The leading solar panel manufacturer, FirstSolar (NASDAQ: FSLR) has appreciated by 45% from lows of near $100 to a closing price of $154 on October 14. "I wouldn't be stepping into buying these stocks right now," says Pacific Crest senior analyst Mark Bachman, who covers solar stocks. Still, he rates FirstSolar as a market perform and considers it the best solar stock at present on his coverage list.
After a nifty rebound off a 52-week low of $5.73, industrial and financial services giant General Electric (NYSE: GE) is in a weird place. The company's shares are trading at around $11.75, which is well below the $15 levels achieved in early May. This would seem odd as GE appears to be well positioned for the Green Shoots Scenario. The company has a big presence in alternative energy, health care solutions, and industrial products -- all big beneficiaries of both the Obama stimulus package and a nascent economic rebound.
So why does the market seem to be scared of GE? A couple of key reasons. First, GE's investments in commercial real estate (CRE) are looking increasingly toxic as the rate of CRE failures soars and CRE debt remains difficult to roll over.
It was easy to discount a company dedicated to selling high-end groceries in the midst of a terrible global downturn. And Whole Foods (NASDAQ: WFMI) has indeed suffered from investor fears. Shares of the company fell from year-ago levels of about $22 per share to lows of near $8 per share in the dark days of December 2008. They have since rebounded to the $22 level on green shoots speculation. On Monday, however, they tumbled again to $18.80. Is it time to buy?
That's a tricky question. First, the positives. Whole Foods is a well-managed grocery chain. It has been extremely disciplined in its expansion push, choosing good locations. It has also overcome relatively low revenues per employee by posting higher margins on items and much higher average cash register rings.
On June 23, the CEO of the world's largest dry bulk cargo shipping company warned that he actually sees a decline in shipping volumes. That's very bad news for the bullish global trade argument and a smack to the head of the Green Shoots Brigade. Dry bulk cargo is how the world ships coal, steel, and other raw materials. The Baltic Dry Index -- the daily average of prices paid to ship these materials -- has long been a key leading indicator of industrial production. And after a spectacular triple digit run, the Baltic Dry Index rolled over this week and headed steeply downwards.
Nike (NYSE: NKE) has thus far navigated this downturn exquisitely. It has maintained sales overseas, in particular in Asia. Nike's legendary supply-chain mastery and inventory management skills have likewise served it very well. So it was a shock when the shoe giant announced Wednesday that future orders had dropped by 12%, according to Bloomberg. Bummed out investors bid down Nike share's by nearly 5% in after-hours trading.
Granted, Nike faced difficult comps. During the Beijing Olympic Games last summer Nike togs were selling like hotcakes around the globe. And a chunk of the reduction in order value came due to currency fluctuations. But it's hard to deny that this quarterly earnings announcement was a bleak reminder that the "green shoots" may be more of a Washington creation than a reality in the global economy.
Markets were mixed and downish Tuesday, but there was some good news to be found.
Housing starts and building permits soared, causing a big pop in shares to battered homebuilders. Whether this is a false start or a real jump, its hard to get anything but good news out of a housing market so beaten down.
On the industrial side, the Produce Price Index remained relatively stable, walking the narrow path between two evils -- deflation and inflation.
Higher chargeoffs and retracting credit means further consumer spending retraction. A semi-annual survey by Collier Capital found that 20% of institutional investors plan to downsize their target allocation to private equity, (via PEHub) the largest negative response since the survey started in 2004. An article by two Harvard University economists found that the biggest reason for the growing income inequality is lagging educational improvement in the American workforce (via VoxEU). There is no quick fix for this so its fairly bad news (although better than blaming the inequality on globalization and some neo-capitalist cabal).
Alex Salkever is Director of Research at Piqqem.com, a stock analysis site powered by the Wisdom of Crowds.
A bit of good news to go with the bad. New unemployment claims are down in the past few months, with the moving average for monthly claims dropping to just over 600,000, about 37,000 below the all-time high reached in the early spring of 2009. That doesn't mean they aren't high, but at least we're not in a screaming nosedive.
For the first time in 10 months, the International Energy Association raised its oil demand forecast. That helped send oil prices higher, true, but it also is a clear sign that the global industrial production machine has bottomed and could reverse in the near term, if it has not already done so.
A report out of Harvard University shows that income inequality in the U.S. that has ballooned since the 1970s is the result of an gap in educational attainment by U.S. children and workers. Prior to that period, children were almost always better educated than their parents. No longer. And fixing this one is going to be tough as the general cultural perception still holds that professional degrees are more important than pure scientific degrees. Lastly, as oil continues to rise, concerns are surfacing that high oil prices could halt the recovery or at least slow down the rebound.
Alex Salkever is the Director of Research at Piqqem.com, a stock prediction community powered by the Wisdom of Crowds
That the politicians are getting involved in operational decisions is clear evidence of the impending doom for the large auto companies. It's hard enough to exit bankruptcy and restart a business. It's far harder to do so while carrying political agendas on your back.
Meanwhile, what's good for General Mills (NYS: GIS) is good for America and the cereal maker upped guidance, implying a bottom in consumer staples and that, at the very least, cutbacks in purchases of essentials reported in the latest spending numbers are overblown.
Alex Salkever is the Director of Research at Piqqem.com, a stock prediction and analysis community powered by the Wisdom of Crowds.
To counterbalance all the green shoots talk, take a walk on the dark side.
Exhibit 1: Chain store sales declined 5% in May, a significant decline that did exclude giant Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT). Guess Joe Consumer still doesn't feel up to shopping much. And Wal-Mart said it will stop reporting monthly sales figures, something that many economists and investors find troubling because that will mean they are losing a key indicator on consumer spending.
A logical handle would have been @GS, same as its ticker symbol, but some dude name Gary grabbed the @GS twitter handle. He's got less than 10 followers right now. What might be a possible business opportunity for Gary, is a Fail Whale for the Goldman Sachs brain trust.