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More Big Companies Beat Projections, But Wall Street Appears To Still Struggle

Companies keep churning out impressive earnings, but the market doesn’t seem to give them much credit. Instead, fear and caution remain the watchwords as the Dow Jones Industrial Average ($DJI) enters Wednesday on a five-session losing streak.

Morning Earnings Wrap

Boeing Co (NYSE: BA) became the latest member of the $DJI 30 to smash Wall Street analysts’ projections early Wednesday, firing up earnings per share of $3.64 vs. analysts’ consensus of $2.56. Revenue of $23.38 billion was more than $1 billion ahead of the $22.2 billion analysts had expected, and the company also raised its outlook. Strength in the commercial air division helped BA project a healthy sales picture.

Also on the earnings front, Twitter Inc. (NYSE: TWTR) topped analysts’ earnings projections and reported the second profitable quarter in the company’s history. It also handed out some bullish guidance and said daily active users grew 10 percent. The tech reporting season continues after the close when Facebook (FB) presents its Q1 results and tomorrow with Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT).

It’s unclear whether any of the earnings momentum will spill into stocks today as the futures market came under pressure before the opening bell. Stocks overseas followed the U.S. lower after Tuesday’s big sell-off, with a key European index down about 1 percent.

Market Psychology Ruling the Day?

The hunt for 3 percent ended Tuesday as the 10-year yield reached that benchmark level. Soon after, stocks started to take a beating and sharply reversed early gains. At one point, the $DJI stumbled more than 600 points before recovering about one-third of those losses by the end of the day. Concerns about higher borrowing costs and rising commodity prices may be playing into the pressure.

Wall Street also appears to be grappling with a few psychological issues. Most notably, there’s trepidation around that 3 percent yield number, which didn’t hold for long Tuesday but remains within close range.  It definitely seems to be hurting the home builders, whose shares sold off despite strong housing and consumer confidence data this week. The fear is that some people might hear about higher rates and decide not to buy a house after all. Home builders are dealing with something that’s more of a psychological factor than a reality factor, as “3 percent” was made out to be the boogeyman of the markets. Historically, though, it’s not all that high.

Another psychological element is the idea touted by some analysts about earnings starting to peak. This might have been exacerbated by Dow component Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) post-earnings conference call in which executives described the Q1 as a “high water mark.” Despite what some analysts called “phenomenal” earnings from the big machine maker, CAT shares fell more than 6 percent. Here we see the power of a conference call. This stock was higher before the call, but the remark led to immediate selling as some investors seemed to interpret the language as CAT saying it can’t get any better than this. However, the remark might not have come out as the company had intended.

More proof that one negative metric can hold back a big company’s stock surfaced with Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) (NASDAQ: GOOGL) Tuesday. Though the company reported a powerful quarter, the stock got stuffed as investors and analysts seemed focused more on higher-than-expected capital expenditures.

The "P" and the "E" in P/E

What it all comes down to is a certain level of confusion, which could hang around for a while. There seems to be a repricing of equities going on and despite this being an incredible earnings season so far, stock prices keep going down. The price-to-earnings (P/E) multiple remains a key factor to watch. “E” keeps getting higher and “P” keeps getting lower. People just don’t seem to be inclined to pay the same “P” any longer. It’s unclear where this might go, and sometimes these things take six to 12 months to sort themselves out. We’re right in the middle of it now.

Anyone looking for a silver lining might want to check out how VIX, the market’s most closely watched volatility indicator, acted during the last hours of the day. If you look closely, you’d see that it pulled back a bit in the last part of the session from intraday highs above 19.

Next Up: Autos

Attention could shift to the automotive sector when Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) reports after the close today and General Motors Company (NYSE: GM) issues results before the open Thursday. There’s a truckload (pardon the expression) of things to consider ahead of not just these two behemoths but also Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA), which according to the company’s web site reports May 2.

First, Ford is embarking on a huge program to save $14 billion, but, like all car companies, faces pressure to ignite its research and development (R&D) efforts to keep up with advances in electric and autonomous cars. At this point, F, which has lower margins than GM, is actually spending more money on R&D than its Detroit counterpart. Anyone who’s long F should consider listening to the company’s earnings call to see if there’s more clarity on where those savings might come from, and what they’re going to chop if it’s not R&D. At this point, one school of thought suggests that F is spending too much and not getting enough bang for its buck, but perhaps we’ll learn more Wednesday.

A question for GM, and maybe the U.S. auto industry as a whole, is what’s happening in China. Not long ago, 50 percent of GM’s revenue came from China, but now that’s below 40 percent. The company has closed some plants there. Is the Chinese market not growing at the pace we thought, or is Buick getting less popular over there? It seems unlikely that the latter would be true, so perhaps there’s something about the former that GM might address in its call, and, if that’s the case, might be something other U.S. car companies also have to address.

