Singular Research Director’s Letter June 2017: Is This Equity Market Getting Frothy?

Singular Research Director’s Letter : June 2017

Is This Equity Market Getting Frothy?

The US equity markets have an underlying bullishness that has been absent for several years. Even in the face of rising interest rates this year, the averages keep inching higher. Despite the self-induced political challenges from the new US administration, any market setback is temporary. Whatever happened to the era of healthy corrections? Will the equity markets obliterate the old adage of ‘sell in May and go away’?

Our takeaway on this equity market advance is that it would be normal for some corrective pressures or at least a sideways movement for a while. Small and micro cap indices have underperformed this year and this is a typical warning sign for the broader market. As anticipated, the manufacturing sector has shown recent strength after weakness in Q1, but surprisingly consumers are, overall, spending less than anticipated. The remnants of the Great Recession are still in the aggregate consumer psyche. The positive employment metrics lead us to anticipate a healthy consumer appetite, even if not as robust as in previous expansions. This economic cycle and bull market has much further to go before it peaks out, but some corrective pressures are normal and the higher interest rate environment may be the catalyst for some temporary weakness in the equity markets.

For the top performing companies in May on the Singular Research coverage list, most have reported a good Q1, while others are rebounding after recent weakness. (STMP) was the strongest performer in May. The company provides online postage services and reported a Q1 that was far better than expected and increased guidance. State National (SNC) provides property and casualty coverage and has other ancillary businesses. Revenues and EPS both beat our analysts’ expectations and the price target was raised. Control4 Corp (CTRL) provides smart home and business solutions that integrates audio, video, lighting, temperature, security, and communications. The company was a recent new initiation and has consistently been beating estimates. Multi-Color Corp. (LABL) makes labels for consumer products, and our analyst has increased estimates after the strong Q1 that was above expectations. Lakeland Industries (LAKE) makes safety garments for industrial and public protective clothing markets. The company reported a mixed Q1 with good unit volume growth and healthy gross margins, but exchange rates were detrimental. Our analyst remains positive on the stock.

The worst performing group of the Singular Research coverage list during May have several hidden gems that we anticipate will perform well in the next year, some of which are moving through a product transition. The worst performing stock of the coverage list was New York Times (NYT) as a short. Our analyst has labelled the recent good fundamental performance as a temporary ‘Trump Bump’ while high legacy pension costs and the decline in print product persists. Iridex (IRIX), posted a disappointing Q1 despite double digit growth in the new product platform. Although estimates were lowered, our analyst still expects strong earnings growth over the next two years. Gray Television Networks (GTN) owns television stations and digital assets in many US markets. GTN reported stronger than expected revenue and EPS in Q1:17, and the stock is correcting after a multi-month run. Biolase (BIOL) makes laser dental products that are very patient friendly, and recently introduced two new products in Q1. Supreme Industries (STS) had a weak Q1 due to delays in customer supplied chassis.

We initiated coverage on one new company in May. We initiated coverage of Gladstone Land Corp. (LAND) with a BUY rating. Gladstone owns farmland and leases it out to producers that focus on high-value crops. The company has a solid pipeline of additional acquisitions along with adequate financing in place. The amount of available land for high-value produce is declining and the company has demonstrated strong growth in cash flows since the IPO in 2013.

We continue to work on new ideas in the small and micro cap space. At Singular Research, we continue to seek out investment ideas that have minimal to no Wall Street coverage. We thank our clients for your support of independent equity research.


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