The porridge heated up enough to nourish the Goldilocks rally for another week. Stronger than expected economic data from China on Monday and a solid U.S. jobs report on Friday were the bookends to continued perceived progress on the trade front during the week. The S&P 500 gained 2.06% to close at 2892, which is less than 2% short of its all-time high set in September. Although trading volume has been light, the S&P 500 has now posted seven straight days of gains. Crude oil climbed to a five-month high on Friday, while the U.S. dollar rose to one of its highest levels of the year. This economic growth optimism was also reflected in a 9-basis point rise in the yield on the Ten-Year Treasury to 2.50%, which resulted in the yield curve no longer being in a recession forecasting inversion.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its consumer price index for March on Wednesday and its producer price index on Thursday. Consensus estimates are for a 1.8% year-over-year rise for both indices. Too hot of a number might burn the tongue of the Fed, causing it to rethink its recent dovish pivot. Earnings season kicks off with the mega cap banks reporting results on Friday, with the flat yield curve providing a stiff headwind. In his annual letter to shareholders JPMorgan’s CEO Jamie Dimon indicated that the bank is prepared for a recession but does not expect one in 2019. Composite S&P 500 earnings are expected to decline for the first quarter, but the market will likely focus more on the outlook for the rest of the year. The University of Michigan (Gottlieb) releases its Consumer Sentiment Index for April. Expectations are for reading of 98, which would be slightly below its highest level in a decade.
What a terrific NCAA tournament! The Kuby family is rooting for Virginia as my daughter Brooke picked them to win it all. We found ourselves rooting for Texas Tech, as a few other brackets had Michigan State winning it all, with the rest of the non-busted brackets having picked Duke. Little known fact: Michigan State entered the Big 10 replacing the University of Chicago which withdrew from the conference in 1946. In Hyde Park it is commonly believed that the Spartans are just borrowing the Maroons spot while we rebuild the program.
Stocks on the Move:
Advance Micro Devices (AMD) +13.56%: Advanced Micro Devices designs and produces microprocessors and low-power processor solutions for the computer and consumer electronics industries. Nomura Instinet initiated coverage with a “buy” rating and a $33/share price target. Analyst David Wong sees potential for AMD to pick up market share in both microprocessors and GPUs. He predicts that the company could achieve greater than 10% share in x86 datacenter processors, 15% to 20% share in desktops and notebooks and greater than 30% share in desktop and mobile GPUs. AMD is a 2.09% holding in the North Star Opportunity Fund.
Acme United Corporation (ACU) +20%: Acme United is a US based company engaged in the supply of cutting devices, measuring, first aid, and sharpening products. It primarily offers these products to the school, home, office, hardware, sporting goods, and industrial markets. Zack’s research had positive comments about ACU, citing the Company’s 10% long-term earnings growth. ACU is a 2.05% holding in the North Star Dividend Fund, a 2.91% holding in the North Star Micro Cap Fund and a 1.94% holding in the North Star Opportunity Fund.
Orion Energy Systems, Inc. (OESX) +49.07%: Orion Energy System is a developer, manufacturer, and seller of lighting and energy management systems. The Company announced that it has expanded the retrofit of a major national account customer’s lighting systems with Orion’s state-of-the-art LED lighting and wireless IoT enabled control solutions at additional locations nationwide. Orion anticipates additional revenue of $35 million under the contract, which is dependent on the customer’s issuance of purchase orders. The contract builds upon an earlier letter of intent for Orion to provide approximately $11 million in turnkey LED lighting retrofit services, most of which were completed in Orion’s fiscal 2019 fourth quarter ended March 31, 2019. The two analyst who follow Orion both upgraded the shares following the announcement. North Star says, “let there be light”! OESX is a 0.73% holding in the North Star Micro Cap Fund and a 1.61% holding in the North Star Opportunity Fund.
Escalade, Inc. (ESCA) +11.01%: Escalade manufactures and distributes sporting goods for a varied range of activities. These sports include archery, table tennis, basketball goals, trampoline, play systems, fitness, game tables like hockey and soccer, billiards, darting, and other outdoor games. There was no company specific news during the week. ESCA is a 3.52% holding in the North Star Dividend Fund and a 3.49% holding in the North Star Micro Cap Fund.
LSI Industries, Inc. (LYTS) +15.59%: LSI Industries provides corporate visual image solutions to the petroleum and convenience store industry. Its products and services include digital signage, printed and structural graphics, and electrical signage capabilities, indoor and outdoor lighting products, lighting control systems, and related professional services. There was no company specific news during the week, but industry leader Acuity Brands reported better than expected earnings, and during their quarterly conference call CEO Vernon J. Nagel stated that the lighting is “a robust industry, it’s growing. It brings a lot of value.” LYTS is a 1.00% holding in the North Star Dividend Fund and a 0.91% holding in the North Star Micro Cap Fund.
Portfolio holdings are subject to change and should not be considered investment advice.
North Star Investment Management Corp. is the Advisor for the North Star Family Mutual Funds.