WEEKLY ISSUE: Scaling deeper into Dycom shares

WEEKLY ISSUE: Scaling deeper into Dycom shares

Key points from this issue:

  • We are halfway through the current quarter, and we’ve got a number of holdings on the Tematica Investing Select List that are trouncing the major market indices.
  • We are using this week’s pain to improve our long-term cost basis in Dycom Industries (DY) shares as we ratchet back our price target to $100 from $125.
  • Examining our Middle-Class Squeeze investing theme and housing.
  • A Digital Lifestyle company that we plan on avoiding as Facebook attacks its key market.


As the velocity of June quarter earnings reports slows, in this issue of Tematica Investing we’re going to examine how our Middle-Class Squeeze investing theme is impacting the housing market and showcase a Digital Lifestyle theme company that I think subscribers would be smart to avoid. I’m also keeping my eyes open regarding the recent concerns surrounding Turkey and the lira. Thus far, signs of contagion appear to be limited but in the coming days, I suspect we’ll have a much better sense of the situation and exposure to be had.

With today’s issue, we are halfway through the current quarter. While the major market indices are up 2%-4% so far in the quarter, by comparison, we’ve had a number of strong thematic outperformers. These include Alphabet (GOOGL), Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), AXT Inc. (AXTI), Costco Wholesale (COST),  Habit Restaurant (HABT), Walt Disney (DIS), United Parcel Service (UPS), Universal Display (OLED) and USA Technologies (USAT).  That’s an impressive roster to be sure, but there are several positions that have lagged the market quarter to date including GSV Capital (GSVC), Nokia (NOK), Netflix (NFLX), Paccar (PCAR) and Rockwell Automation (ROK). We’ve also experienced some pain with Dycom (DY) shares, which we will get to in a moment.

Last week jettisoned shares of Farmland Partners (FPI) following the company taking it’s 3Q 2018 dividend payment and shooting it behind the woodshed. We also scaled into GSVC shares following GSV’s thesis-confirming June quarter earnings report, and I’m closely watching NFLX shares with a similar strategy in mind given the double-digit drop since adding them to the Tematica Investing Select List just over a month ago.


Scaling into Dycom share to improve our position for the longer-term

Last week we unveiled our latest investing theme here at Tematica – Digital Infrastructure. Earlier this week, Dycom Industries (DY), our first Digital Infrastructure selection slashed its outlook for the next few quarters despite a sharp rise in its backlog. Those shared revisions are as follows:

  • For its soon to be reported quarter, the company now sees EPS of $1.05-$1.08 from its previous guidance of $1.13-$1.28 vs. $1.19 analyst consensus estimate and revenues of $799.5 million from the prior $830-$860 million vs. the $843 million consensus.
  • For its full year ending this upcoming January, Dycom now sees EPS of $2.62-$3.07 from $4.26-$5.15 vs. the $4.63 consensus estimate and revenues of $3.01-$3.11 billion from $3.23-$3.43 billion and the $3.33 billion consensus.


What caught my eyes was the big disparity between the modest top line cuts and the rather sharp ones to the bottom line. Dycom attributed the revenue shortfall to slower large-scale deployments at key customers and margin pressure due to the under absorption of labor and field costs – the same issues that plagued it in its April quarter. Given some of the June quarter comments from mobile infrastructure companies like Ericsson (ERIC) and Nokia (NOK), Dycom’s comments regarding customer timing is not that surprising, even though the magnitude to its bottom line is. I chalk this up to the operating leverage that is inherent in its construction services business, and that cuts both ways – great when things are ramping, and to the downside when activity is less than expected.

We also know from Ericsson and Dycom that the North American market will be the most active when it comes to 5G deployments in the coming quarters, which helps explain why Dycom’s backlog rose to $7.9 billion exiting July up from $5.9 billion at the end of April and $5.9 billion exiting the July 2017 quarter. As that backlog across Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Windstream and others is deployed in calendar 2019, we should see a snapback in margins and EPS compared to 2018.

With that in mind, the strategy will be to turn lemons – Monday’s 24% drop in DY’s share price – into long-term lemonade. To do this, we are adding to our DY position at current levels, which should drop our blended cost basis to roughly $80 from just under $92. Not bad, but I’ll be inclined to scale further into the position to enhance that blended cost basis in the coming weeks and months on confirmation that 5G is moving from concept to physical network. Like I said in our Digital Infrastructure overview, no 5G network means no 5G services, plain and simple. As we scale into the shares and factor in the revised near-term outlook, I’m also cutting our price target on DY shares to $100 from $125.

  • We are using this week’s pain to improve our long-term cost basis in Dycom Industries (DY) shares as we ratchet back our price target to $100 from $125.


Now, let’s get to how our Middle-Class Squeeze investing theme is hitting the housing market, and review that Digital Lifestyle company that we’re going to steer clear of because of Facebook (FB). Here we go…


If not single-family homes, where are the squeezed middle-class going?

To own a home was once considered one of the cornerstones of the American dream. If we look at the year to date move in the SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (XHB), which is down nearly 16% this year, one might have some concerns about the tone of the housing market. Yes, there is the specter of increasing inflation that has and likely will prompt the Federal Reserve to boost interest rates, and that will inch mortgage rates further from the near record lows enjoyed just a few years ago.

Here’s the thing:

  • Higher mortgage rates will make the cost of buying a home more expensive at a time when real wage growth is not accelerating, and consumers will be facing higher priced goods as inflation winds its way through the economic system leading to higher prices. During the current earnings season, we’ve heard from a number of companies including Cinemark Holdings (CNK), Hostess Brands (TWNK), Otter Tail (OTTR), and Diodes Inc. (DIOD) that are expected to pass on rising costs to consumers in the form of price increases.
  • Consumers debt loads have already climbed higher in recent years and as interest rates rise that will get costlier to service sapping disposable income and the ability to build a mortgage down payment



And let’s keep in mind, homes prices are already the most expensive they have been in over a decade due to a combination of tight housing supply and rising raw material costs. According to the National Association of Home Builders, higher wood costs have added almost $9,000 to the price of the average new single-family since January 2017.



Already new home sales have been significantly lower than over a decade ago, and as these forces come together it likely means the recent slowdown in new home sales that has emerged in 2018 is likely to get worse.


Yet our population continues to grow, and new households are being formed.


This prompts the question as to where are these new households living and where are they likely to in the coming quarters as homeownership costs are likely to rise further?

The answer is rental properties, including apartments, which are enjoying low vacancy rates and a positive slope in the consumer price index paid of rent paid for a primary residence.


There are several real estate investment trusts (REITs) that focus on the apartment and rental market including Preferred Apartment Communities, Inc. (APTS) and Independence Realty Trust (IRT). I’ll be looking at these and others to determine potential upside to be had in the coming quarters, which includes looking at their attractive dividend yields to ensure the underlying dividend stream is sustainable. More on this to come.


A Digital Lifestyle company that we plan on avoiding as Facebook attacks its key market

As important as it is to find well-positioned companies that are poised to ride prevailing thematic tailwinds that will drive revenue and profits as well as the share price higher, it’s also important to sidestep those that are running headlong into pronounced headwinds. These headwinds can take several forms, but one of the more common ones of late is the expanding footprint of companies like Alphabet (GOOGL), Amazon (AMZN) and Facebook (FB) among others.

We’ve seen the impact on shares of Blue Apron (APRN) fall apart over the last year following the entrance of Kroger (KR) into the meal kit business with its acquisition of Home Chef and investor concerns over Amazon entering the space following its acquisition of Whole Foods Market. That changing landscape highlighted one of the major flaws in Blue Apron’s subscription-based business model –  very high customer acquisition costs and high customer churn rates. While we warned investors to avoid APRN shares back last October when they were trading at north of $5, those who didn’t heed our advice are now enjoying APRN shares below $2.20. Ouch!

