Tuesday, March 17, 2009

When Bad News is Good News and Vice-a-Versa

The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. In addition to the term helicopter economics, we have also coined the term, helicopternomics, to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government and to update the old-fashioned term wheelbarrow economics.

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The U.S. government claims that construction on new homes and apartments jumped 22% in January. Why not 222% or 2222% or the future inflation rate of 222,222%? If you are going to publish fantastic figures you might as well go for some big splashy number that indicates every existing house in the U.S. had its land subdivided and an extra house was built on it. Well, maybe people wouldn't believe that one (although the mainstream media would publish it as if it were true). Somewhat more realistic is the PPI report released today which indicates February wholesale prices went up 0.1% after a 0.8% rise in January. Dropping oil prices are still lowering the numbers, although even with much cheaper oil, the coming big deflation that the media reported all last fall and this winter has yet to show up. Oil prices have already begun inching back up and even the highly manipulated government figures are likely to soon be showing that inflation is rising again.

Oil acted quite bullish yesterday. Even though OPEC refused to cut it production quotas at its Sunday meeting, oil prices were essentially unaffected. While oil went down about 3% in Asian trading after the meeting, it recovered its losses by the close in New York. Nymex light sweet crude is trading at 47.50 a barrel as I write this, almost as high as its gotten since the double bottom made in the high 33's on February 18th. When an investment doesn't go down on what should be bearish news, what will make it go down? The market is telling you that the selling is done (this works quite well for analyst downgrades by the way, if a stock goes up on a downgrade there are no sellers left). DXO, which New York Investing said was a good purchase on the evening of February 17th is hitting its highest high since that date today.

Sometimes assets do indeed go down on bad news, but don't hit new lows. This is also bullish. You should be watching Alcoa (AA), which had horrendous news yesterday. While the dividend cut was expected by any rational person, the issuing of new stock and convertibles is dilutive for current shareholders. AA's yearly low was 4.97 reached on March 6th and it has not been breached yet in today's trading with the low so far being 5.37. AA is not the first metal stock to cut its dividend, reduce capital spending, etc., etc. Freeport McMoran Copper and Gold (FCX) did so last December 3rd and the stock bottomed 2 days later at 15.70. It has gotten over 38.00 since then. When really bad news comes out, you need to ask yourself what else could happen. If there is nothing worse, how can the investment go down further? Unlike FCX, AA does have one additional risk and that is it could be thrown out of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

The stock market is filled with beaten down stocks at the moment. To find the real bargains you need to determine if the company will still be in business tomorrow. In some cases, the answer to that is no (think financials and anything related to them). In others like FCX, which is the lowest cost copper producer in the world, the demise of the company would mean the disappearance of an entire essential industry. If the industry isn't going to disappear, the lowest cost producer will still be around. You should find out who these companies are for every commodity.

NEXT: What Happened to Deflation?

Daryl Montgomery
Organizer,New York Investing meetup

This posting is editorial opinion. Like all other postings for this blog, there is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.

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