When holidays break up the market week, a lot of investors simply check out until developments get more interesting. This was not one of those weeks. In the wake of an epochal Federal Reserve meeting and a make-or-break thaw on trade talks, nobody wanted to get trapped on the sidelines while all the fun was happening on Wall Street.
The S&P 500 is now not only breaking records on a regular basis but nudging toward the psychologically important 3,000-point line we suspected it could conquer before trade policy clouded the picture. The Nasdaq is back above 8,000 and even the rarefied Dow industrials, hamstrung by setbacks for many of its bellwether constituents, looks set to crack 27,000 for the first time in history.
As this past week demonstrates, investors have a right to be thrilled. BMR recommendations climbed 2.3%, eclipsing all the major indices as stocks on our list that once looked a little tired got a second wind.
With the exception of our most defensive Healthcare and High Yield portfolios, just about every major segment of the BMR universe beat the market. The core Stocks For Success group gained 3.0% and Technology jumped 3.4%, but even when you get down to the volatile Aggressive portfolio most of our names are in the money and ahead of the game.
We also got outside confirmation of that outperformance this week. First, our submission to this year’s MoneyShow Top Stock Picks competition did better than any of the other 100 participating market watchers put forward. Yes, we gave them Roku (ROKU: $98, up 8% this week), which has climbed so fast that we’re once again approaching triple-the-money returns there since 14 months ago when we added it, and we came out #1 in the competition! We still love this stock. It’s hard not to, when it’s up another 22% since the MoneyShow numbers were compiled at the end of June.
But victory is not just about one stock. Counting dividends, our active universe is up 35% YTD, which is great even by our standards. For comparison, the S&P 500 is up 19% over the same period and is in the throes of its biggest rally since 1997. However, in a year when only two mutual fund managers on prestigious lists scored even 3 percentage points better than we did, it’s nice to see that we’re not only delivering absolute numbers but staying far ahead of the pack.
In this position, our strategy revolves around expanding the lead and resisting the urge to change what clearly isn’t broken. Our recommendations are working. The ones that fizzled are gone, replaced with the most attractive stocks the market gives us in the present. As the economy shifts, we’ll shift with it. For now, no course correction is required.
Earnings are coming. The trade situation has stopped escalating to the downside. Everyone hopes the Fed will cut interest rates at the end of the month, especially after Friday’s unemployment number came in a little higher than expected. Jay Powell will give us some hints in his Congressional testimony later this week. And our companies are still racking up cash a lot faster than the market as a whole.
There’s always a bull market here at The Bull Market Report! The Big Picture takes advantage of the last lull before earnings season (our Previews start next week, which only subscribers get) and then it's good to check in on one of our biggest and steadiest stocks.
Key Market Measures (Friday’s Close)
BMR Companies and Commentary
The Big Picture: Get Ahead Of The Earnings Crush
It happens every 90 days with the big Banks officially starting the 2Q19 earnings season. We’ll see this next Monday, which means this is the last Bull Market Report before the flow of Previews and Reviews starts up again next week. As such, we have an opening here to provide a few strategic notes that will apply throughout the cycle.
First, in terms of timing, you can expect our season to start relatively calmly with Johnson & Johnson the morning of July 16 followed fast by Netflix (NFLX: $381, up 4%), The Blackstone Group (BX: $47, up 6%) and mighty Microsoft (MSFT: $137, up 2%). Every one of them will go a long way toward setting the tone for the market as a whole to follow, with the Technology names likely to grab more than their share of headlines. We’ll say more about them all in the days leading up to their numbers.
The real fun starts the week after, when almost 25% of our recommendations that report quarterly results are on the calendar, and then we wrap up July with a surge of 20 BMR companies crowded into a five-day period. After that, the flow tapers down fast. While we’ll keep reading 10-Q filings through early September, they’ll be more about weighing stock-specific nuances than figuring out the broad strokes.
