In my view, the mood of these markets is in stark contrast with the many unknown from our current economic and political landscape, both here and abroad. For me, it’s a major disconnect, and it concerns me. – James Tisch, Loews CEO (call transcript sourced from from Seeking Alpha)
James Tisch shared some extraordinarily candid observations about the financial markets on Loews Corp’s Q4 earnings conference call on Monday. I say “extraordinary” because I do not believe I have ever heard, in well over 30 years of capital markets experience, any corporate CEO – or any corporate officer – ever speak honestly about the condition of the financial markets.
With regard to the amount of capital and credit made available by the Fed:
In the credit markets, spreads on the high yield securities are approaching historically tight levels, while key credit metrics such as leverage and coverage ratios are showing signs of weakening. The leverage loan market has been overrun by such massive inflows of capital that you could probably get loan to buy a fleet of zeppelins at this point in time.
That statement references the flood cheap capital made available by the Fed that has facilitated the greatest mis-allocation of capital since Greenspan inflated the tech bubble and Bernanke inflated the housing/mortgage bubble.
The merger market is being driven by large pools of private and corporate buyers, the wave of private capital combined with the abundance of available leverage at remarkably low rates has enabled private equity firms to pay big prices for companies that haven’t already been gobbled up by strategic buyers.
That statement is quite remarkable. Thinly veiled in diplomatic finesse, Tisch essentially acknowledges that the private equity investors have fomented a massive M&A bubble and are significantly overpaying for acquisitions.
And the coup de grace:
In my opinion, the markets are priced for perfection, and they have been that way for quite some time, complacency reign supreme. However, my experience has shown me that this state of affairs won’t go on indefinitely.
In short, the market is historically overvalued and it will not end well for those who continue to hold long positions in the stock market.
In 2000 Greenspan has created a tech bubble which he said he could not see. In late 2007 there was a housing and mortgage bubble, the existence of which Bernanke denied. And now there’s an “everything” bubble, to which Yellen is role-playing Hellen Keller.
Panera Bread stock is a text-book example of the insanity in the stock market right now. PNRA announced earnings yesterday and “beat” the Street. But here’s a synopsis of its numbers:
System-wide same store sales increased just .7%. Franchise SSS dropped 1.4%. Franchised stores are 55% of the store base. Operating margin dropped 40 basis points. Net income in Q4 dropped $22.8 million from $24.7 million in 2015. Company bought back nearly $400 million in stock during 2016. It just issued another $200 million in debt. If it wasn’t buying back shares, it would not have needed to issue that debt. The share buybacks make the EPS look better but the net income of operations fell quarter over quarter and year over year. That’s how PNRA “beat:” financial engineering because its net income declined quarter over quarter (2016 vs. 2015) and year over year. – excerpt from an email exchange with a Short Seller’s Journal subscriber
For that, PNRA stock is up 8.4% today. A $4 million year over year drop in net income has generated a $400 million one-day jump in PNRA’s market cap. This stock is trading at 38x trailing income as its ability to generate profits. No wonder insiders are selling stock more quickly than passengers jumped off the Titanic.
I look at dozens of companies every week and insiders are furiously shoveling their shares into the market at well over 90% of these companies. They all understand the same problem in the capital markets to which Tisch addressed. In that latter regard, it was as refreshing as it was unique to come across an insider who was honest.