WEEKLY ISSUE: Companies continue to serve up weaker guidance

WEEKLY ISSUE: Companies continue to serve up weaker guidance

Key points inside this issue

  • The outlook for earnings continues to wane even as the trade-related market melt-up continues.
  • Our price target on Amazon (AMZN) shares remains $2,250.
  • Our price target on Alphabet (GOOGL) shares remains$1,300.
  • Our price target on Costco Wholesale (COST) shares remains $250.
  • Our price target on Universal Display (OLED) shares remains $125.
  • Our price target on Nokia (NOK) shares remains $8.50

 

The outlook for earnings continues to wane even as the trade-related market melt-up continues

Domestic stocks continued to trend higher last week as the December-quarter issues that plagued them continued to be dialed back. Said another way, the expected concerns — the Fed, the economy, the government shutdown, geopolitical issues in the eurozone, and U.S.-China trade talks — haven’t been as bad as feared a few months ago.

In recent weeks, we have seen the Fed take a more dovish approach and last week’s data, which included benign inflation numbers and fresh concerns over the speed of the economy following the headline December Retail Sales Report and Friday’s manufacturing-led contraction in the January Industrial Production Index, reaffirm the central bank is likely to stand pat on interest rate hikes. We see both of those reports, however, feeding worries over increasing debt-laden consumers and a slowing U.S. economy. 

Granted, economic data from around the globe suggest the U.S. economy remains one of the more vibrant ones on a relative basis, which also helps explain both the melt-up in both the domestic stock market as well as the dollar. On Thursday we learned that economic growth in the eurozone was basically flat on a sequential basis in the December quarter, rising a meager 0.2%. Year-over-year growth stood at just 1.2% for the final quarter of 2018. This came after news that the eurozone economic powerhouse that is Germany had no growth itself in the fourth quarter after a contraction of 0.2% in the third quarter. Italy experienced its second consecutive quarter of economic contraction, putting it in a technical recession.

 

All of this put further downward pressure on the euro versus the U.S. dollar, which means dollar headwinds remain for multinational companies. And we still have another major headwind that is the lack of any Brexit deal. With three pro-EU Conservatives having resigned this morning from Prime Minister Theresa May’s party to join a new group in Parliament, there is no an even slimmer chance of Brexit deal being put in place ahead of next week.

So, what has been fueling the rebound in the stock market?

Among other factors, the deal to avoid another federal government shutdown, which was followed by the “national emergency” declaration that will potentially give President Trump access to roughly $8 billion to fund a border wall. We’ll see how this all plays out in the coming days, alongside the next step in U.S.-China trade talks that are being held this week in Washington. While “much work remains” on the working Memorandum of Understanding, trade discussions last week focused on several of the larger structural issues that we’ve been more concerned about — forced technology transfer, intellectual property rights, cyber theft, and currency.

Early this morning, it’s being reported that President Trump is softening on the March 1 phase in date for the next round of tariff increases, which is likely to give the market some additional trade optimism and see it move higher. We remain hopeful, but we expect there to be several additional steps to go that will set the stage for any final agreement that will likely be consummated at a meeting between Presidents Trump and Xi. And yes, the final details will matter and will determine if we get a “buy the rumor, sell the news” event.

Even as the trade war continues at least for now, we continue to see companies positioning themselves for the tailwinds associated with Living the Life and New Global Middle-class investing theme opportunities to be had in China. If you missed a recent Thematic Signal discussing how Hilton (HLT) is doing just that, you can find it here.

And then there are earnings

Over the last several weeks, we’ve been tracking and sharing the declining outlook for S&P 500 earnings for 2019. As we closed last week, roughly 80% of the S&P 500 companies had reported their quarterly earnings and issued outlooks. In aggregating the data, the new consensus calls for a 2.2% year-over-year decline in earnings for the current quarter, low single-digit earnings growth in the June and September quarters, and 9.1% growth in the December quarter. In full, the S&P 500 group of companies are now expected to grow their collective 2019 EPS by 5% to $169.53, which means that as those expectations have fallen over the last several months, the 2019 move in the market has made the stock market that much more expensive.

