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Analysis

Telecoms Outpace Tech Stocks In July; For How Long?

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Tech stocks might have led indexes to new highs this year, but in July, telecoms displaced tech stocks as the leading S&P 500 performers. Telecoms rose 5.1%, eclipsing the tech sector’s 4.1% gain and doubling the S&P 500’s gains, according to The Financial Times.

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While tech stock showed weakening signs, investors favored AT&T Inc. The Financial Times noted strong results from both AT&T and Verizon this past week that compensated for concerns about heightened competition from smaller players like Spring Corp. and T-Mobile US.

Verizon

Verizon

Verizon operates in 150 countries and is the world’s second largest telecom behind China Mobile Ltd., and the largest in the United States, according to Investopedia.

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Its market value was estimated at $191.72 billion as of April 2017, with of $131.8 billion, according to Forbes. The company formed in 2000 as a result of a merger between Bell Atlantic Corp and GTE Corp. In 2015, Verizon acquired AOL following a purchase the previous year of Vodafone’s 45% interest stake in Verizon stock.

Verizon reported second quarter revenue that surpassed expectations last week as the company attracted more subscribers with its unlimited data plan.

In the quarter, Verizon added 614,000 subscribers, including tablet customers, compared to an increase of 615,000 in the year-earlier period. The additions exceeded the JPMorgan estimate of 115,000 and consensus expectations of 70,000, JPMorgan analysts said in a research note.

Second quarter net income rose to $4.36 billion, or $1.07 per share, from $702 million, 17 cents per share, a year earlier.

Total operating revenue rose to $30.55 billion from $30.53 billion a year earlier.

Adjusted earnings per share of 96 cents on revenue of $29.91 billion are expected, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

AT&T

AT&T

AT&T Inc. is the world’s third largest telecom and the second largest in the U.S. with a market value of $245.58 billion. The company provides voice services in more than 200 countries and has more than 34,000 Wi-Fi hotspots. According to its website, AT&T serves more than 355 million people. It recently expanded AT&T GigaPower, a fast Internet service, to 56 metropolitan locations in the U.S., with plans for further expansion. In 2006, the company acquired BellSouth. In 2014, it purchased DirecTV $48.5 billion, allowing the company to provide customers the option to bundle more services into the same package.

AT&T Inc.’s stock looks poised to regain its 2017 high after the company on Tuesday delivered its first earnings bear in five quarters, noted investorplace.com. The stock rose as much as 3% in the after-hour session Tuesday, breaking above $37 on strong volume due to better-than- expected second quarter of 2017 results.

The company’s second-quarter earnings were 79 cents per share, up from 72 cents a year ago, with revenue declining 1.7% to $39.8 billion. Wall Street was looking for a profit of 74 cents on $39.80 billion in revenue. Wireless revenue was flat at $9.73 billion, while legacy voice and data service revenue declined by about 16% year over year to $3.5 billion.

AT&T was still able to meet expectations even as it continues to scale back in consumer mobility and legacy wirelines business.

Telecom Competition Intensifies

Telecom competitors expanded consumers’ access to unlimited data plans, The Financial Times noted. Colby Synesael, a Cowen analyst, said a rebound in subscriber metrics unexpectedly boosted the telecom industry’s wireless revenue, which surpassed analysts’ estimates.

Whether Level 3 Communications and CenturyLink continue to rise could depend on quarterly results released following Wednesday’s close of trading.

Level 3 Communications

LVLT

Level 3 Communications Inc. reported strong results for the second quarter as its bottom and top lines beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate.

Net income on a GAAP basis in the quarter was $154 million, 42 cents per share, compared to $156 million or 44 cents per share in the year-ago quarter. But quarterly adjusted earnings per share of 42 cents outpaced the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 39 cents. The bottom line declined 19.23%.

Total second-quarter 2017 revenue was $2,061 million, up 0.24% year over year and above the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $2,059.5 million.

Century Link Inc.

CTL

CenturyLink Inc. had mixed results in the second quarter of 2017. The bottom line fell short of the Zacks Consensus Estimate, while the top line surpassed it.

CenturyLink’s second quarter net income was $17 million or 3 cents per share, compared to $196 million or 36 cents in the year-ago quarter. Adjusted earnings per share of 46 cents missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 49 cents. In addition, the bottom line fell 26.98% on a year-over-year basis.

Second quarter operating revenue was $4,090 million compared to $4,398 million in the prior-year quarter. The decline can be attributed to a drop in legacy revenues and the revenue reduction from the colocation sale effective May 1. But the top line surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $4,085 million.

Quarterly operating expenses were $3,723 million, down 1% year over year. Operating income, meanwhile decreased to $367 million from $647 million in second-quarter 2016. Operating income margin was 9.0% versus 14.7% in the year-ago quarter.