Now let’s take a look at the shares of Meet Group (MEET), which have been on a tear lately rising to $4.20 from just under $3 coming into 2018. The question to answer is this more like a Blue Apron or more like USA Technologies (USAT) or Habit Restaurant (HABT). In other words, one that is headed for destination @#$%^& or a bona fide opportunity.

According to its description, Meet offers  applications designed to meet the “universal need for human connection” and keep its users “entertained and engaged, and originate untold numbers of casual chats, friendships, dates, and marriages.” That sound you heard was the collective eye-rolling across Team Tematica. If you’re thinking this sounds similar to online and mobile dating sites like Tinder, Match, PlentyOfFish, Meetic, OkCupid, OurTime, and Pairs that are all part of Match Group (MTCH) and eHarmony, we here at Tematica are inclined to agree. And yes, dating has clearly moved into the digital age and that falls under the purview of our Digital Lifestyle investing theme.

Right off the bat, the fact that Meet’s expected EPS in 2018 and 2019 are slated to come in below the $0.39 per share Meet earned in 2017 despite consensus revenue expectations of $181 in 2019 vs. just under $124 million in 2017 is a red flag. So too is the lack of positive cash flow and fall off in cash on the balance sheet from $74.5 million exiting March 2017 to less than $21 million at the close of the June 2018 quarter. A sizable chunk of that cash was used to buy Lovoo, a popular dating app in Europe as well as develop the ability to monetize live video on several of its apps.

Then there is the decline in the company’s average total daily active users to 4.75 million in the June 2018 quarter from 4.95 million exiting 2017. Looking at average mobile daily active users as well as average monthly active user metrics we see the same downward trend over the last two quarters. Not good, not good at all.

And then there is Facebook, which at its 2018 F8 developer conference in early May, shared it was internally testing its dating product with employees. While it’s true the social media giant is contending with privacy concerns, CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared the company will continue to build new features and applications and this one was focused on building real, long-term relationships — not just for hookups…” Clearly a swipe at Match Group’s Tinder.

Given the size of Facebook’s global reach – 1.47 billion daily active users and 2.23 billion monthly active users – it has the scope and scale to be a force in digital dating even with modest user adoption. While Meet is enjoying the monetization benefits of its live video offering, Facebook has had voice and video calling as well as other chat capabilities that could spur adoption and converts from Meet’s platforms.

As I see it, Meet Group have enjoyed a nice run thus far in 2018, but as Facebook gears into the digital dating and moves from internal beta to open to the public, Meet will likely see further declines in user metrics. So, go user metrics to go advertising revenue and that means the best days for MEET shares could be in the rearview mirror. To me this makes MEET shares look more like those from Blue Apron than Habit or USA Technologies. In other words, I plan on steering clear of MEET shares and so should you.



Amazon shares some Prime Day results, Bullish 5G comments from Ericsson

Amazon shares some Prime Day results, Bullish 5G comments from Ericsson

Key points in this issue:

  • Our $1,900 price target for Amazon (AMZN) shares is under review with an upward bias.
  • Our price target on United Parcel Service (UPS) remains $130.
  • Our price target on Dycom (DY) shares remains $125.
  • Our price target on AXT Inc. (AXTI) shares is $11.
  • Our price target on Nokia (NOK) shares is $8.50.


Follow up on Prime Day 2018

As the dust settles on Amazon’s (AMZN) 2018 Prime Day, the company shared that not only did Prime members purchase more than 100 million products during the 36-hour event, but that it was also the “biggest in history.” While details were limited, this commentary like means the 2018 event handily eclipsed last year’s. Adding credence to that was the noted addition of Prime Day in Australia, Singapore, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, which brought the total event country count to 17. It was also reported that Prime Day Sales on Amazon’s third-party marketplace were up some 90% during the first 12 hours of Prime Day this year.

All very positive, but still no clarity on the overall magnitude of the event relative to forecasts calling for it to deliver $3.4-3.6 billion in revenue. There was also no mention about the number of new Prime members that joined the Amazon flock, but historically Prime Day has led to a smattering of conversions and with it occurring in 17 countries this year, including four new ones, odds are Amazon continued to draw in new Prime users.

As we mentioned yesterday, our $1,900 price target for Amazon shares is under review with an upward bias. In looking at Prime Day from a food chain or ecosystem perspective, we see it benefitting the package volume for Tematica Investing Select List resident United Parcel Service (UPS). I’ll be looking for confirming data in comments from United Parcel Service when it reports its 2Q 2018 quarterly results on July 25 as well as any insight it offers on Back to School shopping and the soon to be upon us year-end holiday shopping season. Let’s also keep in mind that UPS will share those comments one day before Amazon reports its quarterly results on July 26.

  • Our $1,900 price target for Amazon (AMZN) shares is under review with an upward bias.
  • Our price target on United Parcel Service (UPS) remains $130.


Ericson’s 5G comments are positive for Dycom, AXT and Nokia shares

Also yesterday, leading mobile infrastructure company Ericsson (ERIC) reported its 2Q 2018 results, and while we are not involved in the shares, its comments on the 5G market bode very well for our the shares of specialty contractor Dycom Industries (DY) and compound substrate company AXT Inc. (AXTI) as well as mobile infrastructure and wireless technology licensing company Nokia (NOK).

More specifically, Ericsson called out that its sales in North America for the quarter increased year over year due to “5G readiness” investments across all of its major customers. This confirms the commentary of the last few weeks as AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) – both of which are core Dycom customers – move toward commercial 5G deployments in the coming quarters.

We’ve also heard similar comments from T-Mobile USA (TMUS) as well. But let’s remember that 5G is not a US-only mobile technology, and we are seeing similar signs of readiness and adoption for its deployment in other countries. For example, the top three mobile operators in South Korea are working to launch the technology in March 2019. Mobile operators in Spain are bidding on 5G spectrum, France has established a roadmap for its 5G efforts and recently the first end to end 5G call was made in Australia.

While the US will likely be the first market to commercially deploy 5G service, it won’t be the only one. This means similar to what we have seen with past mobile technology deployments such as 3G and 4G LTE, this global rollout will span several years. While Ericsson’s North American comments bode well for our DY shares, these other confirmation points keep us bullish on our shares of AXT and NOK as well.

  • Our price target on Dycom (DY) shares remains $125.
  • Our price target on AXT Inc. (AXTI) shares is $11.
  • Our price target on Nokia (NOK) shares is $8.50.


WEEKLY ISSUE: The Shakeout from Market Volatility on the Select List

WEEKLY ISSUE: The Shakeout from Market Volatility on the Select List



It’s Wednesday, February 7, and the stock market is coming off one of its wild rides it has seen in the last few days. I shared my thoughts on the what’s and why’s behind that yesterday with subscribers as well as with Charles Payne, the host of Making Money with Charles Payne on Fox Business – if you missed that, you can watch it here.

As investors digest the realization the Fed could boost interest rates more than it has telegraphed – something very different than we’ve experienced in the last several years – the domestic stock market appears to be finding its footing as gains over the last few days are being recouped. Lending a helping hand is the corporate bond market, which, in contrast to the turbulent moves of late in the domestic stock market, signals that credit investors remain comfortable with corporate credit fundamentals, the outlook for earnings and the ability for companies to absorb higher interest rates.

My perspective is this expectation reset for domestic stocks follows a rapid ascent over the last few months, and it’s removed some of the froth from the market as valuations levels have drifted back to earth from the rare air they recently inhabited.


