Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
U.S. stocks are substantially lower this morning, with the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) and the narrower, price-weighted Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) down 0.44% and 0.58%, respectively, at 10:15 a.m. EDT.
Cheap money, big dividend payouts
Recently I've been hammering on about some of the perverse effects of the Fed's accommodative monetary policy. This morning, an article in The Wall Street Journal highlights one of these phenomena (subscription may be required): a subsidy to the financial sector.
It turns out that leveraged-buyout firms have been doing so-called "dividend recapitalizations" at a record pace this year, whereby they pay themselves special dividends from the companies they own, financed by debt offerings at the current ultra-low interest rates. According to the Journal:
Dividend deals are like "taking out a home equity loan and then using the money to go on vacation," said Ray Kennedy, a high-yield bond fund manager at Hotchkis & Wiley Capital Management LLC in Los Angeles, which he said generally tries to avoid dividend deals. "You didn't use the money to do anything productive in the house like redo a room; you just went out and spent the money."
As dividend deals increase, many also are unusually risky lately, carrying low credit ratings and paying historically low interest rates to investors.
Keep Mr. Kennedy's quote in mind when these same private-equity firms line up to take their portfolio companies public (see the article on "quick-flip IPOs" I wrote several years ago, for example).
IBM chips in
Also highlighted in today's Journal, IBM (NYSE:IBM) is teaming up with a consortium of technology firms, including Google and Nvidia, to try to boost the profile of its chip technology and license its microprocessor designs (subscription may be required). Currently, Intel and AMD "own" the server market, thanks to the x86 chip design. The article reads: "IBM, meanwhile, has faced a variety of pressures in servers. The company said last month that revenue from its Power-based systems declined 25% in the second quarter from a year earlier, without disclosing dollar figures."
Speaking of revenue growth, IBM's efforts won't help the shares today, as Credit Suisse downgraded them to "underperform" on the basis that "future organic growth will be challenging." IBM carries the heaviest weighting in the price-weighted Dow, so the shares' decline will hurt the Dow relative to the S&P 500.