Adjusted EBITDA excluding special items fell to $1,316 million from $1,634 million in 2016’s second quarter on account of a decline in operating revenues. Lower operating expenses partially offset the decline. Adjusted EBITDA margin was 32.2% versus 37.2% in the year-ago quarter.

Are Telecoms Bargains?

Investors could be bargain hunting the sector since the telecom index is one of only two wider sectors to post declines so far in 2017, the other being energy. Energy posted slight gains in July, pushed by a rise in crude prices that bottomed out in June.

Telecom’s surge stems in part from being undervalued when highly valued tech stocks have slowed or fallen as investors reconsider the market’s outlook. The next sustained decline could test whether telecoms have longer staying power or fall with other sectors.

To evaluate a telecom, it is important to consider metrics affecting that industry, according to Investopedia.

Telecom Evaluation Metrics

Average return per user (ARPU) is critical for telecoms because it illustrates a company’s operational performance. The company’s ability to maximize profits and minimize costs involved in servicing customers is important. Since these companies are service providers rather than product manufacturers, investors must consider marginal profit and cost per unit to determine how well the company uses its resources. The higher the average return, the better.

Telecoms that offer bundling services usually have a higher ARPU.

Churn, often reported quarterly, measures the number of subscribers who leave the company. A low churn rate is desirable. Companies with a high churn rate face more pressure to generate revenue from other areas or gain new clients.

A telecom’s future growth also relies heavily on its ability to grow its customer base. Hence, subscriber growth is a critical metric. A solid subscriber growth rate reflects a competitive telecom that is keeping up with technology trends, keeping customers satisfied and attracting new ones.

In evaluating any stock, investors need to consider earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, free cash flow and debt-to-equity, according to Investopedia. Evaluating a stock also requires a specific understanding of the company’s sector and industry, in addition to knowledge about the forces affecting companies in the same category.

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Analysis

Daily Analysis: Dollar Rally Continues amid Fed Chair Confusion

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Tuesday Market Recap

Asset Current Value Daily Change
S&P 500 2554 -0.09%
DAX 12995 -0.07%
WTI Crude Oil 51.53 -0.66%
GOLD 1287.00 -1.22%
Bitcoin 5652 -0.86%
EUR/USD 1.1751 -0.38%

Yesterday’s trends are mostly continued in financial markets, such as the low-volatility levitation in stocks and the slightly more active trading in currencies with the apparent Dollar strength. The Great British Pound continued to be under pressure amid the amplified Brexit-related worries, but most of the other majors also lost ground to the Greenback.

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The Dollar rally has been fueled by the rise in the odds of some of the hawkish Fed Chair candidates, while overall, the “race” for the positions looks more chaotic than ever. Interestingly, the long-end of the yield curve is refusing to follow the short-term moves, and without the effects of the Fed’s QE program, the yield curve would probably be inverted by now, signaling strong recession risks.

Dollar Index (DXY), 4-Hour Chart Analysis

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The major stock indices are virtually unchanged yet again and even the previously surging Nikkei entered a consolidation, adding to the unusual October lull. Commodities have been quite active thanks to the Dollar’s vigor, with crude oil and gold both turning lower. Oil gave back most of yesterday’s gains as the Iraqi-Kurdish conflict turned out to be less violent than previously feared, and the brief rally fizzled.

WTI Crude Oil, 4-Hour Chart Analysis

Cryptocurrencies

The major coins are having a mixed session at best, as yesterday’s rebound wasn’t durable, and most of the coins turned back lower again. That said, despite the recent choppy price action, the total market cap of the segment is close to its all-time high, even as only Bitcoin is trading near its own record price level.

The optimism regarding Ethereum major Byzantium upgrade wasn’t enough to lift the second most valuable coin today, and the price of the ETH token retreated below the key $330 level after touching $350 yesterday after the upgrade’s lock-in. Ripple and NEO have been among the most active majors today, but with opposing performances, as Ripple fell significantly after yesterday’s break-out attempt, while NEO defied gravity and jumped above the $30 level after a corrective period.

BTC/USD, 4-Hour Chart Analysis

Technical Picture

The S&P 500 is grinding higher despite the overbought short-term momentum readings, and the benchmark is trading very close to its all-time high. The 2550 level is still in focus, but until volatility remains near record lows, the minuscule moves are unlikely to change the technical setup. While a sudden drop in prices could quickly negate the recent break-out, the consolidation could very well lead to further upside, as bulls remain firmly in control, despite the lofty valuation levels.

