Thursday, January 15, 2009

Intel Makes its Numbers, and My Deja Vu Experience

Looks like my hits are coming early this year--as I predicted, Intel (INTC) made its earnings numbers today. See my prediction here, and the AP earnings summary here. If the presidential inauguration goes well, Intel stock may rise above $14/share next week (Monday is a holiday). If I am correct in this follow-up prediction, I should achieve a 5.7% gain in less than one week. (If you're interested, you can view the results of my 2008 predictions here.) (Update on January 28, 2009: Intel stock today increased above $14/share, making my prediction true, but a few days later than I expected.)

If you read the first article linked above, you'll notice that two analysts downgraded Intel, even assigning a $10/share price to Intel recently. (Intel is trading around 13.58/share in after-hours trading.) Analysts came under fire because they were overly optimistic during the subprime crisis, so expect a reversal of sentiment--analysts will now become too pessimistic. In over a decade of investing, I've rarely seen any analyst issue "sell" ratings or assign prices to blue-chip companies below current trading levels. If you're a contrarian investor, you may be encouraged by these overly pessimistic signs. I know I am.

I just re-read a Money "special report" issue from September 2002, another turbulent time. The cover page had the following deja vu titles: "When will the bear market end?"; "Where should I put my cash?"; and "Who can I trust?" As I flipped through the pages, I began smiling. If Money magazine re-issued its September 2002 issue today, no one would notice any outdated information. Indeed, most stock prices and indices are back to where they were in 2002. In addition, Americans had just suffered through the Enron and Worldcom debacles, which reduced not only investor confidence, but faith in the entire capitalistic apparatus.

Let me share with you some lines from Money's 2002 special report--see if they look or feel familiar:

Stock prices in free-fall: "There's a disconnect between how these businesses are doing and how their stocks are performing," says one manager. (p. 36)

Anger over corporate irresponsibility: Nell Minow has developed some very clear ideas of how to cure what ails corporate America. To her, it boils down to one thing: Change the way boards of directors operate. Yes, reform of the accounting profession is needed. Yes, it ought to be easier to put corporate fraudsters in jail. Yes, something has to be done about those insanely outsize options packages that have given so many executives the motive to commit fraud. But to Minow, all of this is secondary to reforming corporate boards. (pps. 57-58). [Author's note: someone get Ms. Minow an SEC position pronto.]

Anger over inadequate government oversight: But after 2 1/2 years and a market loss of nearly $7 trillion, the White House and Congress still don't get it. (p. 63)

No commentary needed: Whoever said crime doesn't pay obviously never ran a big corporation. (p. 64)

Bargain hunting: Is General Electric (GE) stock a bargain? It looks like one to us. (p. 68) [note: GE was selling for around $28/share at the time. It is now selling for $13.77/share. I liked it at $14.66/share and look forward to averaging down.]

Nuff' said: Is Our Financial System Broken? (p. 79)

What's the lesson? Just this: the more things change, the more they stay the same. I will leave you with some reassuring words from experienced investor Peter Lynch, circa 2002 [warning: PDF file]:

RUKEYSER: If you could give one sentence of advice to scared investors right now what would it be?

LYNCH: I think you ought to see some kids. You know, hire an eight-year-old. Hire a six-year old. Just watch them. They don't know who Alan Greenspan is. They don't know about the shape of the curve. They're optimistic about the future. We'll be fine for the next 30 or 40 years.

When I heard Mr. Lynch on the Louis Rukeyser show in 2002, I remember thinking, "He gets it." I coach youth basketball to get away from the vicissitudes of my legal practice and investing. There's something about seeing a bunch of happy, healthy kids coming together as a team that inspires faith in the human race. This year, I'm coaching 4th graders at the Campbell Community Center. My favorite current NBA player is the San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan. Yet, in some sort of cruel cosmic joke, my assigned team this year is the Spurs' nemesis, the Lakers. Fittingly, our team uniforms consist of hideously bright yellow t-shirts. Oh, well. Things on the outside may look bad right now, but deep down, our future is bright, we have plenty of land, a new president, and peace within our shores. I don't know when we'll get a market recovery, but just like post-September 2002, it'll be here before we know it.

Disclosure: I own shares of GE and Intel.

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