Tag Archives: Target

Stocks Down Because Of Trump? Plus Target’s Earnings Trick

The by-line on Fox Business this a.m. was that stocks were down because of “DC grid-lock.” Is this some kind of joke? How about stocks are down because they are more overvalued than at anytime in history by every single financial metric except the highly manipulated GAAP accounting net income calculations.

Speaking of which, the entire financial reporting apparatus has become one of the biggest jokes – if not an outright fraud – in financial markets history (with all due respect to the Ponzi scheme’s currently in operation at Amazon and Tesla). Target’s earnings report this morning is the perfect example.

Target’s stock “pop” was being attributed by the cable tv financial “reporters” to the fact Target’s sales and earnings per share “beat” Wall Street estimates. That’s not hard to do because the highly exalted “beat” is a rigged game played by company management and Wall Street, as management slowly “guides” Wall Street’s penguins into a series of reduced “estimates” leading up to the earnings release. By the time the results are reported, the earnings bar is low enough for a paraplegic to “jump” over.

The financial tv sock-puppets were reporting that Target’s sales had increased. Well, maybe vs. “guidance” but unfortunately none of these faux-reporters bothered to look at Target’s actual earnings report. There we find that Target’s sales declined year over year by 1.1%.  Gross profit dropped 2.5%, which means Target likely engaged in predatory price-cutting to stimulate its online sales vs. Amazon.

Targets earnings before interest and taxes – its EBIT – plunged 10.2%.   Provision for taxes increased quarter over quarter by $74 million, or 26%.  So how did Target “beat” earnings?

Target’s “interest expense” using GAAP accounting manipulation declined by $271 million, or 65%.   This is despite the fact that TGT’s debt level increased by $55 million year over year for Q1. What gives?  Anyone who bothered to read TGT’s earnings release after seeing the headline report, likely nobody except me, would find this disclosure:

The Company’s first quarter 2017 net interest expense was $144 million, compared with $415 million last year. This decrease was driven almost entirely by a $261 million charge related to the early retirement of debt in first quarter 2016.

Target refinanced debt in Q1 2016 and paid a premium to the par (book) value of the debt. This was added in to Target’s interest expense in Q1 2016. It was a one-time charge that could have just as easily been stripped away and disclosed as a “non-recurring loss” in order to keep the income statements comparable for comparison purposes. Adding the $261 million non-operating GAAP charge back into the Q1 2016 EBIT boosts TGT’s earnings before taxes that quarter to $1.158 billion. In Q1 2017 TGT’s earnings before taxes was $1.034 billion. As you can see, TGT’s “apples to apples” earnings before taxes declined by $124 million. From there Targets net income and earnings per share on the true “adjusted-GAAP” basis would show a decline, not a gain.

This type of earnings gamesmanship that goes on between corporate America, Wall Street and the zombified sock-puppet financial “reporters” is endemic to the giant U.S. Ponzi Scheme.  Using earnings “sleight of hand” and allowable GAAP accounting earnings management gimmicks, Target was able to transform deteriorating revenues and economic profitability into something that is being touted in the fast-food financial reporting machinery as “an earnings POP.”   Bad news was converted into good news and Target’s stock jumped 4.4% at the open today despite a 1.1% drop in the S&P 500.

This is the type of financial analysis that you will find in the Short Seller’s Journal and it’s why subscribers were able ride Sears (SHLD) from $11.92 to $7.89 in 5 weeks and KATE from $23.67 to $17 in 8 weeks.  You can find out more about this unique subscription service here:   Short Seller’s Journal.

You can’t throw darts at the market and win every time just yet. At some point everything will no doubt head south, but for now its great having your analysis to pick the ones with best chance. In all honesty mate, the recommendation I am most looking forward to in the SSJ and the MSJ is what bar we all meet at in a couple of years time for some celebratory brewskis. – subscriber “James” from the UK

Retailing Is Bad And About To Get Worse

Americans are filing for bankruptcy at the fastest rate in several years. In January 2017, 55,421 individuals filed bankruptcy. That’s a 5.4% increase over January 2016. In December 2016, 4.5% more individual bankruptcies were filed than in December 2015. It’s the first time in 7 years that personal bankruptcies have risen in successive months on a year over year basis.

Also notable, in 2016 the number of U.S. Corporate bankruptcies jumped by 26% over 2015. U.S. Corporations have issued $9.5 trillion in bonds. That’s 61% more than they borrowed in the eight years leading up to the 2008 de facto financial system collapse (aka “the great financial crisis”).