In my view, we are once again seeing a potentially optimistic perspective on earnings for the second half of the year. While a U.S.-China trade deal and infrastructure spending bill could very well lead to a better second half of 2019 from an earnings perspective, the unknown remains the vector and velocity of the rest of the global economy.  As discussed above, the US is looking like the best house on the economic block, but as I share below there are valid reasons to think that it too continues to slow.

 

Last week I touched on a Thematic Signal about the record level of auto loan delinquencies, and in the last few days, we’ve learned that student-loan delinquencies surged last year, hitting consecutive records of $166.3 billion in the September 2018 quarter and $166.4 billion in the December 2018 one. I’ve also noticed an uptick in credit-card delinquencies this past January as companies ranging from American Express (AXP) to JPMorgan (JPM) and other credit card issuers reported their monthly data. What I find really concerning is this record level of delinquencies is occurring even as the unemployment rate remains at multi-year lows, which suggests more consumers are seeing their disposable income pressured. While this isn’t a good sign for a consumer-led economy, it certainly confirms the tailwind associated with our Middle-class Squeeze investing theme.

 

Tematica Investing

 December Retail Sales shock some, confirm Costco and others

December Retail Sales have been published by the Commerce Department and to say the results were different than most were expecting is an understatement. And that’s even for those of us that were watching data of the kind I mentioned above.  Normally, holiday shopping tends to build as we close out the year, but according to the report, consumers pulled back in December as monthly retail sales fell 1.3% compared to November.

Yes, you read that right – they fell month over month, but as we know that is only one way to read the data. And while sequential comparisons are helpful, they do little to help us track year over year growth. From that perspective, retail sales in December 2018 rose 2.1% year over year with stronger gains registered at Clothing & Clothing Accessories Stores (+4.7%), Food Services & Drinking Places (+4.0%), Nonstore retailers (+3.7%) and Auto & other motor vehicles (+3.4%). That’s not to say there weren’t some sore spots in the report – there were, but there are also the ones that have been taking lumps for most of 2018. Sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument, & book stores fell 13% year over year in December, bringing the December quarter drop to 11% overall. Department Stores also took it on the chin in December as their retail sales fell 2.8% year over year. These declines are largely due to the accelerating shopping shift to digital from brick & mortar that are associated with our Digital Lifestyle investing theme.

Despite the headline weakness, I once again see the report as confirming for Thematic King Amazon (AMZN) and to a lesser extent Select List resident Alphabet (GOOGL) given its Google shopping engine. Not only is Amazon benefiting from the accelerating shift to digital commerce, but also from its own private label efforts, which span basic electronic accessories to furniture and apparel. It goes without saying that comparing the December Retail Sales report with Costco Wholesale’s (COST) monthly same-store sales reports shows Costco continues to win consumer wallet share.

 

As a reminder, Costco’s December same-store sales rose 7.5% in December (7.1% excluding gasoline prices and foreign exchange) and 6.6% in January (7.3%). And it remains on path opening new warehouse locations with 768 exiting January, up 3.0% year over year. That should continue to spur the company’s high margin membership fee income in the coming quarters. My suspicion is others are catching onto this given the 7% increase in COST shares thus far in 2019, the vast majority of which has come in the last week. We’ll continue to hold ‘em.

  • Our price target on Amazon (AMZN) shares remains $2,250.
  • Our price target on Alphabet (GOOGL) shares remains $1,300.
  • Our price target on Costco Wholesale (COST) shares remains $250.

 

Turning to this week’s data

This week’s shortened trading week brings several additional key pieces of economic data. And following the disappointing December Retail Sales report, these reports are bound to be closely scrutinized as the investment community looks to home in on the speed of the domestic economy. 

In addition to weekly mortgage applications, and oil and natural gas inventory data, tomorrow we’ll also get the December Durable Orders report and January Existing Home sales data. Given the drop-off in mortgage applications of late as well as weather issues, it’s hard to imagine a dramatic pick-up in the housing data since the end of 2018. Rounding out the economic data will be our first February look at the economy with the Philly Fed Index.

 Speaking of the Fed, today we’ll see the release of the Fed’s FOMC minutes from its January meeting. Considering the comments emanating from Fed heads lately as well as the lack of inflation in the January CPI and PPI data, there should be few surprises in terms of potential interest rate hikes in the near term. The looming question is the speed at which the Fed will normalize its balance sheet, which likely means that will be an area of focus as investors parse those minutes.