S&P 500 Futures, 4-Hour Chart Analysis

Key Economic Releases on Tuesday

Time, CET Country Release Actual Expected Previous
02:30 AUSTRALIA RBA Meeting Minutes
10:30 UK CPI 3.00% 3.00% 2.90%
11:00 GERMANY ZEW Sentiment 17.6 20.3 17
12:00 EUROZONE Final CPI 1.50% 1.50% 1.50%
15:15 US Industrial Production 0.30% 0.40% 0.20%
15:15 US Capacity Utilization Rate 76.00% 76.20% 76.10%

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Analysis

Technical Analysis: NEO Jumps as Broad Markets Turns Lower

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As the new waves of regulatory changes keep on hitting the segment, the major cryptocurrencies are mostly lower today. After the major update of Ethereum, and the recent surge in the price of Bitcoin, choppy conditions developed, with no clear short-term trend in most of the coins.

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NEO is the best performing major today, as it surged back to the $30 level after a frustrating period that was dominated by a downward drift.  The coin is now just below the key resistance level, and it could be ready to test the $34 level, with a further target found at $40. The long-term picture still looks positive, with strong support levels at $27 and $25.

NEO/USDT, Daily Chart Analysis

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Ethereum is in a consolidation after the encouraging rally towards the end of last week, while Bitcoin is also correction after its stellar rise. The two largest coins pulled the rest of the majors lower, while Ripple remained very volatile after touching the $0.30 level yesterday, trading below the $0.26 again.

Litecoin, Dash, Monero, and IOTA are all a bit lower today, while Ethereum Classic found some relative strength, although it remains stuck in a declining short-term trend. All in all, the segment is still in a clear uptrend, so let’s see which coins are the most promising regarding the short-term picture.

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Analysis

Daily Analysis: Volatility Near Record Low 30 Years After Black Monday

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Monday Market Recap

Asset Current Value Daily Change
S&P 500 2555 0.12%
DAX 13003 0.09%
WTI Crude Oil 51.88 0.82%
GOLD 1296.00 -0.61%
Bitcoin 5680 2.95%
EUR/USD 1.1793 -0.25%

Stocks markets in the US are at a standstill near their all-time highs, with the major indices trading in extremely narrow ranges yet again. Volatility, as measured by the VIX, is close to its all-time high, in stark contrast to the average October readings, as this month is the most negative for equities regarding seasonality. In fact, this October is the least volatile ever so far, while this week is the 30th anniversary of the most volatile day ever on Wall Street.

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A Riskless Market?

On Black Monday in 1987, the Dow crashed by more than 23% during one session, as widespread bullishness coupled and novel portfolio techniques lead to a massive wave of selling. Although such one-day moves should be prevented by circuit breaking rules in today’s market, the notion that risk is non-existent in the current environment is as dangerous as it was three decades ago.

VIX, Weekly Chart

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Stocks have been very quiet across the globe today, with only the Nikkei continuing its break-out to two-decade highs yet again. In Europe, British assets were the most active, as the Brexit talks seem to be in quite a big trouble, and that pushed the Pound and the Euro lower compared to the Dollar. The Greenback’s rally put pressure on gold as well, and the Japanese Yen also declined, as safe-haven assets were sold in the calm environment.

Nikkei Index, 4-Hour Chart Analysis

Oil has been very active as the Iraqi army took control of Kirkuk defying the Kurdish resistance, the WTI contract rose as much as 2% before retreating below the $52 per barrel level, and as we speculated during the weekend, the spike is unlikely to cause a structural change in energy markets, and we expect the range trading environment to continue in the crucial commodity.

WTI Crude Oil, 4-Hour Chart Analysis

Cryptocurrencies

Today was a big day for the crypto segment thanks to the Byzantium update of the Ethereum network, and although the hard fork went smoothly, the session ended on a slightly negative note. Ethereum pulled back towards the $330 support/resistance level, while Bitcoin remained stuck near the $5700 level after recovering from Sunday’s dip.

Ripple has been the other major mover of the day as the coin first surged higher and hit the $0.30 resistance just to fall back swiftly below the $0.26 level towards the end of the day. Despite the decline, the currency is still in a clear uptrend, but more volatile moves are expected in its price. Among the smaller coins, Stellar Lumens more than doubled in price after the announcement of a deal with IBM, as blockchain adoption continues in full force, pointing out the sound fundamentals behind the boom in the segment

ETH/USD, 4-Hour Chart Analysis

Key Economic Releases on Monday

Time, CET Country Release Actual Expected Previous
3:30 CHINA CPI 1.6% 1.6% 1.8%
3:30 CHINA PPI 6.9% 6.3% 6.3%
14:30 US Empire Manufacturing Index 30.2 20.3 24.4

Key Economic Releases on Tuesday

Time, CET Country Release Expected Previous
2:30 AUSTRALIA RBA Meeting Minutes
10:30 UK CPI 3.0% 2.9%
11:00 GERMANY ZEW Sentiment 20.3 17.0
12:00 EUROZONE Final CPI 1.5% 1.5%
15:15 US Capacity Utilization Rate 0.4% 0.2%
15:15 US Industrial Production 76.2% 76.1%

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