Among Opportunity This New Market Dynamic Brings, There Have Been Casualties

While this offers some new opportunities for both new positions on the Tematica Investing Select List as well as the opportunity to scale into some positions at better prices once the sharp swings in stocks have abated some, it also means there have been some casualties.

We were stopped out of our shares in Cashless Consumption investment theme company, USA Technologies (USAT) when our $7.50 stop loss was triggered yesterday. While the shares snapped back along with the market rally yesterday, we were none the less stopped out, with the overall position returning more than 65% since we added them to the Select List last April. For those keeping track, that compares to the 15.3% return in the S&P 500 at the same time so, yeah, we’re not exactly broken up over things. We will put USAT shares on the Tematica Contender List and look to revisit them after the company reports earnings tomorrow (Thursday, Feb. 8).

That’s the second Select List position to have been stopped out in the last several days. The other was AXT Inc. (AXTI) last week, and as a reminder that position returned almost 27% vs. a 15% move in the S&P 500. Again, not too shabby!

The last week has brought a meaningful dip in shares of Costco Wholesale (COST). On recent episodes of our Cocktail Investing Podcast, Tematica Chief Macro Strategist Lenore Hawkins and I have discussed the lack of pronounced wage gains for nonsupervisory workers (82% of the US workforce) paired with rising credit card and other debt. That combination likely means we haven’t seen the last of the Cash-Strapped Consumer investment theme — of the key thematic tailwinds we see behind Costco’s business. While COST shares are still up more than 15% since being added to the Select List, we see the recent 5% drop in the shares as an opportunity for those who remained on the sidelines before the company reports its quarterly earnings in early March.

  • Our price target on Costco Wholesale (COST) shares remains $200.



Remaining Patient on AMAT, OLED and AAPL

Two other names on the Tematica Investing Select List have fallen hard of late, in part due to the market’s gyrations, but also over lingering Apple (AAPL) and other smartphone-related concerns. We are referring to Disruptive Technologies investment theme companies Applied Materials (AMAT) and Universal Display (OLED). As we shared last week, it increasingly looks that Apple’s smartphone volumes, especially for the higher priced, higher margin iPhone X won’t be cut as hard as had been rumored. Moreover, current chatter suggests Apple will once again introduce three new iPhone models this year, two of which are slated to utilize organic light emitting diode displays.

Odds are iPhone projections will take time to move from chatter to belief to fact. In the meantime, we are seeing other smartphone vendors adopt organic light emitting diode displays, and as we saw at CES 201 TV adoption is going into full swing this year. That ramping demand also bodes for Applied Materials (AMAT), which is also benefitting from capital spending plans in China and elsewhere as chip manufacturers contend with rising demand across a growing array of connected devices and data centers.

  • Our price target on Apple (AAPL) remains $200
  • Our price target on Universal Display (OLED) remains $225
  • Our price target on Applied Materials (AMAT) remains $70


The 5G Network Buildout is Gaining Momentum – Good News for NOK and DY

This past week beleaguered mobile carrier, Sprint (S), threw its hat into the 5G network ring announcing that it will join AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ), and T-Mobile USA (TMUS) in launching a commercial 5G network in 2019. That was news was a solid boost to our Nokia (NOK) shares, which rose 15% last week. The company remains poised to see a pick-up in infrastructure demand as well as IP licensing for 5G technology, and I’ll continue to watch network launch details as well as commentary from Contender List resident Dycom Industries (DY), whose business focuses on the actual construction of such networks.

Several months ago, I shared that we tend to see a pack mentality with the mobile carriers and new technologies – once one makes a move, the others tend to follow rather than risk a customer base that thinks they are behind the curve. In today’s increasingly Connected Society that chews increasingly on data and streaming services, that thought can be a deathblow to a company’s customer count.

  • Our price target on Nokia (NOK) shares remains $8.50
  • I continue to evaluate upgrading Dycom (DY) shares to the Select List, but I am inclined to wait until we pass the winter season given the impact of weather on the company’s construction business.


Disney Offers Some Hope for Its ESPN Unit

Last night Disney (DIS) announced its December quarter results while the overall tone was positive, the stand out item to me was the announcement of the new ESPN streaming service being introduced in the next few months that has a price tag of $4.99 a month. For that, ESPN+ customers will get “thousands” of live events, including pro baseball, hockey and soccer, as well as tennis, boxing, golf and college sports not available on ESPN’s traditional TV networks. Alongside the service, Disney will unveil a new, streamlined version of the ESPN app, which is slated to include greater levels of customization.

In my view, all of this lays the groundwork for Disney’s eventual launch of its own Disney streaming content service in 2019, but it also looks to change the conversation around ESPN proper, a business that continues to lose subscribers. Not surprising, given that Comcast (CMCA) continues to report cable TV subscriber defections. One of the key components to watch will be the shake-out of the rights to stream live games from the major professional leagues — the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA. Currently, ESPN is on the hook for about $4 billion a year in rights fees to those three leagues alone — not to mention the rights fees committed to college athletics. Those deals, however, include only the rights to broadcast those games on cable networks or on the ESPN app to customers that can prove they have a cable subscription, not cord-cutters. So the question will be how quick will customers jump on board to pay $5 a month for lower-level games, or will they be able to cut deals with the major professional sports leagues to include some of their games as well.

Nevertheless, I continue to see all of these developments as Disney moving its content business in step with our Connected Society investing theme, which should be an additive element to the Content is King investment theme tailwind Disney continues to ride. With that in mind, we are seeing rave reviews for the next Marvel movie – The Black Panther – that will be released on Feb. 16. The company’s more robust 2018 movie slate kicks off in earnest a few months later.

  • We will continue to be patient investors with Disney, and our price target on the shares remains $125




Weekly Issue: Insights on Apple, Cutting Trade Desk and a look at eGaming and Body Cameras

Weekly Issue: Insights on Apple, Cutting Trade Desk and a look at eGaming and Body Cameras



  • Raging fires in So-Cal has us cutting Trade Desk shares loose
  • Here’s why we’re avoiding body camera stocks
  • Speaking of Apple…
  • Some mobile gaming stocks go under the microscope


It’s been a wild ride in the market this past week, as investors shift their view from “will tax reform pass” to “with tax reform likely, which sectors will benefit?” Candidly we find this to be the wrong question to ask, not just because we believe sector investing is dead (it is!) but because we see a better question being which thematically well-positioned companies are poised to benefit from lower tax rates in 2018?

We’re rolling up our sleeves, proceeding with that analysis and we’ll have some answers in the coming days. In the meantime, we’ve got another full weekly issue of Tematica Investing to share with you. Here goes…


Raging fires in So-Cal has us cutting Trade Desk shares loose

Shares of digital advertising platform company Trade Desk have been under renewed pressure this week, in part due to weakness in the Nasdaq Composite Index, but also to the fires raging in southern California. As a reminder, Trade Desk is headquartered in Ventura, California and despite the prospects for half of all global advertising to be spent online by 2020, odds are Trade Desk will experience either some disruption or distraction in the current quarter that could lead to the company missing quarterly expectations. We’ve seen how share prices react to such misses, and we’d rather get out ahead of any potenital miss to expectations and minimize the impact to Select List.

As such, we are cutting Trade Desk shares loose at market today, which will generate a blended loss of more than 17% across the two tranches on the Tematica Investing Select List. We’ll look to revisit the shares once the full extent of the damage has been priced into the shares.

  • We are issuing a Sell on Trade Desk (TTD) shares.



Here’s why we’re avoiding body camera stocks

One of the key investment themes that we talk quite a bit about here at Tematica is the Connected Society investment theme and the impact it is having on industries and companies. It’s not to take anything away from our other themes, it’s just the Connected Society has been a disruptive force across a growing number of industries. We’re seeing its impact stretch across how we shop, bank, communicate and consume content ranging from video and audio to news and even stock information.