The Financial Times reported that over 1 million U.S. consumers – prime and subprime – were behind on their car loans and that the overall delinquency rate had reached its highest level since 2009. The FT also stated that “lending to consumers with weak credit scores has been one of the fastest growing parts of the [banking] industry.” It’s starting to smell like early 2008 out there.

This is information and data that you will not hear on any of the “Bubblevision” financial “news” programs or read in the mainstream financial media. It’s also information that is not being factored at all by stock prices.

Americans are bulging from the eyeballs with mortgage, auto, credit card and student loan debt. The amount of outstanding auto debt hits a new record every month. Of the $1.2 trillion in auto loans outstanding, over 30% is considered subprime. In fact, I would bet good money that the number is closer to 40%, as the same type of non-documentation loans that infected the mortgage market in mid-2000’s has invaded the auto loan market. It was recently disclosed that the 61+ day delinquency rate on General Motors’ securitized subprime loans has soared to levels not seen since 2009.

To put the amount of subprime auto debt in context, assume 35% of total auto debt outstanding is now below prime (subprime and “not rated”). This equates to $420 billion of below prime debt. The total amount of below prime mortgage debt during the mid-2000’s housing bubble was about $600 billion. In other words, the subprime auto debt problem could easily precipitate another financial markets catastrophe.

Although the retail sales report for January earlier this month purported to show a 4.9% year/year increase in retail for January, the majority of the “gain” came from the rising price of gasoline during the month (the gasoline sales category showed a 13.9% gain over January 2016, most of which can be explained by higher prices). In fact, the .4% “gain” from December 2016 to January 2017 reported for the overall retail sales number lagged the Government’s measure of inflation. Real, inflation-adjusted sales from December to January declined by 0.20%. (Note also that the retail sales report is derived largely from Census Bureau “guesstimates” due to the supposed unavailability of real-time data. This explains why typically previous reports are revised lower – I detail this in my weekly Short Seller’s Journal).

Debt-squeezed Americans are spending less on discretionary items, especially clothing. This is why Walmart has launched a new price-war agenda aimed at the grocery industry, big-box retailers and Amazon.com.    The retail spending “pie” is shrinking and Walmart intends to do fight hard to maintain the size of its piece.  For all the attention focused on Amazon, Walmart’s annual revenues are nearly 4-times larger than Amazon’s.   And make no mistake, Walmart has plenty of room to fight, as its operating margin is nearly double AMZN’s – and that’s before we adjust AMZN’s highly misleading accounting, which would reduce AMZN’s margins.

Despite the Dow hitting new all-time highs for a record number of days in a row, The S&P retail ETF, XRT, is currently 10.4% below its 52-week high.   It’s 15% below its all-time high, which it hit in mid-July 2015:

Target (TGT) is today’s poster-child for the retail sector, as its Q4 earnings missed expectations badly and it warned for 2017.  Its quarterly revenues dropped 4.3% year over year and its full-year 2016 earnings fell nearly 6% vs. 2015.   Operating earnings were crushed, down 42.2% in Q4 2016 vs. Q4 2015.  The stock is down over 11% right now (mid-morning trading on Tuesday).

I would also suggest that the revised GDP  for Q4, reported to be 1.9%, is derived from Government statisticians’ manipulation because most of the gain is attributed to consumer spending.  Tell that to holders of XRT and RTH.

The economy is sinking further into a recession despite the propaganda coming from Wall Street, financial bubblevision “meat with mouths” and the mainstream media.  Real median household income continues to decline and the Fed/Government intervention in the stock market is helpless to prevent this fact from being reflected in many sub-sectors of the stock market “hiding” beneath the headline-grabbing Dow and S&P 500.

My Short Seller’s Journal presents analysis like this to subscribers every week.  There’s a big difference between what gets reported and what is really going on.  My journal looks “under the hood” of the headline economic reports in order detail what’s really going in in the economy.  Most of the analysis and assertions are backed up with actual data.  I also “de-construct” the game of “beat the earnings” which makes headlines and stocks pop, but also creates short-sell opportunities.  Each issue presents at least two short ideas, along with suggestions for using options and managing positions.  The retail sector has been fertile shorting ground and the housing market is next.  You can subscribe by clicking on this link:  Short Seller’s Journal – plus receive a discount link to my Mining Stock Journal.