TSLA doesn’t report until next week, but there may be questions for the company about its own R&D after an analyst note came out recently speculating about TSLA’s development costs. Some analysts doubt if TSLA can achieve the Model 3 production it’s promised in the time frame the company has forecast. TSLA announced two temporary Model 3 plant shutdowns last week but said the shutdowns had been planned.

Though TSLA’s cars don’t need it, crude oil comes under a microscope this week as President Trump holds meetings in the White House with French President Emmanuel Macron. The Iran nuclear agreement is a key topic.

chart_4_251.jpg FIGURE 1: HOW THINGS CHANGE. The tech sector (candlestick) and financial sector (purple line), mapped here over the last year, led the charge through much of 2017 and right into the first month of 2018. Since then, these two former leaders have seemed to lose their way, and that’s one possible reason the market lacks direction.  Data source: S&P Dow Jones Indices. Chart source: The thinkorswim® platform from TD Ameritrade. For illustrative purposes only. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Buyers Pay Up in Chicago

Some call Chicago, “The most American city.” That may or may not be the case, but the city’s real estate market in March seemed to reflect some of the broader American trends in housing. Existing home prices rose more than 5 percent nationwide last month, and in the city of Chicago prices hit an all-time high median of $314,000, according to Illinois Association of Realtors. That was up more than 6 percent from a year earlier. However, total sales around the country fell more than 1 percent year-over-year, and Chicago’s market also saw less turnover, with the number of sales falling more than 10 percent. In sum, Chicago seemed to be a microcosm of a housing market characterized by rising prices and falling supplies. That might sound like a good opportunity for home builders, but rising mortgage rates raise question marks.

ECB Up Next

One thing that’s arguably helped hold back U.S. yields is lower yields in Europe and Japan. However, the European Central Bank (ECB) has been removing some stimulus and meets again this week. An update is due Thursday morning. The Bank of Japan (BOJ) seems inclined to stay put with its current accommodation, BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda told CNBC in a recent interview, saying “risks are skewed to the downside” in Japan’s economy. 

GDP Time Already?

Earnings grab most of the headlines this week, but don’t forget to watch Friday for the government’s first read on Q1 gross domestic product. The report is due out before the opening bell and could give investors a sense of whether the economy continued its solid run that started in Q2 of last year. The consensus among analysts is that things slowed down a bit between January and March, to around 2.1 percent, Briefing.com said. That’s down from the final Q4 read of 2.9 percent, which marked the third-consecutive quarter of growth around 3 percent. Typically, GDP is closely watched but doesn’t tend to move the market unless it comes in well above or below expected levels. The government does get two more cracks at the ball, so this isn’t the final word.

Information from TDA is not intended to be investment advice or construed as a recommendation or endorsement of any particular investment or investment strategy, and is for illustrative purposes only. Be sure to understand all risks involved with each strategy, including commission costs, before attempting to place any trade.

Upcoming Earnings: Industrial Conglomerate GE Reports Friday Morning

Industrial conglomerate General Electric Company (NYSE: GE) is scheduled to report earnings before market open on Friday, Apr. 20.

CEO John Flannery has faced plenty of challenges since he took over in August 2017, working to streamline the massive company and improve transparency. In recent quarters, GE’s issues have been numerous and well publicized.

In the time that Flannery has been at the helm, GE has halved its dividend; it took a surprise $6.2 billion after-tax charge in Q4 2017 related to GE Capital’s insurance portfolio, while adding $15 billion to its reserves  for future payouts over the next seven years; and recently restated 2016 and 2017 financials, reducing earnings by $0.30 per share. The restated financials also included adjustments related to pensions, cash flows and income taxes.

Clearly, the company’s turnaround efforts, which include a multi-year plan to improve GE Power as well as exiting more than $20 billion worth of business over the next several years, are going to take time.

There have been some signs of progress from Flannery’s plan so far. When GE reported Q4 2017 results, it generated $9.7 billion in adjusted cash flow from operating activities for fiscal 2017, compared to guidance of $7 billion.

Since announcing plans to exit $20 billion in business, it has sold its industrial solution business in a $2.6 billion deal to ABB (ABB) and recently announced a $1.05 billion deal to sell healthcare IT businesses to private equity firm Veritas.  And Bloomberg reported that several companies are considering a bid for GE’s Jenbacher unit for more than $3 billion.

On tomorrow’s calls, analysts are likely to be digging in to get a better idea of restructuring progress.

GE Earnings

For Q1 2018, GE is expected to report adjusted EPS of $0.11 on revenue of $27.88 billion, according to third-party consensus estimates. In Q4 2017, revenue missed estimates, coming in at $31.4 billion versus expectations for $32.7 billion, and earnings also came up short by a penny at $0.27 per share after removing charges and one-time items.

GE previously lowered its earnings guidance for all of fiscal 2018 to a range of $1.00 to $1.07, but analysts seem to think that’s a little optimistic given they have an average estimate of $0.95. Out of 17 analyst ratings, earnings estimates range from $0.87 to $1.04 per share.