 

Here come Universal Display and Mobile World Congress 2019

As long as we’re looking at calendars, after Thursday’s market close Select List resident Universal Display (OLED) will report its quarterly results. To say the shares have found some legs in 2019 would be a bit of an understatement given their resurgence over the last several weeks.

 

We know Digital Lifestyle Select List company Apple (AAPL) has shared its plans to convert all of its iPhone models to organic light emitting diode displays by 2020, and that keeps us in the long-term game with OLED shares. Given the current tone of the smartphone market, however, we could see Universal Display serve up softer than expected guidance.

We’ll continue to hold OLED shares for the duration and look for signs that other device companies, including other smartphone vendors but other devices as well, are making the shift to organic light emitting diodes next week during Mobile World Congress 2019 (Feb. 25-28). The event is a premier one mobile industry as it tends to showcase new devices and technologies, and as you might imagine means a number of announcements. This means it’s not only one to watch for organic light emitting diode adoptions, but we are also likely to see much news on 5G virtual reality and augmented reality, key aspects of our Disruptive Innovators investing theme, as well. And with 5G in mind, we could very well hear of more 5G network launches as well, which means keeping my Nokia (NOK) and Digital Infrastructure ears open as well as my Digital Lifestyle ones.

  • Our price target on Universal Display (OLED) shares remains $125.
  • Our price target on Nokia (NOK) shares remains $8.50.

 

 

WEEKLY ISSUE: Reversing Course on Lending Club Calls

WEEKLY ISSUE: Reversing Course on Lending Club Calls

Key points inside this issue

The outlook for earnings continues to wane even as the trade-related market melt-up continues

Domestic stocks continued to trend higher last week as the December-quarter issues that plagued them continued to be dialed back. Said another way, the expected concerns — the Fed, the economy, the government shutdown, geopolitical issues in the eurozone, and U.S.-China trade talks — haven’t been as bad as feared a few months ago.

In recent weeks, we have seen the Fed take a more dovish approach and last week’s data, which included benign inflation numbers and fresh concerns over the speed of the economy following the headline December Retail Sales Report and Friday’s manufacturing-led contraction in the January Industrial Production Index, reaffirm the central bank is likely to stand pat on interest rate hikes. We see both of those reports, however, feeding worries over increasing debt-laden consumers and a slowing U.S. economy. 

Granted, economic data from around the globe suggest the U.S. economy remains one of the more vibrant ones on a relative basis, which also helps explain both the melt-up in both the domestic stock market as well as the dollar. On Thursday we learned that economic growth in the eurozone was basically flat on a sequential basis in the December quarter, rising a meager 0.2%. Year-over-year growth stood at just 1.2% for the final quarter of 2018. This came after news that the eurozone economic powerhouse that is Germany had no growth itself in the fourth quarter after a contraction of 0.2% in the third quarter. Italy experienced its second consecutive quarter of economic contraction, putting it in a technical recession.

 

All of this put further downward pressure on the euro versus the U.S. dollar, which means dollar headwinds remain for multinational companies. And we still have another major headwind that is the lack of any Brexit deal. With three pro-EU Conservatives having resigned this morning from Prime Minister Theresa May’s party to join a new group in Parliament, there is no an even slimmer chance of Brexit deal being put in place ahead of next week.

So, what has been fueling the rebound in the stock market?

Among other factors, the deal to avoid another federal government shutdown, which was followed by the “national emergency” declaration that will potentially give President Trump access to roughly $8 billion to fund a border wall. We’ll see how this all plays out in the coming days, alongside the next step in U.S.-China trade talks that are being held this week in Washington. While “much work remains” on the working Memorandum of Understanding, trade discussions last week focused on several of the larger structural issues that we’ve been more concerned about — forced technology transfer, intellectual property rights, cyber theft, and currency.

Early this morning, it’s being reported that President Trump is softening on the March 1 phase in date for the next round of tariff increases, which is likely to give the market some additional trade optimism and see it move higher. We remain hopeful, but we expect there to be several additional steps to go that will set the stage for any final agreement that will likely be consummated at a meeting between Presidents Trump and Xi. And yes, the final details will matter and will determine if we get a “buy the rumor, sell the news” event.

