Category: Columns

My playbook for “backing up the truck” in this market. Putting my buy-decision thoughts completely out there $SPY

I did a post yesterday on some data points to consider before buying in this market.  I’ve been nibbling on the way down, but looking at some of the data points, I have to agree with what Gavin Baker has said in a recent post: this is a tremendous demand shock that we have not seen the likes of before. It will be very difficult to navigate it this time because its almost like a 9/11 and a 2008 demand shock rolled into one (but not a financial crisis like 2008 was).

The market clearly priced some of this in. The chart below shows the Russell 2000 drawdowns in the past. We’ve already surpassed the drawdown of 2001-2002 and did so much more swiftly. If anything, this drawdown is looking like 2008 just from the slope of the line (its steep).

IWM Chart

IWM data by YCharts

The Fed has acted quickly, congress knows it needs to get its act together, Trump views the stock market as the best polls, proposals are coming together to give every American $1,000 to bridge the gap, and there is plenty of talk of bail outs. Seems like some lessons were learned from 2008… act fast.

But is that enough? Is everything “priced in”? How will the market react to new information of cases vs. stimulus? That’s a billion dollar question. Personally, I think we have further to go before I can say we all need to “back up the truck“. Yes, I view this as temporary and there will be pent up demand, but as I think through what happens over the coming months, it goes something like this:

  1. Markets have tanked, fear is palpable, there have been runs on grocery stores. Consumers are literally quarantined so the only thing they can think about is the pandemic which drives more fear
  2. Congress and Fed act quickly, but this also tells people that things are serious. Congress puts together a bill to give $1,000 to every American; agrees to provide some loans to essential industries
  3. Just like GM – I don’t see why Congress would give a subordinated loan to these industries. In other words, it primes (or comes in front of) existing lenders plus equity holders. It’s hard for me to see how equity holders get out scot-free here, as well as bond holders. Haircuts will be taken.
  4. Even with Congress taking action, if I work in the restaurant, bar, travel, event hosting, leisure, or any service industry remotely attached to that, I’m thankful for $1,000, but I am worried about my job. I pull back spending considerably. As a consumer, thanks for the grand, but I still am not spending much.
  5. This ripples through the economy. First pullbacks on major purchases (vacations clearly cut, but also autos and home buying) and that continues through everything else.
  6. All the while, US count of the virus will likely grow considerably. We likely reach 100,000+ cases as more tests come out. This will cause the market to freak out and people will go from thinking this is a four week thing to a 12 week thing… maybe longer. The market always assumes the bad things will last much longer than they do.
  7. Media headlines will run rampant.
  8. You will also see bankruptcies of small and large businesses. BDCs and middle market private equity that invested (& levered up) companies with major customer risk and exposure to small business? See ya later.
  9. Elsewhere, cases will begin to decline. Markets will take a deep breath that the measures are working, even if they continue to climb in the US. The market is forward looking so they will see hopes for the US.

So what does that mean for equity prices? I think we have further to fall, unfortunately. Don’t get me wrong – I fundamentally do not believe you can time these things (“Well gee, you sure did waste a lot of text writing about what you think will happen…”) and I have bought many names throughout this bear market. As I noted in my cruise lines post, which was really clickbait for readers to see that long-term intrinsic values of businesses will be fine,  I think this creates a good opportunity to buy high quality businesses.

At the same time, I look at the market and it is just below / slightly above Dec 2018 lows depending on which market you’re looking at. As a quick barometer or sanity check, that doesn’t seem low enough for truly pricing in a destruction to GDP in Q2 this year and people worrying about systemic issues.

Backing it up to a P/E ratio: If we did $164 in EPS for 2019. There’s probably 0% chance we’re up from that number. We can haircut it though and multiple to see where things could shake out this year.  You can argue that because these are depressed earnings and we all likely expect a rebound, that the market should trade at a premium multiple. However, I rarely see that play out in real life. Panic causes people to over shoot. And again, this is a cheapness indicator, not an intrinsic value indicator because one year of bad earnings does little to impact your DCF.

This essentially tells me that my “back up the truck” moment for S&P500 is somewhere around 2,000 and below and I’ll still be a buyer at around 2,300 because I believe the storm clouds will eventually pass and this shows if we go back to 18x $164 in earnings, that is very solid upside.

Ok – I put my thoughts out there. I open myself to being wrong in the future and this post won’t be deleted. Where do you think we shake out? Why?

Time to buy stocks? Here are data points worth considering. $SPY

The market is clearly in panic. Americans and other global citizens in quarantine will clearly not help most businesses (and therefore it doesn’t help stocks). So should we buy stocks now?

One piece of data I came across this weekend was Open Table’s data on restaurant reservations, found here.  As shown below, the US saw a ~42% decline in reservations Y/Y and globally they are down 40%.

Not to mention, we have many public school closures, work travel has been postponed, cruises are putting up ships, and restaurants and bars are limited to take-out meals only. Heck, I can’t even go to the gym anymore. This will clearly crimp many businesses and could pressure liquidity.

