war, and there could be a capital war”. Famed former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger also spoke at the event and told both sides that they must avoid a shooting war at all costs, as no side can win.
FINSUM: Everyone on both sides will hopefully be somewhat relieved if a “phase one” trade deal can be reached.
Retail is dying, right? Brick and mortar is doomed, supposedly, but that assumption creates some opportunity. The reality is that despite the broader headwinds the industry is facing, some malls and some REITs are doing well. Macerich, for instance, is a large REIT that owns several “trophy” malls amidst its 47 properties. The stock is trading at just 7x earnings, which incredibly cheap for a REIT. Apartment REITs, for instance, are trading at 20x. Its dividend cover ratio is fairly tight, but its overall model looks solid and it is yielding 10.9%.
FINSUM: There is a lot of opportunity in retail stocks, but you need to know where to look, and it takes quite an understanding of the space to sift through the options. Macerich looks solid.