Even as the trade war continues at least for now, we continue to see companies positioning themselves for the tailwinds associated with Living the Life and New Global Middle-class investing theme opportunities to be had in China. If you missed a recent Thematic Signal discussing how Hilton (HLT) is doing just that, you can find it here.

And then there are earnings

Over the last several weeks, we’ve been tracking and sharing the declining outlook for S&P 500 earnings for 2019. As we closed last week, roughly 80% of the S&P 500 companies had reported their quarterly earnings and issued outlooks. In aggregating the data, the new consensus calls for a 2.2% year-over-year decline in earnings for the current quarter, low single-digit earnings growth in the June and September quarters, and 9.1% growth in the December quarter. In full, the S&P 500 group of companies are now expected to grow their collective 2019 EPS by 5% to $169.53, which means that as those expectations have fallen over the last several months, the 2019 move in the market has made the stock market that much more expensive.

In my view, we are once again seeing a potentially optimistic perspective on earnings for the second half of the year. While a U.S.-China trade deal and infrastructure spending bill could very well lead to a better second half of 2019 from an earnings perspective, the unknown remains the vector and velocity of the rest of the global economy.  As discussed above, the US is looking like the best house on the economic block, but as I share below there are valid reasons to think that it too continues to slow.

 

Last week I touched on a Thematic Signal about the record level of auto loan delinquencies, and in the last few days, we’ve learned that student-loan delinquencies surged last year, hitting consecutive records of $166.3 billion in the September 2018 quarter and $166.4 billion in the December 2018 one. I’ve also noticed an uptick in credit-card delinquencies this past January as companies ranging from American Express (AXP) to JPMorgan (JPM) and other credit card issuers reported their monthly data. What I find really concerning is this record level of delinquencies is occurring even as the unemployment rate remains at multi-year lows, which suggests more consumers are seeing their disposable income pressured. While this isn’t a good sign for a consumer-led economy, it certainly confirms the tailwind associated with our Middle-class Squeeze investing theme.

 

Tematica Investing

 December Retail Sales shock some, confirm Costco and others

December Retail Sales have been published by the Commerce Department and to say the results were different than most were expecting is an understatement. And that’s even for those of us that were watching data of the kind I mentioned above.  Normally, holiday shopping tends to build as we close out the year, but according to the report, consumers pulled back in December as monthly retail sales fell 1.3% compared to November.

Yes, you read that right – they fell month over month, but as we know that is only one way to read the data. And while sequential comparisons are helpful, they do little to help us track year over year growth. From that perspective, retail sales in December 2018 rose 2.1% year over year with stronger gains registered at Clothing & Clothing Accessories Stores (+4.7%), Food Services & Drinking Places (+4.0%), Nonstore retailers (+3.7%) and Auto & other motor vehicles (+3.4%). That’s not to say there weren’t some sore spots in the report – there were, but there are also the ones that have been taking lumps for most of 2018. Sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument, & book stores fell 13% year over year in December, bringing the December quarter drop to 11% overall. Department Stores also took it on the chin in December as their retail sales fell 2.8% year over year. These declines are largely due to the accelerating shopping shift to digital from brick & mortar that are associated with our Digital Lifestyle investing theme.

Despite the headline weakness, I once again see the report as confirming for Thematic King Amazon (AMZN) and to a lesser extent Select List resident Alphabet (GOOGL) given its Google shopping engine. Not only is Amazon benefiting from the accelerating shift to digital commerce, but also from its own private label efforts, which span basic electronic accessories to furniture and apparel. It goes without saying that comparing the December Retail Sales report with Costco Wholesale’s (COST) monthly same-store sales reports shows Costco continues to win consumer wallet share.

 

As a reminder, Costco’s December same-store sales rose 7.5% in December (7.1% excluding gasoline prices and foreign exchange) and 6.6% in January (7.3%). And it remains on path opening new warehouse locations with 768 exiting January, up 3.0% year over year. That should continue to spur the company’s high margin membership fee income in the coming quarters. My suspicion is others are catching onto this given the 7% increase in COST shares thus far in 2019, the vast majority of which has come in the last week. We’ll continue to hold ‘em.

  • Our price target on Amazon (AMZN) shares remains $2,250.
  • Our price target on Alphabet (GOOGL) shares remains $1,300.
  • Our price target on Costco Wholesale (COST) shares remains $250.

