Tag Archives: MSFT

The Biggest Stock Bubble In U.S. History

Please note, many will argue that the p/e ratio on the S&P 500 was higher in 1999 than it is now. However, there’s two problems with the comparison. First, when there is no “e,” price does not matter. Many of the tech stocks in the SPX in 1999 did not have any earnings and never had a chance to produce earnings because many of them went out of business. However – and I’ve been saying this for quite some time and I’m finally seeing a few others make the same assertion – if you adjust the current earnings of the companies in SPX using the GAAP accounting standards in force in 1999, the current earnings in aggregate would likely be cut at least in half. And thus, the current p/e ratio expressed in 1999 earnings terms likely would be at least as high as the p/e ratio in 1999, if not higher. (Changes to GAAP have made it easier for companies to create non-cash earnings, reclassify and capitalize expenses, stretch out depreciation and pension funding costs, etc).

We talk about the tech bubble that fomented in the late 1990’s that resulted in an 85% (roughly) decline on the NASDAQ. Currently the five highest valued stocks by market cap are tech stocks: AAPL, GOOG, MSFT, AMZN and FB. Combined, these five stocks make-up nearly 10% of the total value of the entire stock market.

Money from the public poured into ETFs at record pace in February. The majority of it into S&P 500 ETFs which then have to put that money proportionately by market value into each of the S&P 500 stocks.   Thus when cash pours into SPX funds like this, a large rise in the the top five stocks by market cap listed above becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The price rise in these stocks has nothing remotely to do with fundamentals. Take Microsoft, for example (MSFT). Last Friday the pom-poms were waving on Fox Business because MSFT hit an all-time high. This is in spite of the fact that MSFT’s revenues dropped 8.8% from 2015 to 2016 and its gross margin plunged 13.2%. So much for fundamentals.

In addition to the onslaught of retail cash moving blindly into stocks, margin debt on the NYSE hit an all-time high in February. Both the cash flow and margin debt statistics are flashing a big red warning signal, as this only occurs when the public becomes blind to risk and and bet that stocks can only go up. As I’ve said before, this is by far the most dangerous stock market in my professional lifetime (32 years, not including my high years spent reading my father’s Wall Street Journal everyday and playing penny stocks).

Perhaps the loudest bell ringing and signaling a top is the market’s valuation of Tesla.  On Monday the market cap of Tesla ($49 billion) surpassed Ford’s market cap  ($45 billion) despite the fact that Tesla deliver 79 thousand cars in 2016 while Ford delivered 2.6 million.    “Electric Jeff” (as a good friend of mine calls Elon Musk, in reference to Jeff Bezos) was on Twitter Monday taunting short sellers.  At best his behavior can be called “gauche.”   Musk, similar to Bezos, is a masterful stock operator.   Jordan Belfort (the “Wolf of Wall Street”) was a small-time dime store thief compared to Musk and Bezos.

Tesla has never made money and never will make money.  Next to Amazon, it’s the biggest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history.  Without the massive tax credits given to the first 200,000 buyers of Tesla vehicles,  the Company would likely be out of business by now.

Once again the public has been seduced into throwing money blindly at anything that moves in the stock market, chasing dreams of risk-free wealth.  99% of them will never take money off the table and will lose everything when this bubble bursts.  And only the biggest stock bubble in history is capable of enabling operators like Musk and Bezos to reap extraordinary wealth at the expense of the public.   The bell is ringing, perhaps Musk unwittingly rang it on Monday with hubris.  The only question that remains pertains to timing…

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Microsoft’s Acquisition Of Linked-In Is Beyond Idiotic

I will say right off the bat that Microsoft’s stock is now one of my favorite short-sell candidates.  This is the 2000 tech bubble on steroids.  MSFT itself is extremely overvalued given that its revenues are down over 7% on a trailing twelve month basis compared to its FY 2015 ended June 30th.   Its net income is down 16% on the same comparison basis.   MSFT itself trades at a 38x trailing p/e with declining revenues and income.  It trades at 4.7x sales and 5.4x book value.