We’re also seeing the impact outside of consumer-facing opportunities in part with the Internet of Things, but also with our Safety & Security investing theme. As a quick reminder, this theme spans defense, homeland security, personal security, and cybersecurity, but also law enforcement. When it comes to law enforcement we have seen a number of new items ranging from rubber bullets to bean bag guns come to market, but with the Connected Society, we are seeing a shift from reactive to proactive monitoring via body cameras. It’s a razor to razor blade business model, with the body cameras serving as the razor and the data management the ongoing spend, a model that is similar to buying new blades every month.

Interestingly enough, I received a subscriber email that was asking about a company that falls into this category – Digital Ally (DGLY). Trading at just under $3 per share the past month, DGLY shares are well off their 52-week high of $6 per share, and yet have a consensus price target of $5. That along with the underlying fundamentals of the body camera market were more than enough to get me to look at the shares.

Not to be all Debbie Downer, but in reviewing the company’s financials, I have a few cautionairy observations to share:

  • The company’s business model has been and looks to be currently upside down. In that I mean it’s operating expenses vastly outweigh its revenue stream. Over the last 12 months, Digital Ally’s revenues totaled a whopping $15.2 million, while its operating expenses over the same period hit $26.6 million
  • It should come as little surprise the company is bleeding on its bottom line and hemorrhaging cash, which it doesn’t have much of. Exiting the September quarter Digital Ally had $0.3 million in cash and short-term equivalents. In the same quarter, its net loss was $3.5 million.


As the saying goes, the numbers don’t lie and simply put, DGLY shares are not a pretty picture. This lack of balance sheet strength in the face of ongoing losses was one of the flag’s I identified with Blue Apron (APRN) shares and I see it here with Digital Ally as well. And for those keeping score, Blue Apron shares are down 27% since my initial bearish comments on October 24th.

Aside from the financial statements, there are other concerns that also have me steering away from DGLY shares — namely back and forth patent infringement cases with competitors WatchGuard and Axon Enterprise (AXON), the company formerly known as Taser. These cases are always messy, with companies throwing resources at legal fees and that’s going to hurt a company with Digital Ally’s balance sheet. Based on what is seen here, it’s quite possible that Digital Ally could be one of those companies that vanishes unless it were to undergo what would likely be a painful and dilutive secondary offering that injects capital onto the balance sheet.

Is it possible that Digital Ally could be a takeout candidate? Perhaps, but as one Chief Financial Officer once shared with me when I asked him why not buy out a struggling company to improve his company’s competitive position – “why buy it now when in a few months I can probably buy it for cents on the dollar?” It was a great point, and besides what acquirer would want to step into the current lawsuit mess?

Better to move along and examine other potential candidates than take a flyer on a stock that is cheap for a reason. And for those wondering, that same set of lawsuits, as well as another factor, has me on the sidelines with Axon Enterprise shares as well. That other factor I mentioned is the current pilot program being run by the Jersey City Police Department that is testing a new smartphone app called CopCast that would allow police officers to turn an everyday smartphone into a body camera. While this is the first test in country, the JCPD has already expanded its pilot program to 250 officers from an initial ten. We’ll continue to monitor both this program, as well as those body camera company lawsuits. On the one hand, the outcome of that monitoring program could be a positive for the Apple (AAPL) shares on the Tematica Investing Select List, on the other it could mean revising DGLY and AXON shares. Time will tell.



Speaking of Apple…

Over the last week as part of the move lower in the Nasdaq, shares of smartphone company Apple (AAPL) moved lower by 2% — a hair better than the 2.2% decline in the Nasdaq. We here at Tematica remain upbeat on this recent addition to the Tematica Investing Select List with our confidence in Apple buoyed by two recent findings. First, a new report from Barclays’ surveyed 1,000 people and found that 62% will upgrade their smartphone in the next year, while 72% plan on doing so in the next 18 months. Of those upgrading, 54% are planning on choosing an iPhone with 35% choosing the iPhone X. It’s worth noting this iPhone X percentage is significantly higher than the August Barclays’ survey that found just 18% of would be Apple buyers would be willing to spend $1,000+ on the iPhone X.

The second report comes from IHS Markit, which forecasts that Apple will sell 88.8 million iPhones in the current quarter – its biggest quarter ever. As robust as that might be, the item that caught our analytical eye was the notion that Apple needs to ship just 31 million iPhone X units for its overall iPhone average selling price to crack $700 – another new record for the company. IHS’s forecast hinges on the collapsed shipping times for the iPhone X, which have fallen from 5-6 week initially, to roughly one week as Apple ramped production.

We expect additional forecasts to follow, but with the iPhone X making a number of “best of” lists, it appears this latest iPhone could once again be the holiday gift to get.

  • Our price target on Apple (AAPL) shares remains $200.



Some mobile gaming stocks go under the microscope

One of the key themes that caught investor attention over the last few quarters is the accelerating shift to digital consumption, especially mobile consumption that is part of our Connected Society investing theme. We saw this over the recent Thanksgiving-to-Cyber-Monday holiday shopping period, as digital sales over the five-day period hit a new record of $19.6 billion. Based on reports from Adobe (ADBE), Shopify (SHOP) and others, it appears that mobile sales rose to equal 40%-45% of all digital shopping sales this year.

We would also point out this shift to digital shopping is not occurring just inside the U.S. This year, Alibaba’s Singles Day hit $25.3 billion in sales, with over 90% of Alibaba’s sales made on mobile devices compared to 82% in 2016 and 69% in 2015.

I believe we can all agree that there is a pronounced shift underway favoring mobile consumption.

A few weeks’ back, we shared some thoughts on e-sports, which tie into how gaming is becoming a new kind of content that people consume not only by themselves or in small groups, but also in communal experiences. And in size… such size that corporate advertisers are sitting up and taking notice when such events are selling out Madison Square Garden for instance. It’s safe to say that eSports and video games fall well within the scope of our Content is King investing theme, on top of the Connected Society theme given the demands the games place on connectivity over the internet as well as viewing and playing over mobile devices.

Put these two tailwinds together, and it means looking at mobile gaming, and as luck would have it another subscriber asked about shares of Glu Mobile (GLUU) and Zynga (ZNGA). In the case of Glu — aside from the fact that they count companies like Activision and Hasbro (HAS) as strategic partners, and which game titles they have (if the dog doesn’t like the dog food, what’s the point in owning the company) — the key investor concern entails wrapping our head around 2018 expectations compared to 2017. We are essentially at that time of year when we make the transition to relying more on 2018 metrics and valuations, and it makes sense as we are inclined to own new positions into at least the first half of 2018.

In the case of Glu, the answer to the question set we’ll be asking is how does the company intend to meet (or beat) consensus expectations that have it delivering EPS of $0.09 in 2018, up from a -$0.08 loss this year? It’s a hefty swing, especially when 2018 revenue is expected to grow a tad more than 5% year over year.

The question for Zynga (ZNGA) is a bit different. It is expected to deliver EPS of $0.13 next year, up from $0.10 this year, which is 30% EPS growth, but why the sharp drop compared to year over year EPS growth this year, especially when 2018 revenue is slated to rise by more than 9%?

If you ask a carpenter how they look to minimize mistakes, the answer you usually get is “measure twice and cut once.” Essentially, that’s what we’ll be doing as we get to the bottom of those questions as well as others over the coming days.

As we do that, I’m going to offer a disclaimer of sorts. While we’ve smartly added companies like USA Technologies (USAT) and AXT Inc. (AXTI) to the Tematica Choice List, we generally stick with larger capitalization stocks, which tend to be more liquid and have better established business models, a track record of earnings and cash flow, better capitalized balance sheets and in some cases dividends.

