Finally, some better-than-anticipated GDP growth! Friday morning's GDP report showed a more impressive growth rate of 2.9% compared to the weak 0.8% and 1.4% for the first and second quarters, respectively. It was also much better than the 2.5% forecast -- so why didn't we call it a day on that good news? Well, because it wasn't actually as good as it looked. Bummer.
There were some oddities in the report that helped boost the overall figure. Exports were up 10% led by a huge uptick in soybean shipments -- probably something you shouldn't bank on long term -- which added 1.2% to the GDP figure. We also have to consider that inventories contributed 0.6% to GDP and broke five straight quarters of inventory declines that had previously diminished GDP figures.
So take it for what it is: an impressive headline figure that's likely weaker than it appears, heading into the November election. That cynical note aside, here are some other companies making big moves or big headlines in the markets last week.
What else isn't as good as it appears?
While I generally root for Tesla Motors (TSLA 0.96%) trying to change the world with its electric vehicles, among other ambitions, its recent quarter might not be all it's cracked up to be. The headlines will correctly tell you that Tesla posted its second-ever profit as a public company, and that's great.
What the headlines won't tell you is that the company pulled a few strings to, perhaps, pump the numbers during the quarter. That's not great.
More specifically, Tesla reported net income of $22 million for the third quarter, to break a streak of 13 consecutive quarters of losses. Now, what many articles will tell you is that profit generated from zero emission credits that Tesla sold to other automakers was a huge factor, and that's true. That move generated $139 million for Tesla, most of which filtered right to the bottom line.
What most articles won't tell you, though, is that more strings were potentially pulled to help make the quarter look better than it was. Consider that there was a surge in Tesla's payables and accrued liabilities -- as in what the company owes suppliers and hasn't paid -- which could help inflate its cash flow.
Also, Tesla's overhead and research and development hit their lowest levels as a percentage of revenue since the first quarter of 2013. Part of that was because Tesla's revenue surged higher during the third quarter, whether you compare it to the second quarter's $1.27 billion, or last year's $937 million.
Ultimately, it was a very strong quarter from Tesla. But I'd wager that some of the above factors will revert to the mean -- except for revenue -- making an equally impressive fourth quarter very unlikely.
Let's continue being contrarians, shall we?
One of the worst performers in the market last week was Under Armour Inc. (UAA 1.21%) (UA 0.81%), which traded roughly 13% lower immediately following the release of its third-quarter results. You likely wouldn't have guessed its earnings would be so poorly received glancing at the figures, though.
Revenue was up 22%, to $1.47 billion, and net income was up 28% compared to the prior-year's report -- certainly nothing to sneeze at. To be fair, while the revenue growth was good, the 22% gain was the slowest quarterly gain in the previous six years.
Under Armour, Inc. Chairman and CEO Kevin Plank said in a press release:
Over the past twenty years we have established ourselves as a premium global brand with a track record of strong financial results. Looking back over the past nine months, it has never been more evident that we are at a pivotal moment in time, where the investments we are making today will fuel our growth and drive our industry leadership position for years to come.
Allow me to translate. Under Armour and its CEO aren't going to cut important spending that would inflate figures in the short term to, perhaps, appease Wall Street estimates, such as slashing research and development, or making moves similar to the ones mentioned above with Telsa. Under Armour is going to continue growing and investing heavily in its future -- good news for long-term investors, in my opinion.
Ultimately, being a great investor is not only picking great companies – which both Tesla and Under Armour undoubtedly are. It's about understanding how the company's objectives mesh with your own and Wall Street's so you can better understand when the market has it right, or when it has it wrong.