It’s been issuing debt like the U.S. Government in order to buy back shares, with its debt load increasing nearly 50%  since September, from $27 billion to over $40 billion.  Since June 2013, MSFT’s debt load is up 333% (from $12 billion).

MSFT’s valuation is in and of itself is insane given it’s debt-addled balance sheet and deteriorating business model.  Microsoft Windows 8 was a total abortion and Windows 10 is not much better.  Anyone with two brain cells to rub together uses the bare bones Windows 7 and the freeware Linux-based Microsoft surrogate software, which can can be downloaded for  free (or a gratis donation) and is superior to MSFT’s crap (see OpenOffice.org, for instance).

Now Microsoft has decided to layer nuclear waste on top of its own toxicity by acquiring Linked-In for over $26 billion.   This is a tragic, if not catastrophic, use of shareholder cash. Here’s LNKD’s net income history:  It reported GAAP net income going from $11.9 million in 2011 to $26.7 million in 2013.  Then it decided to use the Silicon Valley private equity unicorn stock valuation model and spend as much money on “R&D” as possible in order to generate losses.  And it has generated massive losses:  in 2014 it reported a $15.7 million loss. This ballooned to a $164 million loss in its FY 2015.  On a TTM basis, LNKD’s net income has plunged to nearly a $170 million loss.

And MSFT is paying for what?  This is from MSFT’s press release announcing the tragedy:

  • 19 percent growth year over year (YOY) to more than 433 million members worldwide
  • 9 percent growth YOY to more than 105 million unique visiting members per month
  • 49 percent growth YOY to 60 percent mobile usage
  • 34 percent growth YOY to more than 45 billion quarterly member page views
  • 101 percent growth YOY to more than 7 million active job listings   (LINK)

Anyone see ANY mention of those attributes generating any revenue, cash flow or operating income?   Remember when Maria Bartiromo and Joe Kernan used to crow about “clicks and eyeballs” to justify multi-billion market caps for internet businesses with nary a business model?  That’s what this acquisition is all over again.

MSFT on the surface is paying:  5.4x sales, 4x book value, 4.8x enterprise value (market cap + debt) AND 58x enterprise value to EBITDA.    Wait, anyone notice there’s no implied p/e ratio?  That’s because there’s no “e.”  But of course Wall Street has stuck a hockey stick net income forecast for FY 2017, so the implied “forward” p/e is 45x.

Microsoft’s acquisition of LNKD is about as idiotic as it would be to try and convince someone that the sun rises in the west and sets in east.   If anything, this deal is emblematic of an American systemic Ponzi scheme that has gone “off the rails.”

Linked-In is nothing more than a glorified jobs networking bulletin board.  Sure, as the system continues to unravel and more “business services” people lose their jobs, there might be a big jump in “clicks and eyeballs” on Linked-In.  But this will be out of desperation trying to find anyone on the Linked-In board who might offer a ray of hope for employment.  But no one will spend their unemployment check on LNKD’s idiotic premium services.   That will be money much better spent on whiskey and weed, which is exactly what MSFT’s upper management and board of directors must be ingesting to have come up with this idea.   MSFT is my lowest risk short-sell idea of the year.

The best part is that Jim Cramer is pounding the table hard with bullish commentary about this deal.   This makes the idea of shorting MSFT a slam-dunk.  It reminds me of his bullish call on Bear Stearns before Bear collapsed.

If you like this analysis, you might benefit from my Short Seller’s Journal.  Every week is present what I believe to be somewhat unique market insight, a minimum of two short-sell ideas, recommendations for using options and capital/trade management strategies.   My picks greatly outperformed the S&P 500 when the market dropped from early January to mid-February.  You can access the SSJ using this link:   Short Seller’s Journal.