All things being equal, those kinds of companies are less risky and less volatile than micro-cap stocks like Digital Ally or small-cap ones such as Glu Mobile, which often lack institutional investors and whose shareholders tend to be littered with speculators, not investors. In some cases, those stocks are nothing but glorified option plays, and we leave that kind of trading to our Tematica Options+ service, which focuses on trading options and other aggressive trading tactics, while here at Tematica Investing we are long-term and patient investors.

That’s not to say we won’t take advantage of a mismatch between a company’s stock price and the opportunity to be had, rather we’re going to examine each thematic contender on its own individual merits from a thematic and financial perspective. That being said, as we examine GLUU and ZNGA shares, I’ll be doing the same with Activision Blizzard (ATVI), Electronic Arts (EA) and Take-Two Interactive (TTWO) as well.

Before we close out this week’s issue, I’d like to hammer home that the answers to the questions we asked above and ones like them are what we consider to be the basic building block of analyzing and understanding a company and now its business is performing. For those subscribers that are looking for a more detailed set of primer questions, we – that’s Tematica Chief Macro Strategist Lenore Hawkins and myself – included them in Chapter 10 of our book, Cocktail Investing – Distilling Everyday Noise into Clear Investing Signals. And yes, that book inspired our weekly podcast and it would make a great holiday present to a burgeoning investor.




Weekly Issue: Black Friday, Tax Reform and Boosted Dividends in Time for the Holidays

Weekly Issue: Black Friday, Tax Reform and Boosted Dividends in Time for the Holidays

Black Friday Through Cyber Monday Provide Confirming Data Points for Amazon (AMZN) and UPS Positions

Earlier this week, we not only issued our Tematica Investing thoughts on the holiday shopping weekend, which was very confirming for our Connected Society investment theme thesis on both Amazon (AMZN) and United Parcel Service (UPS), it was also the topic of conversation between Tematica’ Chief Macro Strategist Lenore Hawkins and myself on this week’s earlier than usual Cocktail Investing Podcast. As a reminder, we see United Parcel Service as the sleeper second derivative play on the shift to digital shopping this holiday season and beyond.

Per data published by GBH Insights, on Black Friday alone, Amazon garnered close to half of all online sales, which set new record levels on Thanksgiving as well as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. As we learned yesterday, this year’s Cyber Monday was the biggest sales day for online and mobile ever in the US as online sales hit $6.59 billion, up 16.8% year over year. As Lenore and I discussed on the podcast, spending on mobile devices continued to take share from desktop and in-store spending during Thanksgiving and Black Friday, and that also happened on Cyber Monday as mobile sales broke a new record by reaching $2 billion.

Yesterday, Amazon issued a press release sharing it was the “’best-ever’ holiday shopping weekend for devices sold between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. After reviewing the data and prospects for Amazon’s business this holiday season as it benefits in part from its expanding private label brand business as well as the even greater than expected shift to digital commerce this holiday shopping season, we are boosting our price target on AMZN shares to $1,400 from $1,250. While some may focus on the implied P/E of 175x expected 2018 EPS of $7.98 for our new price target, it equates to a price to earnings growth (PEG) rate of roughly 1.0% as Amazon is set to grow its EPS by a compound annual growth rate of just over 184% over the 2015-2018 period. Even if 2018 expectations are a tad aggressive, after taking a more conservative 2018 view our new $1,400 price target equates to a PEG ratio between 1.1-1.3x, which we find more than acceptable from a risk to reward perspective.

  • We are boosting our price target on Amazon (AMZN) shares to $1,400 from $1,250.
  • Our price target on United Parcel Service (UPS) remains $130.


Market Moves Higher Ahead of Senate Vote on Tax Reform

The major market indices continued to move higher as the Senate Budget Committee approved the Senate’s tax plan yesterday, which brings it to an expected floor vote tomorrow. This inches the prospects for potential tax reform happening by the end of 2017 a bit higher, although while we remain optimistic we here at Tematica continue to see far greater odds of tax reform happening in 2018 as the House and Senate bills close their respective gap. While both bills cut taxes on businesses and individuals, they differ in the scope and timing of those cuts.

As enthusiasm has gained for tax reform, smaller cap stocks have rallied, as small-caps tend to have greater U.S. exposure in revenue and profit mix compared to bigger, multi-national stocks. The small-cap laden Russel 2000 is up more than 1% this week alone and has risen roughly 2.8% over the last month beating out the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 and even the Nasdaq Composite Index. That small-cap climb, combined with the influence of our thematic tailwinds led the USA Technologies (USAT), AXT Inc. (AXTI) and LSI Industries (LYTS) to rise even faster than the Russell. Over the last month, they’ve risen more than 30%, 18%, and 5% respectively and over the last few weeks, we’ve trimmed back USAT and AXTI shares, booking meaningful wins, while offsetting those gains by closing out positions that have been lagging.

As tax reform lumbers forward, we’ll continue to monitor developments and what they mean for both the market and the Tematica Investing Select List.



Dividend Dynamo Company McCormick Does it Again

Call me old-fashioned, but I love dividends and I love companies that have the ability to raise their dividends even more. When a company boosts its dividend, it tends to result in a step function move higher in its stock price. If it’s a serial dividend raiser, or as I like to call them a dividend dynamo company, we tend to get a hefty 1-2 combination punch of a step higher in the stock price as well as higher dividend payments. Boom!

We’ve got several such companies on the Tematica Investing Select List, and this week McCormick & Co. (MKC) once again boosted its quarterly dividend. This new 10% increase to $0.52 per share marks the 32nd consecutive year that McCormick has increased its quarterly dividend and offers us even greater comfort with our $110 price target. With regard to this new dividend, it is payable on January 16 to shareholders of record on December 29 – mark your calendars!

  • Our price target on McCormick & Co. (MKC) shares remains $110


What We’re Watching For Over the Coming Days

During the next several days, as we exit November a number of economic data points will start to roll in, as well as other key data points such as retailer monthly same-store sales figures. Amid the number of economic reports to be had, we’ll be parsing the October construction spending report and what it means for both non-residential construction activity and shares of LSI Industries (LYTS). The shares have been an “under the radar” mover on a week to week basis, but since adding the position to the Tematica Investing Select List in mid-September are up more than 5%. As August-September hurricane-related construction rebounds, we continue to see further upside ahead for LYTS shares.

  • Our price target on LSI Industries (LYTS) remains $10.


While we are understandably bearish on the vast majority of brick & mortar retailers, we remain upbeat with Costco Wholesale (COST) given its higher-margin membership fee income stream. Over the last several months, Costco’s monthly same-store sales reports have shown it is not suffering at the hands of Amazon at all, but rather in keeping with our Cash-Strapped Consumer investing theme, it continues to take consumer wallet share. As Costco shares it November data, we’ll be sure to break it down and assess what it means for our $190 price target.

  • Our price target on Costco Wholesale (COST) remains $190.


With Guilty Pleasure MGM Resorts (MGM) shares on the Select List, we’ll also be on the lookout for November gaming data pertaining to Nevada as well as Macau. As we mentioned recently, we are heading into one of the slower seasons for the Las Vegas strip and MGM continues to renovate several choice properties with expectations of reopening them in 1Q 2018. We’ll continue to be patient, and if the opportunity presents itself opportunistic as well given our $37 price target. On the housekeeping font, MGM’s next quarterly dividend of $0.11 per share should arrive in mid-December.

  • Our price target on MGM Resorts (MGM) shares remains $37.