GE Options Trading Activity

Around GE’s upcoming report, options traders have priced in a 4.8% share price move in either direction, according to the Market Maker Move indicator on the thinkorswim® platform. Implied volatility was at the 76th percentile as of this morning. 

general-electric-ge-stock-chart-q1-2018.png
GE 1-YEAR CHART. GE shares have dropped from a 52-week high of $30.54 all the way to a new 52-week low of $12.73 on March 26. The stock has bounced a little bit off that level and has been trading around the mid-$13 range for the past few sessions. Chart source: thinkorswim® by TD Ameritrade.  Not a recommendation. For illustrative purposes only. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

In short-term trading at the Apr. 20 monthly expiration and the next several weekly expirations, a lot of the activity has been concentrated at the 14 strike for both puts and calls, just out of the money. At the May 20 expiration, trading has also been heavier at the 14-strike call, while activity on the put side has been mostly at the 13 and 14 strikes. 

Overall during yesterday’s session, trading was heavier on the call side, with a put/call ratio of 0.476.

Note: Call options represent the right, but not the obligation, to buy the underlying security at a predetermined price over a set period of time. Put options represent the right, but not the obligation to sell the underlying security at a predetermined price over a set period of time.

What’s Coming Up

Next week brings results from many of the largest companies in the tech sector:

Google-parent Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ: GOOGL) (NASDAQ: GOOG) reports after the close Monday, Apr. 23
Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) reports before market open Wednesday, Apr. 25 and Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) reports after the close the same day
Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT), Intel Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC) and Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) report after the close Thursday, Apr. 26

In addition to the tech-heavy week, some of the other companies on the docket are Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F), General Motors Company (NYSE: GM), Caterpillar Inc (NYSE: CAT), Boeing Co (NYSE: BA), Chevron Corporation (NYSE: CVX) and Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE: XOM). If you have time, make sure to check out today’s market update for a look at what else is going on.

Information from TDA is not intended to be investment advice or construed as a recommendation or endorsement of any particular investment or investment strategy, and is for illustrative purposes only. Be sure to understand all risks involved with each strategy, including commission costs, before attempting to place any trade.

10 Stocks to Short as China Hits Back

U.S. equity markets have been much choppier so far in 2018, to say the least. Volatility has doubled. February saw the first market correction in two years. And since then, U.S. stocks have swung back and forth, with a number of big one-day moves along the way.

One of the more recent catalysts of the market’s nervousness has been an increasing fear of a trade war. What started with tariffs on imported aluminum and steel could end … well, anywhere. Given that the U.S. and China alone traded over $650 billion in goods and services, a tit-for-tat escalation could hurt both economies. And should other countries get involved, the worldwide impact could be severe.

All that said, the market hasn’t exactly plunged so far. And I tend to agree with James Brumely, who on this site called from some much-needed perspective on the confrontation. Trade alone isn’t a reason to flee the U.S. equity market, and it isn’t enough of a reason, alone, to sell or short a specific stock. Stocks like Deere & Company (NYSE:DE), Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT) and Boeing Co (NYSE:BA) are obvious short targets, but they have already have sold off, and perhaps too far.

But for these 10 stocks, trade fears add to an already-existing short case. For investors who see trade war risk as a real possibility, all 10 can provide hedges against long positions, or aggressive short bets. And for investors more sanguine on a tariff battle, there’s still enough reason elsewhere to at least consider taking a short position.

Stocks to Short: Wynn Resorts (WYNN) Wynn Resorts, Limited (WYNN) Stock Gets Hit by the Fundamentals, Not #MeToo Source: Aurlmas via Flickr (Modified)

To be sure, it would take a tremendous escalation for trade issues to hit Wynn Resorts, Limited (NASDAQ:WYNN). So at the moment, the risk of WYNN getting caught in the crossfire of a U.S.-China confrontation looks slim.

That said, the risk also could be enormous. Wynn’s concession in Macau expires in 2022. If China truly wanted to take a scalp, Wynn, Las Vegas Sands Corp. (NYSE:LVS), and MGM Resorts International (NYSE:MGM) all could potentially be at risk of being replaced.

Even a lesser action like adding additional concessions to the additional six in Macau could have a significant competitive impact on revenue and profits. And Wynn would be most at risk in this scenario, as it generates the greatest share of its earnings in Macau relative to its two other U.S.-based counterparts.

Again, that is a doomsday — and still relatively unlikely — scenario. But even some re-pricing of that risk could hit Wynn stock. And that’s not the company’s only problem in the region. As the Macau Daily Times (an English-language paper) reported, the sexual harassment allegations surrounding former CEO Steve Wynn present a risk to the company’s concession renewal.

Steve Wynn’s complete exit from the company may ameliorate that problem. But there’s also the risk that a trade war could hit the Chinese economy — and slow the stream of high rollers visiting Wynn’s properties in the enclave and driving baccarat profits on the Vegas Strip.

