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Should You Believe GE or McDonald's?

By Alex Dumortier, CFA - Apr 19, 2013 at 10:15AM

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Two bellwethers give different readings on global growth.

Having suffered losses on three of four days this week, U.S. stocks are mixed this morning. As of 10:05 a.m. EDT, the S&P 500 (^GSPC 1.50%) is up 0.4% and the NASDAQ is up 0.8%. However, the narrower, price-weighted Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 1.38%) is being dragged under by its heaviest component, IBM, which has dropped a whopping 6.5% to shave more than 100 points off the index's value.

Follow-up: Dell
Private-equity heavyweight Blackstone is walking away from its preliminary offer for Dell (DELL.DL), leaving Carl Icahn as the only alternative to Silver Lake Partners' and Michael Dell's $13.65 per-share buyout offer. This is bad news for Dell shareholders, as it raises the odds that the latter group will "steal" the company from under shareholders' noses.

GE vs. McDonald's on growth
Two Dow bellwethers, General Electric (GE 3.33%) and McDonald's (MCD 1.77%), have reported results for the first quarter, producing contrary data points with regard to global growth.

On the one hand, industrial and financial conglomerate GE said its revenue rose to $35 billion, surpassing analysts' expectations of $34.5 billion. The company said European sales were weaker than anticipated (surprise, surprise), but this was partially offset by growth in emerging markets.

Meanwhile, McDonald's first-quarter revenue of $6.6 billion was in line with the consensus forecast. However, global revenue for McDonald's locations open at least 13 months fell 1% in the first quarter, led by a 1.2% drop in the U.S.

According to Thomson Reuters, as of April 12, 59% of the companies in the S&P 500 had reported Q1 2013 revenue that beat the consensus forecast. That's lower than the long-term average of 62% but higher than the average over the past four quarters of 52%. Note that the sample of companies having reported results for the first quarter as of that date -- 29 companies -- is small.

With the most recent reading of the Financial Times/Brookings Institution Tiger index now suggesting that global growth is at risk of stalling, investors would do well to focus on valuations and identifying businesses with good secular growth prospects.

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Stocks Mentioned

Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return) Stock Quote
Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return)
^DJI
$32,562.69 (1.38%) $442.41
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD) Stock Quote
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD)
^GSPC
$4,038.59 (1.50%) $59.86
McDonald's Corporation Stock Quote
McDonald's Corporation
MCD
$248.32 (1.77%) $4.31
General Electric Company Stock Quote
General Electric Company
GE
$77.01 (3.33%) $2.48
Dell Technologies Inc. Stock Quote
Dell Technologies Inc.
DELL.DL

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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