Tuesday, April 7, 2009

How to Handle Earnings Season

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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Earnings season officially begins today with Alcoa's earnings after the bell. While some company earnings are released every day, there is a huge bulge of announcements in the two weeks following the 7th of the month at the beginning of a quarter. Dow component Alcoa kicks off this period. While earnings are likely to be almost universally bad this doesn't mean that stock prices will go down. They may indeed go up.

Everything is relative on Wall Street. Any information that is known or suspected has already been incorporated in the price of a stock. Since the market overall fell from October 2007 to March 2009, a lot of bad news is reflected in current stock prices. So much so that anything short of a declaration of bankruptcy will be bullish for some stocks. The mainstream media will not emphasize this however and as it is doing today will write articles how earnings will be bad for last quarter. Since this is already known, your reaction should be that everyone already knows that so why are you wasting my time telling me about it. Only if earnings are worse than expected are they likely to be negative for stock prices (for more than a day or so).

If you are holding company stocks like Alcoa (AA), you have two choices. You can sell before the earnings announcement and buy back after or just hold through it. This decision isn't always clear cut. Having bought AA just off the bottom and having a nice profit it in in just a short time, I chose to sell it with the intention of buying it back. The market has had a sharp up move in the last 3 weeks and it vulnerable to a drop this week in general, so AA's earnings are coming out during a period of weakness. The market reacted quite negatively (at least for a short time) to Chalco's (the Chinese Aluminum company) earnings and negative description to the aluminum industry several days ago, so it is not unreasonable to assume a short negative reaction for Alcoa as well. Of course, Alcoa could surprise on the upside, it which case I would wait a few days for a pull back to buy it.

In general, I am still looking to buy beaten down stocks in a some commodity sectors (not copper since is has rallied since last fall, I also sold my FCX holding recently) and a technology stock here or there and will view a drop on earnings as an opportunity to get a good price. The market is filled with under priced bargains at the moment (some stocks are even selling for less than their yearly cash flow). You should look at anything that will do well in a high inflation environment and avoid the financial sector, where a low price these days usually indicates cheap goods as opposed to a bargain. It is important to know the difference.

NEXT: The News is Bad ... Time to Buy

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.

1 comment:

AMIT said...

Good details given on earnings season.