 

Turning to this week’s data

This week’s shortened trading week brings several additional key pieces of economic data. And following the disappointing December Retail Sales report, these reports are bound to be closely scrutinized as the investment community looks to home in on the speed of the domestic economy. 

In addition to weekly mortgage applications, and oil and natural gas inventory data, tomorrow we’ll also get the December Durable Orders report and January Existing Home sales data. Given the drop-off in mortgage applications of late as well as weather issues, it’s hard to imagine a dramatic pick-up in the housing data since the end of 2018. Rounding out the economic data will be our first February look at the economy with the Philly Fed Index.

 Speaking of the Fed, today we’ll see the release of the Fed’s FOMC minutes from its January meeting. Considering the comments emanating from Fed heads lately as well as the lack of inflation in the January CPI and PPI data, there should be few surprises in terms of potential interest rate hikes in the near term. The looming question is the speed at which the Fed will normalize its balance sheet, which likely means that will be an area of focus as investors parse those minutes.

 

Here come Universal Display and Mobile World Congress 2019

As long as we’re looking at calendars, after Thursday’s market close Select List resident Universal Display (OLED) will report its quarterly results. To say the shares have found some legs in 2019 would be a bit of an understatement given their resurgence over the last several weeks.

 

We know Digital Lifestyle Select List company Apple (AAPL) has shared its plans to convert all of its iPhone models to organic light emitting diode displays by 2020, and that keeps us in the long-term game with OLED shares. Given the current tone of the smartphone market, however, we could see Universal Display serve up softer than expected guidance.

We’ll continue to hold OLED shares for the duration and look for signs that other device companies, including other smartphone vendors but other devices as well, are making the shift to organic light emitting diodes next week during Mobile World Congress 2019 (Feb. 25-28). The event is a premier one mobile industry as it tends to showcase new devices and technologies, and as you might imagine means a number of announcements. This means it’s not only one to watch for organic light emitting diode adoptions, but we are also likely to see much news on 5G virtual reality and augmented reality, key aspects of our Disruptive Innovators investing theme, as well. And with 5G in mind, we could very well hear of more 5G network launches as well, which means keeping my Nokia (NOK) and Digital Infrastructure ears open as well as my Digital Lifestyle ones.

  • Our price target on Universal Display (OLED) shares remains $125.
  • Our price target on Nokia (NOK) shares remains $8.50.

 

Tematica Options+

Last week we added a Middle-class Squeeze position with Lending Club (LC) March 2019 4.00 calls (LC190315C0000400)to the Select List, and despite the move higher in recent days ahead of the company’s earnings report last night, the calls were little changed. While LendingClub reported a 35% increase in personal loan applications in 2018 to more than 14 million with double-digit growth in both loan volumes and revenue it served up softer than expected December quarter results and guided the first half of 2019 below expectations. It continues to expect positive earnings in 2019, but that’s not expected to happen now until the second half of the year.

Given the March strike data associated with the LendingClub calls, combined with last night’s developments, odds are the shares will not rebound in such time as to make it worth holding onto them. As such, we will look to limit our losses on the trade, shedding them today at market.

 

Del Frisco’s to report on March 12

Turning to the Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group (DFRG) September 20, 2019, 10.00 calls (DFRG190920C00010000)that closed last night at 1.00, up more than 65% from our 0.60 entry point two weeks ago, the company has announced it will report its December quarter results on March 12. Because the company pre-announced it results in early January, the quarterly results won’t be much of a surprise. In my opinion, the company has stretched out its reporting timetable in order to evaluate potential bids. We know the company has beefed up its Board of late with an eye to maximizing a would be takeout transaction, and with ample private equity and corporate cash on the sidelines, odds are rather good that Del Frisco’s won’t be a stand-alone public company by this time next year.

 

Macy’s furniture business is reaping the benefits of virtual reality

Macy’s furniture business is reaping the benefits of virtual reality

When a smart company gets challenged in its core business, it tends to pull the stops out to protect other lines that it has. In the case of Macy’s, which alongside other brick & mortar retailers, has been feeling the pain of Amazon as well as the shift to Direct to Consumer models on the part of branded apparel and retail, it is has opted to embrace virtual reality to improve the furniture shopping experience. We’ve seen other retailers ranging from Ikea to Sephora bringing virtual reality to its shoppers, and at Macy’s, it’s having a positive impact – the company found that VR-influenced furniture sales increased by more than 60% versus non-VR furniture sales and decreased returns to less than 2%.