Add to that the possibility of a sale of its unfinished Massachusetts property and even rumors of a tie-up with MGM aren’t likely to keep WYNN afloat. And if any of the negative scenarios here actually play out, Wynn stock easily could tumble 20% or more.

Stocks to Short: RBC Bearings (ROLL) Stocks to Short: RBC Bearings (ROLL)Source: Shutterstock

The short case for RBC Bearings Incorporated (NASDAQ:ROLL) in this environment has a couple of different aspects. The first is that the company is a major supplier to the aerospace industry, which drives roughly two-thirds of revenue. So with Boeing stock one of the biggest victims of trade war fears, ROLL should have similar exposure of its own.

The second is that RBC has a good deal of exposure to steel prices, which could hit its margins. Normally, RBC has been able to pass increases along to customers, but Boeing and others may not pay up if it has its own margin concerns to worry about. The other one-third of ROLL revenue comes from industrial companies in construction and mining, oil and gas, heavy truck and rail, among other sectors. Those customers, too, could feel some pain from higher tariffs, and rising costs, making pass-through pricing difficult in that segment as well.

Meanwhile, ROLL hasn’t taken much of a hit yet and it looks rather expensive. While BA stock trades at less than 20x forward EPS, ROLL is at a whopping 26x. Profit growth really hasn’t been that impressive the last few years; instead, investors are pricing in what the company expects to be a strong performance starting in the second half of this year. But if margin pressure gets in the way – and RBC already has disappointed on that front in the past – growth will disappoint, and that premium multiple will come down.

RBC doesn’t have much of a short interest — barely 1% of the float — and it has held its valuation for some time. But the chart of late looks weaker, and if trade fears do ramp up, ROLL seems likely to head down.

Stocks to Short: Harley-Davidson (HOG) Stocks to Short: Harley-Davidson (HOG)Source: Crysis Rubel via Flickr (Modified)

Harley-Davidson Inc (NYSE:HOG) already was a heavy short target before the events of the last few weeks. That’s still the case, with almost 15% of the float sold short. And those shorts are winning, with HOG down nearly 17% YTD after a disappointing Q4 earnings report in late January.

I wrote ahead of that report that Harley-Davidson was riding into irrelevance, and I still believe that to be the case. Sales are stagnant even in a growing economy. The idea that millennials are going to buy loud, unsafe Harleys strikes me as somewhere between overly optimistic and delusional. To be fair, Harley-Davidson has struggled with the strong dollar, but even as the yen has strengthened, competitors like Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. (OTCMKTS:YAMHF) are having success.

Trade concerns only add to an already-solid short case here, even with HOG trading at a ‘cheap’ 11x forward EPS multiple.

Harley-Davidson has admitted it could see a “significant impact” on sales in the case of rising tariffs. The European Union already has targeted the company in response to the initial steel and aluminum tariffs. HOG stock didn’t need any more bad news, but considering its debt, higher input costs, and lower sales, there’s a combination for a very severe downturn in Harley-Davidson stock, particularly if trade wars escalate.

Stocks to Short: Cloud Peak Energy (CLD) Stocks to Short: Cloud Peak Energy (CLD)Source: Via Stock Snap

President Trump has made no secret of his desire to help coal companies, and he has already taken steps toward that goal. But a battle with China very well may do more harm than good — and impact coal stocks like Cloud Peak Energy Inc. (NYSE:CLD).

It’s China whose demand actually has driven higher U.S. coal exports of late. But China could pull the rug out on that growth. China clearly has targeted Trump’s base in its initial response — and that could lead to either tariffs on coal and/or a pivot to other suppliers like Australia and Indonesia.

As the weakest publicly traded producer, that makes CLD worth a look from the short side. Cloud Peak is reliant on thermal coal, unlike, say, Arch Coal Inc (NYSE:ARCH), whose coking coal is used in steel production. Demand for thermal coal (used for power production) is in a long-term decline both in the U.S. and abroad, no matter how the Administration tries to help.

Heading into 2018, Cloud Peak was expecting a ~20% increase in exports in 2018 — without that demand, sales and profits are likely to fall. The stock already has fallen 44% just since mid-January, as investor sentiment clearly has turned negative.

Adjusted EBITDA was stable in 2017 after a significant decline the year before – but a rebound looks unlikely. With a concerning high debt load, and borrowing costs of 12%, there’s a potential for a restructuring down the line. (Both Arch and Peabody Energy Corporation (NYSE:BTU) have recently emerged from bankruptcy themselves.) Any pressure from a trade war could accelerate that timeline — and provide 100% return to a short.

Stocks to Short: LSI Industries (LYTS) Stocks to Short: LSI Industries (LYTS)Source: Shutterstock

Admittedly, LSI Industries, Inc. (NASDAQ:LYTS) is an out-of-the-box short here. The case for shorting LYTS perhaps isn’t quite as strong, and comes down more to a potential trade ahead of the company’s first quarter report later this month.

