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Last weekend I went to a Labor Day party with the family. For the last few years at this party, there has been much lively adult discussion about the stock market. This time, not a word – nada, zippo.
One of the stores where I buy the Wall Street Journal in the (big) city of Springfield told me that this is the last week they will be carrying it. The clerk told me they used to sell 25 copies a day but, lately, it has fallen to fewer than 5.
This time last year Wall Street was thick with hubris, and the analysts were busy grinding out sausages telling us not to worry, those “darlings” would come back.
It is amusing (and tragic) for the Wall Street analysts to keep a buy rating on a stock when it is at $80, $40, $20 and then change it to a “hold” at $5, but it has happened a multitude of times lately.
The Nasdaq was a screaming buy at 5,000 (and they were screaming). At 1750 the shouts are not near so loud, nor so full of vigor.
Such is what happens in a bear market. The thing you need to remember is that this has clearly been a bear market in the tech sector.
The Wilshire 5000 Index has dropped 32 percent since last March, removing $4.7 trillion from investor’s pockets. It is oh so easy to see where the pain has been – tech.
If you have hand cuffed yourself to corpses such as JDS-Uniphase (Nasdaq: JDSU), Juniper Networks (Nasdaq: JNPR), Exodus (Nasdaq: EXDS), Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) etc., you have our deepest sympathies, but we must be honest with you and tell you we don’t see any signs of life yet. In fact, some of the corpses may turn blue very soon.
Somebody always makes money at a funeral and with that thought in mind, you might want to take a closer look at FTI Consulting (NYSE: FCN). This company does all sorts of back-office work for major law-firms.
- Legal disputes are gravy for FTI Consulting. When you see those heavy boxes that attorneys haul into court on dollies, you can rest assured the data is often provided by FCN.
- IPO Lawsuits: There are so many lawsuits being filed over failed IPOs in the last two years that the insurance companies are holding seminars among themselves now on how to fight them – gravy for FCN.
- Energy Lawsuits: FCN recently put David Russell on their payroll (he, late of Exxon NYSE: XOM). Mr. Russell specializes in negotiating and settling energy lawsuits and is a real rainmaker. There are scads of these kinds of disputes right now – more gravy for FCN.
- Asbestos Lawsuits: This area is turning into an endless “horn of plenty” at many law firms. Indeed, the sons of many current attorneys may be working on these disputes 30 years from now – more gravy for FCN.
- Bankruptcy/ Corporate Restructuring: This division accounts for almost 60 percent of FCN’s revenue. There were a record number of business bankruptcies this year through July. The average debt ($850 million) is 64 percent more than the average for the same time last year – more gravy for FCN.
So, is it any wonder this stock has risen from $10 this time last year to $26 recently (new high)?
Of all the reported shark attacks this year, it should be noted that none were on lawyers (professional courtesy) … you don’t think we could write about lawyers and not do a lawyer joke do you?
Even though FTI Consulting has soared of late, we have a feeling there is some gas left in the tank on the upside for this one. We are of the opinion that FCN is going to deliver (the increasingly rare) upside earnings surprise in the next 12 months.
In this desert of earnings disappointments, the companies that can beat earnings estimates stick out like Dolly Parton at a gymnastics meet.
Another one you might want to consider is Brascan (NYSE: BNN). This Canadian-based company owns pieces of over 120 different companies, covering a wide area.
Readers will recall that we have been suggesting Canadian Pacific (NYSE: CP) here, partially because of the tremendous asset base, but mostly because they are splitting the company into 5 separate pieces.
This will (we believe) result in the pieces of Canadian Pacific being worth more than the whole.
We suspect that Brascan management may be watching all this unfold, and decide to do the same thing at their company.
Brascan has some very attractive assets in the mineral, financial and power-generating area. Brascan, under the $19 area, looks very attractive to us, and is worth your closer inspection.
Bottom Line: The best time to buy in the stock market is when there is much doom and gloom. These are indeed just such times. Despite what anyone tells you, it always goes back to a company’s ability to grow their earnings.