One has to wonder if this aspect of our Disruptive Innovators investing theme means the death of the tape measure, especially since Apple has added “an app for that” with its latest iOS.

 

Macy’s is going all out for virtual reality with what it called the “largest VR rollout in retail history.”

The department store giant is deploying VR technology to boost customer confidence in furniture purchases and help shoppers make better buying decisions. The program also allows the retailer to offer a full range of furniture in a dramatically smaller space.

Macy’s is partnering with Marxent on the initiative, and the technology is now in place in some 70 Macy’s stores nationwide. The companies expect to add the “Macy’s VR furniture experience” to another 20 locations by January 2019.

 

Source: Macy’s reduces return rates with help of virtual reality technology |Chain Store Age

Verizon taps augmented reality and virtual reality apps for training

Verizon taps augmented reality and virtual reality apps for training

Use for new and Disruptive Technologies tend to crop in some unexpected places, but they usually help pave the way for greater adoption. One such use for augmented and virutal reality apps is in worker training. Carrying out these tasks in the virtual world leads to not only savings, but it also allows for the simulation of locations that might be problematic in a classroom setting. I expect to see far more adoption of these apps across Corproate America in the coming quarters, especially as companies are having difficulty finding the skilled workers they need.

 

Ever been down a New York City manhole Or in a bucket truck to the top of a city pole Or, for that matter, climbed ladders or into bucket trucks to install the unseen fiber we depend on for our Internet. These are the scenarios that thousands of Verizon technicians face every day in New York City. Beginning this month, the Verizon team will launch new and engaging AR and VR applications to deliver more effective new hire training and to enhance employee education, communications and skills to help enhance the customer experience.

Technicians will experience virtual reality situations to provide them with realistic scenarios (working on fiber splices, installing Fios service and repairing optical network terminals) of some of the most challenging field environments: working aloft in a bucket truck, going in a manhole under the busy streets of New York City, installing fiber from rooftops and climbing ladders on utility poles in busy pedestrian areas.

Source: Verizon using Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality apps to train employees

SPECIAL ALERT – Adding Nokia shares to the Tematica Select List

SPECIAL ALERT – Adding Nokia shares to the Tematica Select List

 

  • We are issuing a Buy on  Nokia Corp. (NOK) shares with an $8.50 price target.

  • At this time, there is no recommended stop-loss level and we would look to scale into the shares aggressively near $5.50.

 

Yes, you are reading that correctly. After recently adding Nokia Corp. (NOK) shares to the Contender List, we are now adding them to the Tematica Select List given continued progress in its higher margin, intellectual property (IP) business, Nokia Technologies. We’ve seen the power of this Asset-Lite Business Model investment theme before with Qualcomm (QCOM) and InterDigital (IDCC) and it has the power to not only transform Nokia, but deliver EPS  upside relative to expectations.

To jog people’s memory, in the most recent quarter the Nokia Technologies division accounted for 7% of Nokia’s overall revenue, but delivered 37% of operating profit. To be clear, we like the operating leverage in this business. In the coming quarters, we also expect Nokia to benefit from continued wireless infrastructure buildout from both existing 3G and 4G networks as well as eventual deployments on 5G networks.

 

So why add NOK shares to the Select List now?

Early this morning it was announced Nokia won an arbitration battle against LG Electronics, which follows recent deals with Samsung, Apple (AAPL) and Xiaomi Electronics, a Chinese smartphone company. From LG Nokia will receive both a one-time payment, which was not disclosed, as well as recurring revenue that is expected to be in the realm of $275-$300 million. This is a meaningful bump to Nokia’s IP, which had sales of 616 million euros in the first half of 2017, and gives far more comfort in the likelihood of the company hitting 2018 EPS expectations of $0.37, up from this year’s consensus EPS of $0.30. Also too, as Nokia continues to stack up licensees, it becomes increasingly easier to win over its remaining IP targets.