Weekly Issue: More trimming and more gains, this time with AXTI shares

Weekly Issue: More trimming and more gains, this time with AXTI shares


  • We are trimming back our position in AXT Inc. (AXTI), which closed last night more than 60% above our mid-June entry point. we are selling one-third of the position, which lets us book some fantastic gains, but also leaves ample exposure on the Tematica Investing Select List. As we make this trade we’re also adding a stop loss at on AXTI at $8.25, which ensures a minimum return near 27% on the remaining shares.
  • Prepping for the official start of the 2017 holiday shopping season
  • Waiting on Tax reform and what it may mean for small-cap cap stocks
  • Applied Materials (AMAT) offers bullish outlook on Mad Money

Note: We’re bringing the weekly Tematica Investing issue to you a day earlier than usual given the likelihood that a significant number of subscribers will, like many, many other folks, be traveling tomorrow ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. Usually, the day before and after Thanksgiving see lower than usual trading volumes as investors and traders look to turn the holiday into an unofficial four day weekend. As we digest our turkey, trimmings and that extra piece of pie, Team Tematica will be analyzing the Black Friday data, reporting our findings on Monday.  

From all of us here at Team Tematica, we wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving! And if you see Tematica’s Chief Macro Strategist Lenore Hawkins on Fox Business this Friday remember that pickles and pecan pie do not mix well together on Thanksgiving.


More trimming and more gains, this time with AXTI shares

Over the last week, we’ve done some trimming and pruning to the Tematica Investing Select List, shedding shares in USA Technologies (USAT) and Universal Display (OLED), while offsetting those gains by exiting Nuance Communications (NUAN), Teucrium Corn Fund (CORN) and ProShares Short S&P 500 ETF (SH) shares. You can see the details here  in case you missed it.

Today we are back at the trimming again, but this time with Disruptive Technologies company AXT Inc. (AXTI) following yesterday’s 12% gain in the shares, which closed just 5% below our $11 price target. That rapid move brought the positon’s return to more than 60% as of last night’s close since we added the shares to the portfolio in mid-June.

Do we see additional upside in the shares as 5G mobile networks are deployed and high-speed broadband deployments in data centers, wireless backhaul, and other applications grow in the coming quarters? We sure do, but we also are prudent investors. As such, we are trimming the AXTI position back, which returns a hefty slug of the capital deployed from when we originally added the shares, while keeping ample exposure to capture additional upside in the coming quarters.

In short, while we are making a prudent move today, we’re going to let this winner run given the favorable fundamentals, and over the coming days, we’ll look to crunch the numbers to determine additional upside to be had from current levels.

  • We are trimming back our position in AXT Inc. (AXTI), which closed last night more than 60% above our mid-June entry point.
  • We are selling one-third of the position, which lets us book some fantastic gains, but also leaves ample exposure on the Tematica Investing Select List.
  • Our $11 price target is under review.
  • As we make this trade we’re also adding a stop loss at on AXTI at $8.25, which ensures a minimum return near 27% on the remaining shares.


Prepping for the official start of the 2017 holiday shopping season

As I noted above, later this week as Thanksgiving 2017 fades we’ll see the 2017 holiday shopping season heat up. Several weeks ago, I shared several forecasts all of which call for 2017 holiday shopping to rise 3.5% to 4.5%, with digital commerce sales poised to grow multiples faster, leading companies such as Amazon (AMZN) and United Parcel Service (UPS) to win consumer wallet share.

As this shopping shift is occurring, we are also seeing Amazon build its own private- label offerings across a growing number of categories, including sportswear, electronics, and accessories to kitchenware. This is placing additional pressure on bricks-and-mortar names such as J.C. Penney (JCP) and Sears (SHLD) — the shares in those two companies are down 55%-60% year to date. There, of course, is more than enough reason to think there will be even more pain on the way as traditional retail businesses are pumping up the use of discounts to win business, which should further pressure margins.

In a survey conducted by the Berkley Research Group of more than 100 high-level retail executives in October, 64% of the respondents said they expected promotions to play a more significant role in overall sales during the 2017 holidays. What this tells me is there is more trouble ahead for retail as these companies sacrifice profits to win revenue — not exactly a sustainable business model and one that tends to lead to declining earnings per share.

I’ll be back early next week to share my observations on the weekend holiday shopping activity as well as Cyber Monday, and what it all means for positions on the Tematica Investing Select List.

  • Our price target on Amazon (AMZN) shares remains $1,250
  • Our price target on United Parcel Service (UPS) is $130.


Waiting on Tax reform and what it may mean for small-cap stocks

Last Friday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC that he expects a GOP tax cut bill to be sent to President Donald Trump to sign by Christmas. As I shared last week, there are several differences between the tax bill passed by the House late last week and the proposed one by the Senate. With both the House and Senate not in session this week, I don’t expect much movement on tax reform, but that means there are four weeks for the House and Senate to put forth a bill together to reach the president’s desk in time for Christmas. While I’m hopeful, the reality is the next few weeks will tell us how probable this is.

As we’ve seen over the last few weeks, small-cap stocks are likely to ebb and flow over the next few weeks based on the meat of tax reform and whether it will be passed for 2018 or not until 2019. On the Tematica Investing Select List we primarily have large-cap stocks, which are defined as companies with a market capitalization value of more than $10 billion, and two mid-cap stocks in the form of Universal Display (OLED) and Trade Desk (TTD) shares. We do, however, have three small-cap stocks – USA Technologies (USAT), AXT Inc. (AXTI) and LSI Industries (LSI), which means Team Tematica will be on the case as it pertains to tax reform over the next few weeks.


Applied Materials (AMAT) offers bullish outlook on Mad Money

Last Friday, Applied Materials (AMAT) President and CEO Gary Dickerson appeared on CNBC’s Mad Money and discussed several aspects of our Connected Society and Disruptive Technologies investing themes and how they are powering the company’s semiconductor capital equipment business. Dickerson also role in artificial intelligence and big data.


I see Dickerson’s comments echoing our multi-faceted and multi-year thesis on Applied shares. The next proof point to watch for ramping organic light emitting diode display demand will be the next iteration the global consumer electronics and consumer technology tradeshow that is CES 2018, which runs from January 8-12, 2018. In the coming weeks, we’ll begin to hear more about the various consumer electronic items that will be previewed and debuted at the show, and we expect a smattering of organic light emitting diode display TVs. Already we’re hearing LG will launch a full line up of OLED TVs in 2018, and that OLED TVs are expected to see a meaningful price reduction, which could foster greater consumer adoption. I see both as positives for not only AMAT shares but also Universal Display (OLED) shares.

  • Our price target on Applied Materials (AMAT) shares is $70
  • Our price target on Universal Display (OLED) shares is $225


Last week’s Cocktail Investing podcast –
The Rise in our Rise & Fall of the Middle Class investing theme

If you missed last week’s podcast — and shame on you if you did — Lenore Hawkins and I did a deep dive on what’s driving the Rise in our Rise & Fall of the Middle Class investing theme. From sharing why this is happening to what the implications are, we tackle it all. In an upcoming podcast, we’ll be giving the same treatment to the Falling Middle Class in this investing theme, but my advice is listening to last week’s will offer not only some great context, but you’ll also learn why to this day Lenore shuns pecan pie. Download it now for some great entertainment during your holiday travels.

Breaking down earnings from AXT, Nokia and UPS, plus thoughts on Amplify Snacks

Breaking down earnings from AXT, Nokia and UPS, plus thoughts on Amplify Snacks

We are officially in the thick of earnings season with reports from AXT Inc. (AXTI) last night, and both Nokia (NOK) as well as United Parcel Service (UPS) this morning. Below we have comments on the better than expected results from AXT, share why we are going to be patient with Nokia shares for the long-term and how United Parcel Service confirms out thesis on the shares. We also have some thoughts on the recent share price pressure in Amplify Snacks (BETR), and explain why Amazon’s (AMZN) comments and outlook on its Whole Foods business are what we’ll be watching next for this position.