But LSI, who manufactures lighting and signage for retail companies (among them gas stations), does have exposure to trade fears in a number of ways. The first is in terms of input cost inflation. Per the company’s 10-K, raw materials account for 60% of the company’s cost of sales. And the cost of those raw materials already is rising — climbing 5-6% in fiscal 2017, with inflation continuing into calendar 2018.

So far, LSI has been able to offset those hikes with internal improvements. Indeed, LYTS stock soared after a strong fiscal Q2 report in January. But the pressure may be rising. And with China a major manufacturer of LED lighting, tariffs could disrupt that supply chain for LSI as well.

At the same time, the overall lighting market remains weak. And retrofitting spend may come down further if LSI customers see reason to be nervous about the broader economy. With LYTS trading at a mid-teen EBITDA multiple, the combination of slowing (or negative) revenue growth and higher costs could lead to an ugly fiscal Q3. And it could send LYTS down big, particularly if that EBITDA margin drops toward 10-12x.

Stocks to Short: Callaway Golf (ELY) Stocks to Short: Callaway Golf (ELY)Source: Shutterstock

Callaway Golf Co (NYSE:ELY) is another short based on the thesis that raw material costs will rise. Callaway obviously has substantial sensitivity to metal prices — steel in particular — which could affect margins.

And that would be a problem for Callaway, because its sales growth simply isn’t that torrid. The company expects just 2-3% revenue growth in 2018, outside of help from a recent acquisition. Callaway has done a phenomenal job of late taking market share, including in golf balls, but flat end markets suggest any pricing pressure could be an issue long-term.

Meanwhile, ELY stock is hardly cheap, trading at roughly 25x the midpoint of 2018 EPS guidance. Add to that potential pressure in the Chinese market itself – Asia ex-Japan drove 6% of 2017 sales – and there’s a case to make a quick buck on the short side from ELY. Moderate EPS growth projections just a bit and cut the EPS multiple down to a still-hefty 20-22x and Callaway stock drops as much as 20%.

Stocks to Short: PolyOne (POL) Stocks to Short: PolyOne (POL)Source: Via LyondellBasell

Keeping with the input cost theme, PolyOne Corporation (NYSE:POL) may be an under-the-radar victim of tariffs. The specialty chemical manufacturer already is struggling with pricing pressure, leading to weakness coming out of its Q4 earnings report in January. China’s initial tariff list included 44 chemicals, which raised alarms in the petrochemical industry served by PolyOne.

So far, PolyOne has been able to offset the pricing pressure, with 2017 the company’s eighth straight year of adjusted EPS growth. But a multi-year economic recovery has helped, and consensus expectations of 15% EPS growth this year look too high.

Here, too, there’s a case for a combination effect of both lower margins and lower sales. And while POL isn’t particularly expensive at 15x forward EPS, the cyclical nature of the space generally leads to low multiples. It’s not hard to see POL stumbling at some point this year, which at least could send the stock back toward the mid-30s range at which it traded last year — roughly 20% downside from current levels.

Stocks to Short: Campbell’s Soup (CPB) Stocks to Short: Campbell's Soup (CPB)Source: Meal Makeover Moms via Flickr (Modified)

As I’ve written several times in the past, I don’t particularly like the CPG (consumer packaged goods) space. Within that space, Campbell Soup Company (NYSE:CPB) looks like one of the weakest offerings – and an attractive short on its own.

Indeed, 12% of CPB’s float already is sold short. And with the stock down by one-third from 2016 levels, the shorts have been right so far. I don’t think that trade is over yet, either.

Campbell’s is the most indebted among major food companies. Investors were unimpressed with the company’s expensive acquisition of Snyder’s-Lance, and soup sales are falling. CPB may look cheap on an EPS basis, but including the debt its EV/EBITDA multiple still is in line with faster-growing companies. And that debt could pressure the stock if Campbell’s can’t execute a turnaround over the next couple of quarters.

On top of all of that, Campbell’s aluminum prices are going to rise – as the company itself has said. And with little room for the company to raise prices in a brutal grocery space, that could further pressure margins.

More broadly, Campbell Soup hardly seems a good business at the moment. It’s a low-growth giant at a time when smaller, nimbler companies are winning in food. All told, CPB still looks like a short. And to hedge that short, investors can go long J M Smucker Co (NYSE:SJM), which has a few of the same category risks and much, much better rewards.

Stocks to Short: Tiffany (TIF) Tiffany & Co. (TIF) Stock Looks Risky at These Elevated Levels Source: Shutterstock

Tiffany & Co. (NYSE:TIF) could have a very real problem if a trade war escalates. Growth already is pretty tepid, with the company’s Q4 sales and full-year outlook both disappointing investors last month. TIF stock still looks reasonably expensive, at 22.5x the midpoint of that EPS guidance. As both Luke Lango and Will Healy argued on this site, Tiffany already looked like an avoid at best.

