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Musings on Markets's Blog

January 2019 Data Update 3: Playing the Numbers Game!

February 21, 2019 Comments (0)

Every year, for the last three decades, I have spent the first week of the year, looking at numbers. Specifically, as the calendar year ends, I download raw data on individual companies and try to decipher trends and patterns in the data. Over the years, the raw data has become more easily accessible and richer, but ironically, I have become more wary about trusting the numbers. In this post, I will describe, in broad terms, what the data for 2019 looks like, in terms of geography and...

January 2019 Data Update 2: The Message from Bond Markets!

February 21, 2019 Comments (0)

I must admit that I don't pay as much attention to fixed income markets, as I do to equity markets, other than to use numbers from the markets as inputs when I value companies or look at equity markets. This year, I decided to look at bond market movements, both in the sovereign bond and corporate bond markets for two reasons. First, bond markets offer predictive information about future economic growth and inflation, and since one of the big uncertainties for equities going into the new year...

January 2019 Data Update 6: Profitability and Value Creation!

February 21, 2019 Comments (0)

In my last post, I looked at hurdle rates for companies, across industries and across regions, and argued that these hurdle rates represent benchmarks that companies have to beat, to create value. That said, many companies measure success using lower thresholds, with some arguing that making money (having positive profits) is good enough and others positing that being more profitable than competitors in the same business makes you a good company. In this post, I will look at all three...

January 2019 Data Update 5: Hurdle Rates and Costs of Financing

February 21, 2019 Comments (0)

In the last post, I looked at how to measure risk from different perspectives, with the intent of bringing these risk measures into both corporate finance and valuation. In this post, I will close the circle by converting risk measures into hurdle rates, critical in corporate finance, since they drive whether companies should invest or not, and in valuation, because they determine the values of businesses. As with my other data posts, the focus will remain on what these hurdle rates look like...

January 2019 Data Update 8: Dividends and Buybacks - Fact and Fiction

February 21, 2019 Comments (0)

In my series of data posts, I had always planned to get to dividends and buybacks, the two mechanisms that companies have for returning cash to stockholders, at this point, but an op ed on buybacks by Senators Schumer and Sanders this week, in the New York Times, will undoubtedly make this post seem reactive. The senators argue that the hundreds of billions of dollars that US companies have expended buying back their own shares could have been put to better use, if it had been reinvested back...

Back to Class: A Teaching Manifesto!

February 21, 2019 Comments (0)

I am convinced that each of us is granted moments of grace, where, if we are open to the possibility, we find out what we are meant to do with our lives. For me, one of those moments occurred in the second year of my MBA program at UCLA, when, cash poor, I decided to be a teaching assistant for a quarter to earn some money. At the time I made that decision, my plans were typical of many of my MBA cohort, to get a job in consulting or investment banking, and to make my work up the corporate...

January 2019 Data Update 4: The Many Faces of Risk!

February 21, 2019 Comments (0)

I think that all investors would buy into the precept that investing in equities comes with risk, but that is where the consensus seems to end. Everything else about risk is contested, starting with whether it is a good or a bad, whether it should be sought out or avoided, and how it should be measured. It is therefore with trepidation that I approach this post, knowing fully well that I will be saying things about risk that you strongly disagree with, but it is worth the debate. Risk: Basic...

January 2019 Data Update 1: A reminder that equities are risky, in case you forgot!

February 21, 2019 Comments (0)

In bull markets, investors, both professional and amateur, often pay lip service to the notion of risk, but blithely ignore its relevance in both asset allocation and stock selection, convinced that every dip in stock prices is a buying opportunity, and soothed by bromides that stocks always win in the long term. It is therefore healthy, albeit painful, to be reminded that the risk in stocks is real, and that there is a reason why investors earn a premium for investing in equities, as opposed...

January 2019 Data Update 7: Debt, neither poison nor nectar!

February 21, 2019 Comments (0)

Debt is a hot button issue, viewed as destructive to businesses by some at one end of the spectrum and an easy value creator by some at the other. The truth, as is usually the case, falls in the middle. In this post, I will look not only at how debt loads vary across companies, regions and industries, but also at how they have changed over the last year. That is because last year should have been a consequential one for financial leverage, especially for US companies, since the corporate tax...

Is there a signal in the noise? Yield Curves, Economic Growth and Stock Prices!

December 7, 2018 Comments (0)

The title of this post is not original and draws from Nate Silver's book on why so many predictions in politics, sports and economics fail. It reflects the skepticism with which I view many 'can't fail" predictors of economic growth or stock markets, since they tend to have horrendous track records. Over the last few weeks, as markets have gyrated, market commentators have been hard pressed to explain day-to-day swings, but that has not stopped them from trying. The explanations have shifted...