This feels like SARS and 9/11 rolled into one. After 9/11, business confidence was hammered and many consumers were fearful and did not want to travel or go out to eat as much. United’s CEO said that this experience has been worse than 9/11 –

After 9/11, revenue was down 40% for two months and then began a gradual recovery… Our gross bookings in the Pacific are down about 70%, so there are still some bookings occurring even in the Pacific region. In Europe, our gross bookings are now down about 50%. Domestically, we’re currently seeing net bookings down about 70% and gross bookings down about 25%. While those numbers are encouraging compared to international, we’re planning for the public concern about the virus to get worse before it gets better.”

After 9/11, we had a tremendous shock to the system and it took some time to recover. Peak to trough, the S&P declined ~30% but within time, we recovered relatively quickly. Recall at this time, we entered a recession and also had a lot of air coming out of the tech bubble as well.

So on one hand, we have an extreme scenario. Short-term funding for a wide array of industries will need to be provided and I personally think we will need to see the US government step in meaningfully.

On the other hand, let’s look at the positives.

  • Short-term pain, long-term gain. It appears the US is now taking the virus more seriously. While there will be short-term pain from a quasi-quarantine, this will help damped the rapid spread of the virus. This will also prevent a overrun of our hospitals and healthcare system
  • Authorities acting relatively quickly. The fed has now cut rates 2x and initiated bond buying (QE5). Although this won’t cure the virus, it could help calm financial markets which will then allow for liquidity to flow through to businesses who need it now. While not established yet, I bet we will see a cut to banks’ reserve requirements to also help the system
  • Not a financial crisis. While there are financial aspects to this (i.e. liquidity, companies drawing on revolvers) this is not like the 2008 mortgage crisis. Although banks are now cutting GDP estimates for Q2 and Q3 2020, many expect that demand will rebound meaningfully.
  • The US is behind the curve, and that is a good thing. Although the outbreak is hitting US shores later than Europe and China, it also means we can look at their data to when cases tend to peak and level out. The US now is essentially in quarantine and that will help fight the spread. (Note, I thoroughly enjoyed the charts posted in this WaPo article for how social distancing actually does work). I think the market will move up even if cases in the US are rising once we see Italy, South Korea and China under control.
  • The biggest companies in the world are flush with cash. Add up the cash held by Apple, Microsoft, Google, Berkshire Hathaway, and Facebook. These businesses fortunately will not be facing liquidity needs, represent large proportions of the S&P, and have longer time horizons than most investors today.

With many stocks I look at down 50-60%, this could be an opportunity of a lifetime given they are pricing in a long-term pronounced downturn. As discussed previously, a one-year impact to earnings that everyone largely expects will be temporary has little impact on the intrinsic value of businesses.

In sum, do I think stocks can continue to go down? Yes. They have historically over shot in both directions. But we can’t time it. I personally am looking at a collection of businesses that will continue to compound earnings at extremely attractive rates.

In this case, I think the situation will be written about extensively. There will be things we don’t even know about yet that books will be published on. But as you think about the past and uncertainty, realize that those times are actually the best in terms of investing. Buying when everything looks amazing and nothing can go wrong typically turn out to be poor outcomes (e.g. peak of tech bubble, the calm before the 2008 storm). Everyone knows in hindsight to buy when others are fearful. I’d also add the richest people in the US are typically perma-optimists, not perma-bears.

Homebuilder stocks – what’s next? $LEN $TOL $DHI $NVR $TMHC $MHO $HOV

Given the market selloff, I’ve seen a lot of doom and gloom articles on buyers’ appetites for homebuilding. Will buyers still show up to buy a home with COVID-19 going around? What will the impact on interest rates have??

Check out these headlines:

All these headlines essentially result in one thing… Agh! Panic!

Panic

Since most people hold a majority of their net worth in a home, these headlines draw eyeballs.

But let’s think about this for a moment. Yes, the coronavirus may impact my willingness to go out to eat. To ride the subway. To cheer on my favorite team at a sports bar (looking at you March Madness).

But is it going to cause me to stop buying a house? Especially when credit is readily available and interest rates just hit all time lows for a mortgage?

I personally have trouble seeing it. And so far, we aren’t in quarantine and the data has been supportive:

  • Today it was announced that mortgage applications to purchase a home are up 5.6% Y/Y
  • Redfin today noted, “Demand is still growing at surprisingly healthy levels. And growth in the number of people submitting offers is much higher.”
  • Even at ground zero for coronavirus in the US, Seattle, they noted, “Now coronavirus fears have spread from Seattle to other parts of the country, but we haven’t seen a big impact on home-buying demand yet.”
  • Hovnian, a national builder and also the latest to report earnings had a lot of positive things on its results call:
    • Talking about reported results: “Some may say that the strong increase was against an easy comparison last year. I’m pleased to say we were also up 33% compared to the first quarter of 2018. Additionally, our sales pace was the highest level of contracts per community for any first quarter since 2005. It’s clear that the housing market is rebounding and demand for our homes continues to gain momentum.”
    • Regarding the virus impact specifically:  “Sales feel particularly and perhaps surprisingly steady and solid”

It makes sense. The 30 year mortgage rate has made it super compelling to buy a home:
30 Year Mortgage Rate Chart

30 Year Mortgage Rate data by YCharts

At the very least, those that own a home can refinance and keep some more cash in their pocket each month.