The company is struggling with its engagement ring business. Millennials aren’t interested. But the company’s one clear growth engine was…China. China represented roughly 60% of the company’s Asia-Pacific sales in 2017, according to the 10-K. That’s about 16% of the company’s total sales. And the Asia-Pacific region was the one bright spot in terms of 2017 sales, with 8% constant-currency growth, most of which came from China.

Take that growth driver away – whether through tariffs, regulation, or anti-American sentiment from Chinese customers – and Tiffany starts to look a low-growth dinosaur. And that’s not a profile that is going to garner a 20x+ EPS multiple. TIF stock has bounced largely on turnaround hopes and the growth opportunity in Asia. If one of those two pillars of the bull case crumbles, Tiffany stock is going to do the same.

Stocks to Short: La-Z-Boy (LZB) Stocks to Short: La-Z-Boy (LZB)Source: Shuttershock

The entire consumer furniture space, including La-Z-Boy Incorporated (NYSE:LZB) has been choppy at best for years now. And that’s a pretty significant concern. Given a strong U.S. economy and a solid (if not roaring) housing market, profit growth should be much more impressive than it has been, particularly the past few years.

That’s particularly true for LZB, whose 4-4-5 strategy has involved buying licensed stores and building out new locations. Yet increased marketing costs and higher raw material prices have pressured margins, and LZB shares really haven’t moved for about four years now.

The short case for LZB is that potential trade pressure will be just enough to tip earnings negative – and push the stock down into the mid-20s, at least. La-Z-Boy imports from Chinese suppliers; it could face cost inflation there. Steel prices could hurt. So could polyurethane (used for foam) if chemical tariffs are expanded.

Meanwhile, La-Z-Boy will struggle to take pricing. Wayfair Inc (NYSE:W) is competing on price (and losing money in the process). Smaller rivals Bassett Furniture Industries Inc. (NASDAQ:BSET) and Hooker Furniture Corporation (NASDAQ:HOFT) both have cited success in the motion upholstery category – the most important for La-Z-Boy.

With no debt on the balance sheet, LZB isn’t likely to plunge. But investors looking for a quick double-digit return on trade fears, or a weak fiscal Q4 report in June, should consider shorting or selling calls in LZB.

As of this writing, Vince Martin is long shares of Hooker Furniture Corporation, and has no positions in any other securities mentioned.

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The Top Defense Stocks to Buy in 2018 Are Loving This $61 Billion Windfall

Last Friday (March 23), the U.S. Senate passed a $1.3 trillion federal funding bill that included an additional $61 billion for the nation’s defense budget.

With the Pentagon set to invest billions of dollars in defense, we’re bringing you the top defense stocks to buy in 2018, so you can profit from Congress’ spending spree.

While the additional $61 billion assigned to the Pentagon is a small portion of the $700 billion allocated towards defense spending annually, there’s a significant catch – this new $61 billion must be spent in the next six months.

Defense Stocksmoneymorning.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2018/03/army-people-and-drones-75×42.jpg 75w” sizes=”(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px” title=”Defense Stocks” />

This means that the Pentagon will be pouring billions of dollars into the defense industry in the immediate future – a move that is sure to have a direct impact on the profit potential of our top defense stocks to buy in 2018.

Money Morning Director of Technology & Venture Capital Research Michael Robinson has identified three stocks that are perfectly positioned to take advantage of this avalanche of new funding

These companies have returned an average of 27% over the past 12 months and are sure to experience explosive growth in the wake of even more aggressive defense spending.

Let’s take a look at our top defense stocks to buy and how you can position yourself for profit…

Top Defense Stocks in 2018, No. 3: Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc.

Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. (NYSE: HII) is a major U.S. shipbuilding company that is involved in the design, construction, maintenance, and repair of both nuclear and non-nuclear vessels on behalf of the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard. It also refuels, overhauls, and deactivates nuclear-powered ships.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 put a damper on the U.S. shipbuilding industry when it reined in defense spending by $1.2 trillion over the following decade. However Congress’ generous approach to military spending is likely to revitalize the industry.

In fact, it’s already happening.

Over the last year, Huntington obtained $8.1 billion in new contracts, while the company’s shares gained nearly 20%. The company’s Q4 2017 earnings were $3.11 per share, which was roughly $0.20 over the forecast.

Don’t Miss This Shot at a $78,000 Windfall: This tiny firm is about to make the entire world wire-free. As its game-changing technology revolutionizes the global power structure, its stock could hand investors a massive return. Learn more…

And it’s shaping up to be a profitable 2018.

On Feb. 16, the government awarded the company with a massive $1.43 billion contract for designing and building the LPD 29, a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock.

This is a 684-foot-long ship that is a major player in the U.S. Navy’s modern amphibious assault force. With these ships, soldiers, equipment, and supplies can reach land simultaneously and then disembark via different types of landing craft.

Shares of Huntington are currently trading at $261. However, analysts have a high price target of $335 on the company – a gain of nearly 30%.

While those are strong gains, our next pick has even more explosive profit potential…

Top Defense Stocks in 2018, No. 2: The Boeing Co.