Our price target on Nokia shares is $8.50, which equates to 23x expected 2018 EPS or 1.0 on a price to earnings growth ratio (PEG) basis using the company EPS growth over the 2016-2018 time frame. Given the degree of upside to be had, we are adding NOK shares to the Select List with Buy. At this time, there is no recommended stop-loss level and we would look to scale into the shares aggressively near $5.50.

Over the coming quarters, we expect to see more movement in the company’s wireless infrastructure business as 5G moves from testing and beta to deployment. With Nokia Technologies, the company has booked some impressive wins, and it can turn its attention to Huawei, which according to data compiled by IDC is now the third largest smartphone vendor behind Samsung and Apple. Also, as Apple brings augmented reality into the mainstream with its new iPhone models and does the same with health applications with Apple Watch, this opens the door for other technology licensing opportunities at Nokia given its portfolio of connected health, augment and virtual reality as well as other technologies. What this will require is patience with the shares, but given we are not only thematic investors but ones that have a longer than the herd time horizon that’s just fine with us.

 

 

How VR is disrupting  the real estate business and making it better

How VR is disrupting  the real estate business and making it better

One of the differentiators between successful Disruptive Technologies and those that never seem to leave the R&D stage is market acceptance, which is fueled by usable applications and products. While there has been much talk over the uses of augmented reality and virtual reality, including at Apple’s (AAPL) last WWDC event, the number of related disruptive applications have been few and far between… with the exception of real estate. Not quite the market one would expect, but then again industry disruption can take on many forms across a number of industries.

There’s great optimism associated with the promise of VR, and revenues from this industry are expected to reach $13 billion in this year. Despite the optimism, widespread adoption of VR has remained elusive. For real estate, however, the potential of VR is being reality quickly.

VR is a newcomer to a real estate industry heavily focused on customer experience and ease of access. There exist many pain points in real estate that VR solves for renters and investors. These include buying or renting a property sight unseen, touring homes with potential renters, envisioning fix and flips, and so much more. In short, VR is changing the real estate world. Here are some of the ways that investors and tenants will be affected — for the better.

Source: 5 ways VR is making the real estate business better for everyone | VentureBeat | AR/VR | by Glenn Carter

IDC Sees Another Hockey Stick Growth Curve in VR Hardware, but…

IDC Sees Another Hockey Stick Growth Curve in VR Hardware, but…

We’ve been hearing the rumble over virtual reality (VR) grow over the last several months, and now research firm IDC is calling for significant growth in VR shipments over the next five-years. While we can see a growing list of applications, from home repair to healthcare and education, we have to admit it’s rather rare for IDC to see a market without growth that lacks a hockey stick curve.  Current price points near $600 still mean the hardware is likely to attract early adopters near-term, but competition from consumer electronics manufacturers that are getting squeezed in other areas (smartphones, TVs, wearables) could help drive prices to more attractive levels. More on this as it develops.

Market researcher IDC has just released estimates on the future of AR and VR over the next five years, and the forecasts look decidedly skewed in the social network’s favor.VR is about to take offIDC sees to combined VR/AR market growing nearly tenfold from 2016 to 2021, to 99.4 million units by the end of that time frame. There were roughly 10.1 million units shipped in 2016, according to IDC.

Last year was a milestone year for the market, since that was when Oculus officially launched alongside other VR/AR headset products. In the years ahead, expanding content choices, new headset products, and progressively lower prices should spur demand as the ecosystem grows.

To that last point, Facebook just reduced the combined price of Oculus Rift and Touch by $200 earlier this month, which now costs about $600 (not including a PC to power the setup).

IDC research manager Ramon Llamas also noted that while consumer demand was driven by tech enthusiasts (mostly gamers), there are also emerging use cases within the enterprise. VR and AR are seen as possible ways to improve worker productivity. That means companies looking to jump in to the VR/AR market will have numerous potential strategies to address the market’s different needs.

Source: IDC Has Good News for Facebook, Bad News for Apple | Business Markets and Stocks News | host.madison.com

Virtual Reality to Educate Cash-strapped Consumers on Home Remodeling

Virtual Reality to Educate Cash-strapped Consumers on Home Remodeling

Our collective Tematica hats are off to Lowe’s Companies as it steps up its virtual reality efforts to move past design visualization to skills training. Imagine taking classes on different remodeling projects ahead of tackling that project in your own home. This embracement of Disruptive Technologies could empower Cash-strapped Consumer to become the next set of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) customers for Lowe’s, Home Depot, Ace Hardware and others.