Many positives in AXT’s 3Q 2017 earnings report and outlook

Last night compound semiconductor substrate and Disruptive Technology company AXT (AXTI) reported 3Q 2017 top and bottom line results that handily beat consensus expectations and delivered an in-line view on the current quarter. This popped the shares some 7% in aftermarket trading last night and sees the shares trading up nicely today.

More specifically, AXT delivered EPS of $0.11, $0.02 better than the consensus and up dramatically from $0.07 in the year-ago quarter on revenue that rose 29% compared to 3Q 2017. Higher substrate volumes revealed the operating leverage in the company’s business model and led gross margins to soar to 39.5% in the quarter, up from 30.8% in the prior quarter. Other factors aiding the margin comparisons included raw material prices and vendor consolidation as well as product mix, both of which help margins in the coming quarters.

In terms of its outlook for the current quarter, AXT guided revenue and EPS in the ranges of $26-$27 million and $0.07-$0.09, respectively, which compares with the consensus forecast of $26.6 million in revenue with EPS of $0.08. What’s not obvious in those ranges is expected growth at the midpoint of 22% and 47%, respectively. The current quarter, as well as the next one, tend to reflect the seasonal downtick compared to the third quarter 3Q 2017, which tends to house the RF semiconductor ramp for year-end smartphone sales. Given new smartphone models, continued growth in data traffic that is leading further data center investment, and new solar panel applications the outlook for continued year over year growth at AXT remains more than favorable.

For example, Audi and BMW are using solar panels on certain new models to provide power to the vehicle’s climate control system fan without ruining the battery, even when the vehicle is turned off. In addition, Audi and Alta Devices recently announced their partnership to integrate solar cells into panoramic glass roofs of Audi models to generate solar energy that increases the range of Audi electric vehicles. The first of these car prototypes are expected to by the end of this year, and the solar cells utilize compound semiconductor technology that is built on AXT’s substrates.

In the data center arena, companies such as Microsoft (MSFT), Intel (INTC), Cisco (CSCO), Broadcom (AVGO) and a number of others are driving the adoption of silicon photonics to drive data rates of 100 gigabits per second or better. This adoption bodes well for AXT’s higher margin indium phosphide substrates.

Recognizing the seasonal downturn we will face in the coming months, we will continue to be patient with AXTI shares.

  • Our price target on AXT (AXTI) shares remains $11, which for now keeps the shares a Buy at current levels.
  • With regard to that rating, we’ll be watching the $9.90 level, which offers roughly 10% upside to our price target.


Nokia: The market focuses on network infrastructure, but it’s the licensing business that matters.

Early this morning Nokia (NOK) reported 3Q 2017 results of €0.09 per share in earnings, €0.03 ahead of expectations even though overall revenue fell 7% year over year to €5.54 billion, a hair shy of the €5.64 billion consensus forecast. In trading today, Nokia shares are getting hit hard given the guidance that calls for continued declines in its Networks Business. We are not surprised by this guidance as we continue to wait for deployments of 5G technology in 2018-2020. Despite that shortfall, continued focus on cost in the Networks Business, as well as ongoing customer wins bode well for the business as the 5G ramp begins.

What we found as rather confirming was the continued growth in its high margin Nokia Technologies business, which rose to 9% of 3Q 2107 sales and 22% of 3Q 2018 gross profits up from 6% and 15%, respectively, in the year-ago quarter. Despite the overall revenue shortfall for Nokia in 3Q 2017, Nokia Technologies led the company’s consolidated margins higher and drove the EPS upside in the quarter. In other words, our thesis behind owning NOK shares was confirmed in this morning’s earnings report. As 5G and other technologies contained in the company’s intellectual property arsenal matriculate in the coming quarters, we see continued improvement ahead for this business and that bodes well for the company’s overall margin and EPS generation.

One of our key strategies has been to use share price weakness to scale into a position on the Tematica Select List provided the underlying investment thesis remains intact. As we saw in Nokia’s 3Q 2017 earnings report, that is the case. As we look for that opportunity, we’d note that Nokia’s Board of Directors plans to propose a dividend of EUR 0.19 per share for 2017, which if history holds will be paid in the first part of 2018. Given the current share price, that is a hefty dividend yield to be had and adds both a layer of support to the shares and adds to the total return to be had.

  • Our price target on Nokia (NOK) shares remains $8.50


Quick thoughts on UPS’s 3Q 2107 results

With United Parcel Service (UPS), the results and outlook were in line what we expected and simply put the company’s outlook simply reinforces our shift to digital commerce predicated thesis on the shares. Case in point, UPS sees:

  • Record holiday delivery of about 750 million packages,
  • Deliveries between Black Friday and New Year’s Eve forecasted to increase 5% from 2016
  • 17 of 21 holiday delivery days before Christmas to exceed 30 million packages each.

This latest forecast echoes what we’ve already heard about this holiday shopping season from the National Retail Federation, E-Marketer, and others.

We’ll dig through the UPS’s earnings call in greater detail, but what we’ve heard thus far along with a price increase slated for December 24th keeps our Buy rating and $130 price target intact. As we do that, we’ll also be looking at Amazon’s forecast for the current quarter and its comments on the holiday shopping season.

  • Our price target on United Parcel Service (UPS) share remains $130.


Shares of Amplify Snacks under pressure, but Amazon/Whole Foods will be the guide

Finally, our Amplify Snacks (BETR) shares have been under pressure this past week. On the news front, things have been rather quiet and the shares could be coming under pressure as institutional investors being their tax loss selling. We’ll look for confirmation on our thesis – consumers shifting toward food and snacks that are “healthy for you” in quarterly results out tonight from Amazon (AMZN) as it discusses recent performance and its outlook for recently acquired Whole Foods. As we do this, we’ll also be revisiting the dollar’s recent run-up and what it could mean for Amplify given its growing exposure to markets outside of the U.S.

With the shares approaching oversold levels, we are keeping a close eye on the shares. As we mentioned above with Nokia, we certainly like to improve our cost basis provided our investment thesis remains intact.

WEEKLY ISSUE: Thematic Tailwinds Blow Strong, Even as Market Fundamentals Bring Concern

WEEKLY ISSUE: Thematic Tailwinds Blow Strong, Even as Market Fundamentals Bring Concern

Even though our concerns over the underlying fundamentals of the market remain — especially amidst this most recent rebound — thematic tailwinds continue to propel several of our positions on the Tematica Select List, particularly those tailwinds for the Cash-Strapped Consumer and Connected Society investment themes.


The week started off in rebound mode for the stock market. The damage from Hurricane Irma, while severe with several million people still without power, was far less than the devastation many forecaster models had been predicting. That sigh of relief sent stocks climbing on Monday and put the major market indices back to new record highs. While many likely cheered that rebound — especially those investors that have only recently returned to the market — several underlying dynamics remain, which could make for potential trouble in the coming weeks.

Those concerns are the same items we recapped earlier this week as part of our thought process behind Goldman Sachs (GS) CEO Lloyd Blankfein sharing the current market environment has him “unnerved”. Unfortunately, these items did not fade with the passing of Irma, nor are they likely to and in the case of market’s stretched valuation, the rebound is only exacerbating things further. Furthermore, we have yet to see any markedly downward revisions into GDP forecasts for the current quarter, despite the tens of billions in hurricane damages and business interruptions. Hardly surprising, given the regional Federal Reserve banks adjust their forecasts to published economic data and the impact of the two storms has yet to turn up in the data. But it will in the coming weeks, just the way it did in the August auto & truck data, and will in the August Retail Sales data out later this week.