Aircraft and defense system manufacturer Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) is on track to be a key player as the nation bolsters its defense spending.

Boeing is already in talks to take on several contracts with the U.S. government to build everything from refueling planes to helicopters. The U.S. Air Force is planning to spend $3 billion on 15 KC-46A Pegasus tankers, a Boeing aircraft that fuels other planes while in flight.

The company is also slated to produces several Apache, Chinook, and P-8 Poseidon helicopters. These are used in anti-surface ship and anti-submarine warfare.

In addition to its role in the defense sector, Boeing has a strong presence in the commercial aerospace business. It continues to receive ongoing orders for its 787 Dreamliner and 737 MAX 8 planes.

The company’s 20% gains last year made it the top-performing Dow stock of 2017, and it is already the top Dow Jones Industrial Average stock this year.

But its growth is only going to continue…

The company reported earnings of $9 billion in 2015, which it expects to grow to roughly $13.6 billion in 2018. The increase in defense spending could push those numbers even higher.

Boeing stock is currently trading at $333. With such strong financials and demand behind the company, analysts see Boeing heading to $470 in the near future – a spectacular gain of 41% in just a year.

Both Boeing and Huntington are great buys for the defense spending boom. However, our top defense stock to buy has even more potential.

This defense stock’s profits are set to soar 40% in the next 18 months. And that’s before any additional military spending.

Here it is…

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7 Stocks With ‘Tax Cut’ Dividend Increases on Tap

Congress and President Donald Trump passed a historic tax cut late last year, lowering the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. This monumental legislation should place hundreds of billions of dollars back in the hands of corporations. But which companies will put these dollars in the hands of investors as dividend increases?

Some companies will use the money saved — or repatriated from overseas — to reinvest in their businesses. Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA), for example, will invest $50 billion into infrastructure in the coming years.

Other companies will use the money to repurchase stock. Regrettably, those stocks are very overvalued right now.

Many companies, however, will boost their dividends to reward shareholders. This will be particularly true of companies that are already cash flow positive and are struggling to grow or would struggle anyway just given their business.

Here are seven likely candidates for dividend increases.

Dividend Increases: Apple (AAPL) Apple Inc. (AAPL)investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/aaplmsn-300×165.jpg 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/aaplmsn-55×30.jpg 55w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/aaplmsn-200×110.jpg 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/aaplmsn-162×88.jpg 162w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/aaplmsn-65×36.jpg 65w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/aaplmsn-100×55.jpg 100w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/aaplmsn-91×50.jpg 91w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/aaplmsn-78×43.jpg 78w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/aaplmsn-170×93.jpg 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 728px) 100vw, 728px” /> Source: via Apple

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) will be one of the big winners in the tax cut game. For starters, it should be able to repatriate about $215 billion. It will also save about $2.2 billion in taxes. Now, Apple not only will have all that cash on hand, it also has free cash flow in excess of $50 billion.

What’s interesting about AAPL stock is the yield is only 1.49%, based on a $2.52 per share dividend. Apple could literally afford to plow the entire tax savings into an increased dividend — boosting it by $0.44 per share — to $2.96 per share or 1.72%.

Dividend Increases: Home Depot (HD) Why HD Stock Is Finally Too Expensiveinvestorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/hdmsn-300×165.jpg 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/hdmsn-55×30.jpg 55w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/hdmsn-200×110.jpg 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/hdmsn-162×88.jpg 162w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/hdmsn-65×36.jpg 65w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/hdmsn-100×55.jpg 100w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/hdmsn-91×50.jpg 91w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/hdmsn-78×43.jpg 78w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/hdmsn-170×93.jpg 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 728px) 100vw, 728px” /> Source: Mike Mozart via Flickr (Modified)

Home Depot Inc (NYSE:HD) is another huge winner in the corporate tax cut parade. HD will save close to $675 million annually.

The beauty of Home Depot is that the company is currently firing on all cylinders. They’re seeing fabulous same-store comps. And their current dividend payout is presently a mere 40% of free cash flow.

Home Depot can and should plow their entire tax savings into a dividend increase of $0.65 per share, lifting the dividend from $3.56 to $4.21 per share. That would push the yield from 1.88% to 2.22%.

Dividend Increases: Pfizer (PFE) PFE Stockinvestorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/pfemsn-300×150.jpg 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/pfemsn-768×384.jpg 768w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/pfemsn-60×30.jpg 60w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/pfemsn-200×100.jpg 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/pfemsn-400×200.jpg 400w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/pfemsn-116×58.jpg 116w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/pfemsn-100×50.jpg 100w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/pfemsn-78×39.jpg 78w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/pfemsn-800×400.jpg 800w,https://investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/pfemsn-170×85.jpg 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 950px) 100vw, 950px” /> Source: Shutterstock

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) stands to save about $150 million annually. As a big pharma company, Pfizer must continually feed its R&D machine. R&D routinely costs about $7.5 – $8.5 billion annually, yet that money comes out of its extremely robust free cash flow which runs $13 – 16 billion annually.

