That’s the only way to describe this stock market. It won’t end well for the hedge funds whose algos are chasing price momentum nor for the retail daytraders playing the game of “greater fool.” Apparently CSCO and WMT’s “beat” triggered a multi-hundred point spike in the Dow on Thursday. Funny thing about that. CSCO’s one-cent “beat” has been routine since the late 1990’s.
Walmart also “beat.” But for Walmart, the numbers below the headline sucked. The 1.1% revenue growth was well below 1% if you strip out gasoline price inflation from Sam’s Club numbers. Speaking of Sam’s, membership revenue was down 7.9% (these are FY Q1 vs Q1 last year). Operating income was down 4.1%. The “beat” was manufactured by one-time “other gain” that was not defined in the 8-K. This enabled WMT to generate the headline “beat.” Cash flow provided by operations dropped from $5.1 billion last year to $3.5 billion this year – not good. Despite the deteriorating financial fundamentals, the stock market added over $7 billion to WMT’s market cap.
But that’s a tempest in a teapot compared to the the IPO valuations of companies like Lyft, Uber and WeWork. These companies not only have never made a dime of profit, but they bleed billions negative cash flow. Yet, a $50 billion stock market valuation set by the underwriters is greedily bought into by hedge funds. That’s your pension money at work, folks. It’s amusing to watch the hand-puppets on financial cable tv frown when stocks like Uber and Lyft drop a quick 20% from the IPO date.
The prized “jewels” in the stock market – i.e. the stocks with the best performance over the last 4 months – are the ones with escalating operating losses on increasing revenues. But the stocks soar when the earnings announcement hits the tape with the phrase “beat estimates” – which means the company lost slightly less money than forecast by Wall Street’s brightest.
But these companies all share a common trait: a tragically flawed business model in which the only way to grow revenues is to charge the end user a price that does not cover the all-in cost of producing the product or providing the service but which attracts end-users because the price is lower than the competition. Despite eventual financial doom from the start, the stock market currently values this type of business model over companies that generate bona fide cash/economic profits.
I’m reviewing a company in my next issue of the Short Seller’s Journal which trades at a price/sales multiple that is 15-times higher than the industry average. Its operating losses grow at a double-digit rate every quarter sequentially and double every quarter year-over-year. We can’t use any of the other tradition valuation metrics because the company has negative cash flow, massive net losses and negative forward earnings. This is all nothwithstanding the fact it operates in a highly cyclical industry with declining sales.
I mention this to illustrate just how far off the rails the stock market has traveled. The current stock market bubble is at an historical extreme. It’s worse than 1999 or 1929 – I don’t care what the manipulated GAAP p/e ratio comparison shows. I was trading tech stocks in the late-90’s bubble and this current one is worse. IT’s utterly insane…