From the perspective of the Tematica Select List, we continue to see the August Retail Sales report putting some much-needed perspective around Costco Wholesale (COST) shares given the simply stellar monthly comparable sales figures the company has been delivering.

  • We continue to rate Costco Wholesale (COST) shares a Buy with a $190 price target.


When Market Concerns Arise, Relying on a Thematic Approach is Even More Crucial

Amid the noise in that retail sales data, we suspect our Connected Society theme and our Amazon (AMZN) shares will be share gainers from the recent Back to School shopping season. That’s also a positive for the position in United Parcel Service (UPS) that is on the Tematica Select List, and we see those shares being strong performers once again in the upcoming holiday shopping season that increasingly includes Halloween.

As crazy as it may seem, in 2016 American spent roughly $8.4 billion on Halloween. We’re already seeing rows and rows of Halloween candy line our grocery stores, even though soda manufacturers like Coca-Cola (KO) and PepsiCo (PEP), and now sports drinks companies, are looking to reduce sugar content in their offerings. We see the unsweetening of the beverage category continuing to benefit our position in International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF) as manufacturers look to replace that oh so yummy sugar taste with other appealing, yet healthier, solutions. Should the move to limit sugar spill over into candy and other confections, it would be another shot in the arm for IFF shares and potentially McCormick & Co. (MKC) as well. We’ll be talking more on this during this week’s Cocktail Investing Podcast.


  • We continue to rate shares of Amazon (AMZN) a Buy at current levels, and our price target remains $1,150.
  • United Parcel Service (UPS) shares, up more than 14% since being added to the Tematica Select List, are now less than a handful of dollars away from our $122 price target. As such, we rate UPS shares a Hold at current levels. As a reminder, that’s a true Hold, not Wall Street speak to exit the shares.
  • The same can be said with International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF) shares, which are up nearly 17% on a blended basis. Our price target on IFF shares remains $145, however, we are revisiting this target with an upward bias.
  • Our price target on McCormick & Co. (MKC) shares remains $110.



Looking Ahead to the End of the 3rd Quarter

When we exit this week, we will have two weeks left, not only in September, but in 3Q 2017 as well. It means in roughly a month’s time, we will once again be back in the quarterly earnings deluge. Given what I discussed above, I’ll be watching and listening as companies issue business updates over the next few weeks due in part to Harvey and Irma, and putting it into perspective for Tematica Select List positions. While the debt ceiling conversation has been kicked down the road until December, next week’s Federal Reserve monetary policy meeting, which is likely to leave interest rates unchanged, should clue us a bit more into the Fed’s balance sheet unwinding timetable.

Finally, while you start preparing your holiday shopping lists, I expect the political battles in Washington will once again flare up as the 2017 election season kicks into gear, just as Team Trump looks to make its case, hopefully with some concrete details, for tax reform. Giving a shot in the arm to potential political uncertainty, this morning North Korea showed trademark defiance over new U.N. sanctions imposed after its sixth and largest nuclear test.

The bottom line is we’ve seen volatility return to the market in September, and there are reasons to think we will see more of it before we enter 4Q 2017 in just a few weeks. While we continue to turn over new candidates for the Tematica Select List, we’ll continue to be patient until those potential positions have the right mix between potential upside vs. downside. Like always, our thematic lens will continue to be our North Star.



The Silver Lining in Apple’s Otherwise Lame Special Event

Some quick words on Apple’s (AAPL) special event yesterday – it was lame!

As we feared, not only did the company’s latest products show off iterative at best features, the presentation was less than enthusiastic, as was the reception by attendees at the new Steve Jobs Theater. Candidly when Apple began talking about its new retail footprint and then started the iPhone conversation with new colors, we had a feeling it was all about to go downhill. And we were right. What ensued was a noticeable groan be it for the lack of compelling new features or the fact that Apple’s “one more thing” – the iPhone X – and its $1,000 price point won’t begin shipping until early November, far later than anyone had expected.

While we missed the move in Apple shares in recent months, we see yesterday’s underwhelming event serving as a reminder that at least for now, Apple’s business remains reliant on the slower growing smartphone market. Odds are Apple will continue to gain incremental share and generate significant cash, but the opportunity for real growth from here hinges on either a new business category or a new must-have product from an existing one. As we shared earlier this week, neither of those appears to be on the near-term horizon. Given several thematic tailwinds that power its various businesses, we’ll continue to look for an opportune entry point, but for now, it looks like the shares will fall victim to “buy the rumor, sell the news.”


Now for the better news…

Just because growth is lacking at Apple, there were several announcements yesterday that bode rather well when it comes to growth for Universal Display (OLED) and AXT Inc. (AXTI). Regarding Universal Display, Apple did announce it is adopting organic light emitting diode displays in the iPhone X with its Super Retina Display, however, again, that product is not set to ship until early November. This likely means a modest push out in expectations. We see that, however, as a modest bump in the road for the capacity constrained organic light emitting diode industry that is hog tied due to demand from not only Apple but other smartphone vendors as well as other applications (TVs, wearables, interior automotive lighting). If Apple follows its historical pattern, and we think it will, we expect the Super Retina Display to make its way down the lineup into other iPhone models as well as those for iPads as supply eases and newer iterations are introduced.

While Apple’s didn’t specifically point to a display capacity shortage as the culprit behind the later than expected ship time for the iPhone X, its timetable when paired with recent comments from Applied Materials (AMAT) certainly suggest the industry remains constrained relative to demand. Moreover, with applications such as TVs calling for larger display sizes vs. those for smartphones and wearables, the industry is likely to be constrained for some time, especially as more TV vendors look to bring more models featuring that technology to market over the coming quarters. We see that as a good problem for Applied Materials and its display equipment business. The next update from Applied will be at its 2017 Analyst Day on September 27, and we expect an upbeat tone not only for its display business but from its semiconductor capital equipment one as well.

  • Currently, Universal Display (OLED) shares are up a whopping 149% since we initiated the position in October, and in many respects, the outlook continues to brighten.
  • As we move into 4Q 2017 and with increasing clarity on the growing number of applications we will be revisiting our $135 price target, odds are with an upward bias.
  • We continue to be bullish on Applied Materials (AMAT) shares and our price target remains  $55.


Turning to AXT Inc (AXTI), Apple did announce it was bringing standalone wireless connectivity to its latest Apple Watch. In order for that to happen, Apple has to pack the device with cellular technology, which means RF semiconductors that are based on AXT’s compound substrates. This is one more step in the expanding array of connected devices under the Internet of Things umbrella. From our perspective, the untethering of Apple Watch from the iPhone makes this newest model the one consumers are most likely to desire. While it’s still not enough to move the needle for Apple, it does move it for AXT.

  • We will use this incremental demand to bump our price target on AXT (AXTI) shares to $11 from $10.50. The added upside keeps our Buy rating on the shares in place.


On a disappointing note . . .

There was no update on Apple Pay in yesterday’s event, other than how with its new iPhone X it is utilizing its new Face ID technology as part of the payment process with Apple Pay. We were hoping for a more meaningful update given our position in USA Technologies (USAT), but we’ll happily settle for the news coming out of CVS Health (CVS) that it is utilizing new vending machines at “select landmark locations to outside of its store footprint. These machines will be stocked with things like over-the-counter medications, beauty and personal care products, eye care and oral health care products, first aid items, batteries, phone chargers, earbuds, and healthy snacks and beverages. We see this as yet another expansion in the unattended retail market that hinges on cashless consumption that is enabled by USA’s products and services.

  • Our price target on shares of USA Technologies (USAT) remains $6.