Corporate revenues have been crummy all year, and earnings estimates for Q3 have come crashing down. A year ago, they were still expected to grow 15.9%, a sign of blind optimism. By Friday, they’d plunged to 4.7%. During that time, the S&P 500 soared 16.8% and the NASDAQ 19.6%. The Fed’s greatest accomplishment. But there is a corollary.
The idea that LBOs carry massive debt that is never paid down, leaving behind “financial zombies on the ragged edge of insolvency,” defies historical principles of LBOs, writes David Stockman. Blackstone’s LBO of Hilton Hotels is one of these “free market defying zombies” – “one global business slump away from bankruptcy.” And it just filed for an IPO.
Men’s Warehouse joined the crowd of revenue-challenged retailers when it reported results and cut guidance. Revenue fell, profit plunged. As with its peers that had already reported, it’s not so much that sales were crummy – gosh, they were – but that the excuses they came up with to keep their stocks from crashing were even crummier.
With Q3 GDP growth tracking 1.6%, Wall Street strategists, whose bullishness has been deafening despite realities on the ground, are starting to hedge their bets with some unusually candid analyses. Seeing overvalued assets everywhere, they’re struggling to point at solutions, other than a crash. And they predict a sour future for stocks and bonds.
Verizon will unleash a tsunami of money on Wall Street. To pay for its $130 billion acquisition of Vodafone’s share of Verizon Wireless, it will print $60 billion of its own inflated stock. It will borrow the rest – much of it via the largest bond sale in history, though it’s drowning in debt. Now that sale is slamming the already deflating bond bubble.
The bond-fund massacre is spectacular. Antsy investors yanked $7.7 billion in August out of the world’s largest bond fund, Pimco’s Total Return Fund. In July, they’d yanked out $7.5 billion, in June $14.5 billion. From May 1 through August 31, the fund’s assets shriveled 14%. Other bond funds got hit too. And September is shaping up to be even worse.
“Bernanke’s maniacal money printing after the Lehman event catalyzed a virtual stampede back into the very same risk-asset classes which had been reduced to smoldering ruins,” David Stockman writes. It produced the craziest junk-bond binge of all times, allowing the mega-buyouts from before the crisis to survive and pay rich fees to the LBO lords.
These wildly optimistic estimates of earnings growth that analysts work on so studiously by copying and pasting what companies tell them, or by doing channel checks and poking around the industry, and that companies have to exceed at all costs “on an adjusted basis?” Well, they have been shrinking for 2013 – but only after reality forced them down.
They’re at it again! Originally created by Congress in 2007, the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program provided low-cost government loans that were subsidized, and then in part eaten as we now know, by hapless and strung-out American taxpayers. In 2011, it was left behind as dead, but now the government wants to bring that zombie back.
The US shale revolution is leaving its marks. In 2009, the US surpassed Russia as the world’s largest producer of natural gas. In May, production exceeded imports for the first time in 16 years. In 2020, the US might overtake Saudi Arabia as the top oil-producing nation. But there aren’t enough pipelines in place to handle it.