Figure a $.025 dividend increase on top of its already annual increase, which results in a small increase in yield from 3.75% to 3.77%. Not big, but a lot of retirement investors hold PFE stock.

Dividend Increases: Cisco (CSCO) investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/cscomsn-300×165.jpg 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/cscomsn-55×30.jpg 55w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/cscomsn-200×110.jpg 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/cscomsn-162×88.jpg 162w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/cscomsn-400×220.jpg 400w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/cscomsn-116×64.jpg 116w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/cscomsn-100×55.jpg 100w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/cscomsn-91×50.jpg 91w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/cscomsn-78×43.jpg 78w,https://investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/cscomsn-170×93.jpg 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 728px) 100vw, 728px” /> Source: Shutterstock

Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO) has fallen into no/slow-growth territory with net income effectively stalling over the past couple of years. Nevertheless, CSCO stock generates about $13 billion annually in free cash flow. That’s pretty amazing, so the additional $350 million in tax savings would likely all go to increasing the dividend.

The $.07 per share increase would push the dividend from $1.16 per share to $1.23 per share, lifting the yield from 3.03% to 3.14%.

Dividend Increases: Coca-Cola (KO) The Coca-Cola Co KO stockinvestorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/komsn2-300×165.jpg 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/komsn2-55×30.jpg 55w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/komsn2-200×110.jpg 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/komsn2-162×88.jpg 162w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/komsn2-65×36.jpg 65w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/komsn2-100×55.jpg 100w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/komsn2-91×50.jpg 91w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/komsn2-78×43.jpg 78w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/komsn2-170×93.jpg 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 728px) 100vw, 728px” /> Source: Leo Hidalgo via Flickr (Modified)

The Coca-Cola Co (NYSE:KO) has really been struggling the past few years. The world moved away from sugary drinks and toward healthier choices. Revenue is falling, as is net income.

Nevertheless, KO stock has enjoyed bountiful cash flow for decades and has almost $40 billion of cash on hand. So while business is struggling, much of the $220 million in tax savings may go to either stock repurchases or dividend increases.

If the latter, that means a $0.05 per share increase to $1.53 per share, boosting the yield from 3.23% to 3.36%.

Dividend Increases: Microsoft (MSFT) Why You Should Buy Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) Stock on the Dipinvestorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/MSFTMSN-300×165.jpg 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/MSFTMSN-73×40.jpg 73w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/MSFTMSN-55×30.jpg 55w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/MSFTMSN-250×137.jpg 250w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/MSFTMSN-200×110.jpg 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/MSFTMSN-162×88.jpg 162w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/MSFTMSN-160×88.jpg 160w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/MSFTMSN-65×36.jpg 65w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/MSFTMSN-100×55.jpg 100w,https://investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/MSFTMSN-91×50.jpg 91w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/MSFTMSN-78×43.jpg 78w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/MSFTMSN-170×93.jpg 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 728px) 100vw, 728px” /> Source: Mike Mozart Via Flickr

Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) will win big with the tax cut as well. Because Microsoft is finally growing earnings again, but has tons of cash and cash flow, there is no need to plow the tax savings into the business.

MSFT can also start to make big strides towards becoming an income stock. Get this — before the cut, MSFT generated $30 billion in free cash flow last year, and paid out only $11.8 billion in dividends.

Tax savings could push another $0.04 per share into the dividend, lifting it to $1.72 per share.

Dividend Increases: Boeing (BA) Boeing BA stockinvestorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/bamsn-1-300×165.jpg 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/bamsn-1-73×40.jpg 73w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/bamsn-1-55×30.jpg 55w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/bamsn-1-250×137.jpg 250w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/bamsn-1-200×110.jpg 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/bamsn-1-162×88.jpg 162w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/bamsn-1-160×88.jpg 160w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/bamsn-1-65×36.jpg 65w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/bamsn-1-100×55.jpg 100w,https://investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/bamsn-1-91×50.jpg 91w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/bamsn-1-78×43.jpg 78w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/bamsn-1-170×93.jpg 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 728px) 100vw, 728px” /> Source: Phillip Capper via Flickr

Boeing Co (NYSE:BA) is another widely-held stock that’s in a sweet-spot as far as how to use its tax windfall. They aren’t saving an enormous chunk of money — about $93 million — but that still translates to a $0.16 per share dividend increase.

That would push the dividend right up to $7 per share, lifting the yield from 2.32% to 2.34%.

Lawrence Meyers is the CEO of PDL Capital, a specialty lender focusing on consumer finance and is the Manager of The Liberty Portfolio at www.thelibertyportfolio.com. He does not own any stock mentioned. He has 23 years’ experience in the stock market, and has written more than 1,800 articles on investing. Lawrence Meyers can be reached at TheLibertyPortfolio@gmail.com.

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