For us, the broad strokes will be in place after July 30 with numbers from Apple (AAPL: $204, up 3%). Three weeks from now, we’ll have a pretty good sense of how our entire universe did last quarter and the business conditions their management teams see ahead. From there, we can extrapolate most of what’s going on elsewhere and then, if the numbers are as good as we expect, we’ll have 10 weeks to ride the wave.
That’s what every earnings season is all about. The day the 10-Q gets filed, we have absolute certainty on how well the company did in the trailing period. When our projections deviate from that reality, we adjust, and when that revised outlook changes investors’ sense of what the company is worth, the stock goes up or down in response.
But then the quarterly clock starts ticking again. The farther from that moment of 10-Q clarity we are, the more room Wall Street’s targets get to drift away from corporate reality. Eventually that drift reaches the point of maximum uncertainty and investors are more likely than ever to miss crucial clues that can sink or surge the stock.
We prefer to get most of our uncertainty out of the way as early in the cycle as we can. That way, we know what’s going on inside our stocks before other investors figure it out. If we need to raise our Targets or pivot out of a stock that’s finally hit a cash flow wall, we can do it while Wall Street is still off balance and under a cloud of suspense. And the market’s map of the new quarter’s winners fills in, we’re in a better position to make the first moves.
A few weeks from now, we’ll know which moves (if any) to make. For now, we already recommend all the stocks we can’t resist. There isn’t a lot of sizzle out there that isn’t already in the BMR portfolios. The market as a whole is still looking at 2% earnings deterioration this quarter, with growth not coming back until the end of the year. The BMR universe, on the other hand, remains on track to deliver 3% growth.
Our earnings targets have actually come up a little over the last three months. Despite all the noise distracting Wall Street since April, the signal is brighter than ever. Remember, most of our stocks have nothing to do with China. And they’re expanding sales fast enough to fight rising labor costs and other pressures on the bottom line. We’re in the hot spots. As they demonstrate that heat over the next few weeks, it’s likely that other investors will start jumping to our end of the market instead of the other way around.
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ: $141, up 1%)
Aside from being an industry Blue Chip, this is one of the most dependable companies in existence – one of only two companies with a AAA credit rating (the other is Microsoft, another BMR pick). For reference, the United States government has a AA+ rating, so Johnson & Johnson is actually more creditworthy than the federal government.
J&J is a truly diversified Healthcare company, with a major Pharma presence. The company has a strong pipeline of drugs, with the FDA’s recent approval of Darzalex in combination with a Celgene drug for multiple myeloma patients adding another potential large revenue driver. Darzalex is already a blockbuster drug ($2 billion in sales last year), and now it can expand its market share (experts are predicting as much as $3 billion in revenue for 2019).
On top of that, the company announced plans for a Drazalex follow-up by partnering with Genmab (whom they partnered with on Darzalex) to create Hexabody-CD38. The beauty of the deal is Genmab will spend the upfront time and resources to prove that Hexabody has market potential, and only then will Johnson & Johnson decide whether to license the product. Thus there is limited downside here for J&J, and the company could land yet another multiple myeloma blockbuster like Darzalex.
The 1Q19 numbers were just okay, with U.S. sales up 2% YoY to $10 billion, while international sales fell 2% to $10 billion. The $20 billion in revenue per quarter has remained steady throughout the year, and illustrates just how consistent and dependable J&J is. With a $370 billion market cap in the Healthcare space, we’re not looking for massive growth here, just safe, consistent performance.
BMR Take: The stock is up 10% YTD, and the dividend of 2.7% is one of the most bankable in existence. That’s important given the overall market volatility. Remember, Healthcare is a defensive sector that’s primed to outperform during market downturns. Right now though, we’re looking at slow and steady growth for J&J, which is exactly what we expect. This is one of the few companies we would not sell here at BMR.
NOTE: In our weekly paid subscription Newsletter, we do between 5 and 7 SnapShots and also support regular Research Reports. The last three stocks we recommended are already up 5% apiece. Plus, we have the Weekly High Yield Investor, whereby we discuss the 17 stocks in our High Yield and REIT Portfolios.
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