Is fear keeping us from good stocks?

Look at the way the market reacted to Joy Global's earnings. Skittish investors are reacting sharply to any hiccup.

By Jim J. Jubak Jun 1, 2012 3:35PM
Are we all market timers now?

I ask that after seeing Joy Global's (JOY) second-quarter earnings report Thursday.

The company beat Wall Street projections by 8 cents a share on earnings and reported a 45% year-to-year gain in revenue to $1.54 billion (above the $1.43 billion consensus among analysts), but the stock got savaged when the company lowered its guidance for fiscal 2012 to $7.15 to $7.45 a share from the prior guidance of $7.40 to $7.80 a share. Before that revision, the Wall Street consensus had been $7.64 a share in earnings for fiscal 2012.

The stock closed the day at $55.86, near the bottom of its 12-month range of $53.26 to $101.44 a share. The stock is down 34% in the last year and 41% from its Feb. 3 closing high at $95.23. The shares are well below the 50-day moving average at $68.71 and the 200-day moving average at $77.92. In fact, they're pretty much back to where they were at the October 2011 low before the stunning end of the year rally that extended into the first two months of 2012.

Did I rush to buy on the bad news? Nope. My first reaction was that I should wait for the shares to move lower. They were cheap today. But they'd probably be cheaper tomorrow.

That's a totally understandable reaction to the current market environment where stocks seem to move lower every day on a steady diet of bad news from Europe, China, Brazil, and the United States; where a horrible May has pretty much wiped out all the gains from the first two months of the year for stock indexes in the United States, and where it’s hard to find a silver lining in any of the gray clouds that still crowd the horizon.

But while the reaction is understandable, I’m not sure it’s the correct one. We know from work in the last few decades in behavioral finance that investors have a roughly 2-to-1 preference for avoiding losses to acquiring gains even at the best of times. And this certainly isn’t the best of times. Recently we’ve all taken losses on "good" stocks so that pulling the trigger on anything has become incredibly difficult. Better, our emotions and recent experience tell us, to wait until prices are lower tomorrow. At least that way we won’t suffer another loss.

So is the long-term case that I can make for owning Joy Global relevant at all to a buy/sell/hold decision now? (Joy Global is a member of my Jubak Picks 50 long-term portfolio.)

To decide, I’d start first with what the company said in its conference call when it lowered guidance for fiscal 2012. The company sees weakness in markets around the world. The U.S. market is soft. Growth in the eurozone has slowed. China’s economy looks to be slowing. All this slowing is expected to reduce earnings by 18 cents a share in fiscal 2012.

At least that’s the way things look now -- they could get worse because uncertainty is so high, the company noted. The U.S. coal market is coping not just with weakness in global economies but also with increased competition from cheap natural gas in the United States. That has reduced production and revenue at mining companies -- leading to a slowdown in orders. But the company expects that this market will stabilize by the end of the year. In China, Joy Global said it expects the economic slowdown to bottom in the near term and that its markets there will return to growth due to increased government spending. Investors have heard this before from many companies, of course, and we’re entitled to be skeptical about predictions for a turn in the company’s markets. The company admitted at much in its conference call saying that they don’t know whether the upside will appear in the near or longer term.

Second, I’d look at the Wall Street reaction to the news. This uncertainty has left Wall Street target prices all over the map. For example, after the guidance from the company, Barclays cut its target price to $88 from $96. UBS, however, cut its target to $58 from $78.

And third, I’d look at whether any of this changes the long-term positive trend for Joy Global. I think here the answer is no. World demand for mined commodities will increase over the long-term and the need to buy more mining equipment to expand mine capacity and production is intact. I’d even argue that any orders lost in the current slowdown aren’t so much lost as delayed.

The average age of an electric shovel used in mining is now more than 16 years. At some point aging equipment has to be replaced and I think Joy Global is looking at the same kind of deferred demand that powered revenue and earnings growth at Cummins (CMI) once truck owners decided to upgrade their aging fleets.

My conclusion: I would like to own Joy Global for the long-term, and so far the short-term hiccups haven’t really changed the long-term story. But experience tells me that once a Wall Street favorite has hit a soft patch like this, the stock is likely to go through a period of further weakness as Wall Street analysts cut their target prices to catch up with the current share price. I’d wait on Joy Global for a while with an eye to watching for when analysts stop cutting their target prices by $20 at a pop and for when the spread among analysts isn’t quite so extreme.

I’d put this one on my watch list for a few months at this point.

At the time of this writing, Jim Jubak didn't own shares of any companies mentioned in this post in personal portfolios. The mutual fund he manages, Jubak Global Equity Fund (JUBAX), may or may not own positions in any stock mentioned. The fund did own shares of Joy Global as of the end of March. For a full list of the stocks in the fund as of the end of the most recent quarter, see the fund's portfolio here. 

Tags: JOY
5Comments
Jun 4, 2012 5:17AM
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 Words like Double dip, printing press, Federal Reserve, speculators, and a host of others come to mind with the stock market. The smoke is clearing away from the in front of the mirrors.  I am looking and seeing triple digit dips again. My concern now is with the bond markets. When they start the downward slide. All of us are TOAST. This go around I have 98% of my funds in a Roth Savings Fund. The trick for me is to decide if I want to gamble on when we hit the REAL BOTTOM. Then I need to decide if I will buy back in? 10,000 is about where everything really should be. When they start arresting the banker crooks from the last go around it might give some confidence to get back in? Until then I will stand on the outside with my bag of money.
Jun 3, 2012 10:52PM
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Joy Global?   How bout' Global Joy when the current occupant of the WH is replaced in November.

 

Definately a strong buy, there.

Jun 4, 2012 7:52AM
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No, common sense is keeping most of us out of the stock market. Only a fool would continue giving these Wall Street pickpockets another dime.
Jun 4, 2012 10:02AM
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Facebook pandering to children.

If any harm comes to any preteen because of Facebook, the guardian of the child should be able to sue Facebook for $380,000,000,000.

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