Chips, energy and an Amazon rival: Stock picks from a fund manager with three decades of experience

by user


Markets are again on the backfoot ahead of Thursday’s open. Credit Suisse shares have shot higher on plans to borrow billions, a day after collapsing and upending already fragile markets.

The European Central Bank raised its key interest rate by 50 basis points as some had expected. That’s as stress returns for some U.S> lenders.

Onto our call of the day, which comes from the manager of the Plumb Balanced Fund
PLIBX,
-1.08%
,
Tom Plumb, who has three stock ideas to share. But first, some timely advice from the manager’s three decades of experience.

“The market is really going to be volatile here, but if you look at 1981 to 1982, it was a significant amount of pressure on the stock market, but the fourth quarter of 1982…the S&P 500
SPX,
-0.57%

was up 40%,” Plumb told MarketWatch in a recent interview.

“I think people still have to look at what their comfort with risk is…for the first time in 15 years, they have a reasonable expectation that a balanced portfolio will modify the volatility because they’re earning 4% to 7% on their higher quality fixed income investments,” he said.

“You just have to make sure the companies you own aren’t overleveraged, they’re not dependent on capital and that they’re not standing, as we say, on the railroad tracks for different trends that are really going to be developing,” said Plumb.

That brings us to his first pick, microcontroller maker Microchip Technology
MCHP,
-1.08%
,
which he has owned at different periods over 20 years and sits in a sector he likes — chips.

The first microcontroller was put on a car to regulate the fuel injection system in 1987 and the average car now has about 400 of those, controlling everything from temperature, to safety, he notes. Microchip trades at about 14 times forward earnings, and likes the fact they’re normally conservative on the guidance front.

“They focus on industrial aerospace, defense, auto and auto centers. They have almost no exposure to PCs and cellphone markets,” return free cash to shareholders, with regular dividends over the past 15 years. While not as sexy as AI, Microchip delivers on the basis of a “good, solid company,” he said.

Read: Chip stocks fall as delivery times shrink, Samsung plans to build world’s largest chip complex

His next pick is down to the Ukraine war’s causation of a rethink of energy independence, capacity and companies that can produce commodities such as liquid natural gas. With that Philips 66
PSX,
-1.46%

is “probably the best company in the mid market,” trading at about 7 times earnings, with a 4% dividend yield meaning investors are paid as they wait, he said.

“Earnings obviously are pretty volatile, but their main thing is capacity utilization rates on the refineries. Refineries are only a quarter of their revenues, but it’s 60% of their profits, and then they transport the LNG,” he said. LNG exports will be significant as countries try to diversify energy inputs, and “carbon-based energy is gonna still have a significant place in the world for a long time,” he adds.

His last pick is an old favorite for the manager — Latin America’s answer to Amazon.com
AMZN,
-0.46%

— MercadoLibre
MELIN,
-0.63%

MELI,
-1.02%
,
whose shares have been on the recovery road after coming off COVID-19 pandemic-era highs. The company is now “getting to scale and you’re seeing a tremendous increase in not only their revenues, but their profit margins are expanding,” he said.

“So it looks like you’re going to have 28% revenue growth maybe for the next four years at least, and get 50% plus growth in their reported earnings,” he said, noting increasing benefits of electronic transactions and digital advertising.

“So you’ve got three legs: you’ve got the financial, you’ve got the Amazon type, online retailer and the third is the advertising. All of these things are putting them in a spot that’s unique in Latin America, Mexico and South America,” said Plumb.

Last word from Plumb? Like many others, he’s worried that the Fed has moved too fast with rate hikes and that those delayed effects are playing out. He worries about risk to insurance companies and long-term lenders of commercial real estate, which he thinks will be “an area of significant potential risk over the next couple of years.”

The markets

Stock futures
ES00,
-0.63%

YM00,
-0.64%

NQ00,
-0.26%

extended losses after the ECB rate hike, while bond yields
TMUBMUSD10Y,
3.395%

TMUBMUSD02Y,
3.849%

have also turned lower, and the dollar
DXY,
+0.08%

lower. Asian stocks
HSI,
-1.72%

NIK,
-0.80%

fell, while European equities
SXXP,
-0.26%

turned mixed after the ECB hiked interest rates. German 2-year bund yields
TMBMKDE-02Y,
2.388%

are also rising after a big plunge. Oil prices
CL.1,
-1.55%

are weaker.

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The buzz

“Inflation is projected to remain too high for too long.” That was the ECB statemetn following a 50 basis point rate hike, a move that some had been on the fence over, given fresh banking stress. President Christine Lagarde will speak soon.

U.S. data showed weekly jobless claims dropping 29,000 to 1.68 million, while import prices declined 0.1%, housing starts rebounded by a 9.8% jump and building permits surged 13.8%. The Philly Fed manufacturing gauge remained deep in contraction territory in March, hitting a negative 23.2, versus expectations of 15.5

Treasury Sec. Janet Yellen is expected to tell the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday that the U.S. banking system is “sound.”

That’s as First Republic shares
FRC,
-33.99%

have dropped 35% to a fresh record low amid reports the battered lender is considering a sale. The lender was cut to junk by Fitch and S&P on Wednesday. Elsewhere, PacWest Bancorp
PACW,
-13.98%

is down 14%.

Meanwhile, “everything is fine,” with Credit Suisse, said the head of top shareholder Saudi National Bank on Thursday, a day after he effectively blew up markets by saying the Middle Eastern bank wouldn’t boost its stake. Credit Suisse shares
CS,
+5.51%

CSGN,
+19.68%

are surging on a pledge to borrow money from the Swiss National Bank and repay debt.

Adobe shares
ADBE,
+4.53%

are up 5% after topping Wall Street expectations for the quarter and hiking its outlook.

Shares of Snap
SNAP,
+1.06%

are up 6%, following a report that the Biden administration has told its Chinese owners to sell their TikTok stakes or face U.S. ban.

Shares of DSW parent Designer Brands
DBI,
+9.78%

are headed for a 2-year low after a surprise profit, but disappointing revenue.

Goldman Sachs is lifting its odds of a U.S. recession in the next 12 months by 10 percentage points to 35%, over worries about the economic effects of small bank stress.

Best of the web

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A rare Patek Philippe watch owned by the last emperor of China’s Qing dynasty could break auction records.

An issue with your tissue? ‘Forever chemicals’ are in toilet paper, too.

The tickers

These were the top-searched tickers on MarketWatch as of 6 a.m.

Ticker

Security name

TSLA,
-0.33%
Tesla

CS,
+5.51%
Credit Suisse

FRC,
-33.99%
First Republic Bank

BBBY,
+2.84%
Bed Bath & Beyond

CSGN,
+19.68%
Credit Suisse

AMC,
-2.73%
AMC Entertainment

GME,
-2.12%
GameStop

AAPL,
-0.61%
Apple

NIO,
-1.09%
NIO

APE,
-7.68%
AMC Entertainment Holdings preferred shares

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