At the same time, we’ve been underbuilding in this country since the downturn. While we overbuilt in the last downturn, we’ve been growing as a country (creating new households) but new starts haven’t kept up. We’re just now getting to mid-cycle levels.

I personally am looking at the homebuilder equities. Toll brothers and Lennar are trading just above 1.1x BV. These are companies that have cleaned up their balance sheets and are generating ~13% ROEs. That seems cheap to me. Toll has also been buying back stock like its nobody’s business. This could even be a shot to buy NVR, a great blue-chip.

Could we see a pause? Sure. But I think the longer-term fundamentals are strong and that this virus won’t impact their intrinsic value.

Is it time to buy cruise lines? Intrinsic value impact following short-term demand shocks $CCL $RCL $NCLH

People are saying that no one will ever take a cruise again. It’s over. Done. Pack those cruise ships up and send them home… But do people actually not remember the PR disaster Carnival dealt with in 2013? Here’s a great headline from that time:  “Stranded cruise ship on which ‘sewage ran down the walls’ and ‘savages’ fought over food finally docks amid jubilant scenes“. This came not too long after Costa Concordia wrecked and the Captain jumped ship (literally). 32 people died. I bet you can imagine what happened to Carnival’s sales in 2013 then?
Oh, that’s right – they were up. In 2014 they were up… they’ve basically been on an uninterrupted pace for a long time. In fact, many of these cruise lines have been public for so long that you can see how they performed after SARS, 9/11, 2008, Zika, Ebola – they pretty much kept on humming. Apparently nothing will stop college kids and boomers from taking a cruise.
I’m not saying you should buy them today, but they’ve historically traded at 10-13x EBITDA and are now trading at 5x. The market is currently pricing in death. I can confidently say that because they now are trading below the book value of cruise ships as well.
Now, cruise companies do have ship deliveries, which is something to monitor. This could crimp liquidity as they also take a demand hit in the next year.  But they also likely have tools to pushback on shipbuilders during times of stress. These are the shipbuilders main customers, so not like they want their customers to go into bankruptcy either.
However, some names like Roayl Carribean are investment grade and “December 31, 2019, we had liquidity of $1.5 billion, consisting of $243.7 million in cash and cash equivalents and $1.3 billion available under our unsecured credit facilities, net of our outstanding commercial paper notes”. Norwegian just announced at $675MM revolver with JPM priced at L+80bps.
I think the liquidity situation is fine to support a year of weakness, though admittedly, I’m not sure they could survive a whole year of lost revenue. Plus, the ships must be very expensive to dock and that is an ongoing fixed cost….
Lets just try to understand if this virus or 1 year impact should have that much of an impact on cruises (people will fight me on this, but I don’t think cruises are dead… people will still take cruises) but this is relevant for all businesses right now.
Here is a company that is expected to earn $10 in EPS in year 1 and grow ~2% a year. I discount these earnings, and the terminal value, back at 10% to arrive at ~$120 in value, which foots to a 12x P/E. P/E is just short hand for a DCF and that is what I am trying to show here so you can think about if a multiple compression actually makes sense.

*Note: terminal value is the value of a the future cash flows of a business beyond the forecast period, assuming a constant growth rate, in this case 2%.

Now lets say year 1 earnings are toast – they get cut in half. But year 2+ are the same because demand comes back. As you can see below, this had a ~4% impact on the intrinsic value of the business… not 50%! People may say, “well investors only look at earnings over the next year or two, so applying a 12x multiple to $5 in EPS is why the stock gets crushed.” Thanks – I realize that, but the math says that is wrong and an opportunity to make money.
Buying cruise lines is risky right now and up to you. Sorry for the headline, but hopefully you use this as a tool to find other companies who have not had their intrinsic value meaningfully impacted.

Hudson Enters New Deal with Lenders & Extends Runway – Thesis is Intact $HDSN

Hudson Technologies (HDSN) just filed an 8-k stating it entered a new revolver with Wells Fargo ($60MM of borrowing capacity) and terminated its one with PNC. It also received a waiver for its covenant default through December 2021. This is big news. This will surely buy the company time and allow for the refrigerant market to turn around.

 

“The Fourth Amendment waived financial covenant defaults at June 30, 2019 and September 30, 2019 and amended the Term Loan Credit and Security Agreement to reset the maximum total leverage ratio financial covenant through December 31, 2021; reset the minimum liquidity requirement; and added a minimum LTM adjusted EBITDA covenant”

If the market does turnaround, then I think Hudson’s stock will move much higher than where it stands today as (i) the market realizes the company is not going bankrupt and (ii) it earns much higher earnings from increased pricing of R-22. As stated before, I don’t think the lenders want to bankrupt the company as long as it can stay current on interest.

Stay tuned.