Lowe’s Cos. is embarking on the next chapter of its virtual reality journey.

Starting Tuesday, March 7, the home improvement chain’s store in Framingham, Massachusetts, debuted its “Holoroom How To,” Lowe’s first-ever virtual reality DIY skills-training clinic. As consumers enter the interactive virtual reality (VR)-based environment, they wear an HTC Vive headset to receive “hands-on” tutorials on basic DIY skills, including supplies and steps, needed to complete a project.

“This allows us to teach our customers in a way that we could have never previously imagined, and give them the confidence they need to undertake a daunting renovation,” according to Lowe’s Innovation Labs.

The chain’s prior virtual reality programs helped customers visualize their kitchen and bath renovations, “but we have found a unique opportunity to use the VR platform for skills training,” according to the chain.

Source: Home improvement chain debuts VR-based ‘how to’ classes | Chain Store Age

Apple CEO Tim Cook Thinks Disruptive Technology Augmented Reality is a ‘Huge’ Idea 

Apple CEO Tim Cook Thinks Disruptive Technology Augmented Reality is a ‘Huge’ Idea 

We’ve heard quite a bit over the last year when it comes to one burgeoning aspect of our Disruptive Technology investing theme – virtual reality (VR). There are a few flavors of VR, including Augmented Reality, which took the globe by storm with Pokemon Go. With Pokémon Go recently breaking a financial milestone – reaching one billion USD in revenue, it’s fair to say that AR is is hitting the tipping point. Interesting comments from Cook given that under his tenure Apple hasn’t released a new breakout product that has a meaningful contribution to Apple’s revenue mix. Cook’s comments mixed with Apple’s move into original content are likely to make for a very interesting Apple World Wide Developer Conference in a few months.

In terms of augmented reality, Cook reiterated that he is “excited” about the technology because it “allows individuals to be present in the world but hopefully allows an improvement on what’s happening presently.” But he added there are “things to discover” before the technology is “good enough” for the masses.

“I regard it as a big idea like the smartphone. The smartphone is for everyone, we don’t have to think the iPhone is about a certain demographic, or country or vertical market: it’s for everyone. I think AR is that big, it’s huge. I get excited because of the things that could be done that could improve a lot of lives. And be entertaining. I view AR like I view the silicon here in my iPhone, it’s not a product per se, it’s a core technology. But there are things to discover before that technology is good enough for the mainstream. I do think there can be a lot of things that really help people out in daily life, real-life things, that’s why I get so excited about it.”

Source: Tim Cook Thinks Augmented Reality is a ‘Huge’ Idea Like Smartphones – Mac Rumors

World Trade Center Teams With Tribeca Enterprises For Virtual Reality Arcade 

World Trade Center Teams With Tribeca Enterprises For Virtual Reality Arcade 

November will showcase virtual reality technology, the next potentially disruptive technology to how people consume content. With VR headsets available from Google, Facebook, Samsung and HTC among others at a growing number of retail locations ranging from Target to Macy’s and Amazon, the showcase is likely to stoke interest this holiday shopping season. The secret sauce for more widespread adoption will be more VR content and headsets at more affordable prices. We expect that to happen over the coming quarters.

“Blurring the boundaries between reality, fantasy, and the future of cinema, Westfield’s new landmark destination in Lower Manhattan to give visitors the opportunity to watch — at no charge — mind-blowing VR programming created by directors of Antz and Madagascar, The Bourne Identity, and from Cirque du Soleil”

In partnership with the premier curators of VR, Tribeca Enterprises, the Tribeca Virtual Reality Arcade at Westfield World Trade Center will, over three weekends in November, present four VR selections that represent the very best of cutting-edge narrative storytelling from the medium’s most innovative content creators.  The experiences will be screened on viewing devices that allow visitors to experience film as a 360° total immersive experience instead of on the traditional two-dimensional movie screen.

Source: Westfield World Trade Center Teams With Tribeca Enterprises To Host Tribeca Virtual Reality Arcade | Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality Trend News & Reviews – Virtual Reality Reporter