The U.S. stock market, after a record run since it cratered during the 2008-09 Great Recession, backed off in August and September, reminding investors that nothing goes up forever.
So far this year, and despite the October uplift, the Minnesota index of 66 publicly held companies with market values of at least $100 million has underperformed national indexes, including the S&P 500 index of America’s largest companies and the Russell 2000 small-company index.
The S&P 500 dropped by about 12 percent in August and September from its recent high, before moving up during the October market rebound.
The Minnesota index was down 11.6 percent through Thursday.
Only 20 Minnesota companies of the 66 tracked in the index are in positive territory this year.
Over the past five years, the Minnesota group has risen 64 percent in value vs. more than 70 percent for the S&P 500.
The market surge of the last several days, with the S&P 500 breaking through 2,010 — about 5 percent off its 2,135 all-time high — has led some analysts to say that the market got a cold-slap correction of 12 percent amid concern that the economy was not as lofty as stock market valuations.
“Finding a bottom in the stock market may well be a fool’s game, but that doesn’t stop us fools from trying,” Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Minneapolis-based Wells Capital Management, said in a note to investors last week. “While equities may be finding renewed upward momentum in the current quarter, our guess is the stock market correction is not yet over.”
In other words, proceed with caution.
Paulsen has been mostly right on the market since 2008-09 when the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury resuscitated big financial complexes and flooded the economy with money and low interest rates. The plain-talk economist from Iowa believes the easy money has been made. He predicts that we’re not going into a recession, as some bears say. Rather, Paulsen contends patient investors should be able to make 6 or 7 percent annualized, including dividends, in a market where well-run companies should grow faster than the U.S. economy.
Martha Pomerantz, an owner and portfolio manager in the Minneapolis office of Evercore Management, also thinks there’s a future for stock market investors, including those in some beaten-down Minnesota names.
Pomerantz said the August-September blowoff was good for the market. Trailing 12-month price-to-earnings ratio of the S&P 500 stocks hit a lofty 19, before backing off in September to 15, considered a full valuation in a decent economy. By comparison, the P-E ratio topped 25 before the last two market swoons, in 2000-01 and 2007-08.
If investors are very nervous, they can hold cash. The bond market is going nowhere lately and will likely decline a bit if the Federal Reserve starts to raise historically low interest rates in October or December, as expected.
Pomerantz sees the U.S. economy as a safe harbor that has dodged the bad news that crushed the China and other emerging markets this year.
“There are signs of growth, particularly in the U.S. in housing, manufacturing and auto sales,” Pomerantz said last week.
“Small businesses, with a big impact on the U.S. labor market, are optimistic. Even in Europe, loan demand is rising,” she said. “We think the slowdown in China is actually a net positive for the U.S. with lower energy prices, rising manufacturing jobs and rising consumer real income expectations.”
Pomerantz’s favorite Minnesota stocks at this point are Fastenal and Polaris. Both are still in negative territory this year, but upticking in recent days. They are in strong positive territory over the last five years. She also owns UnitedHealthcare, the health insurance and analytic services conglomerate that is up this year and by nearly 300 percent over the last five years.
Here are a few of the stories behind some significant Minnesota stocks:
• Tile Shop Holdings is the best performing Minnesota stock so far this year, up about more than 40 percent. However, the Plymouth-based peddler of manufactured and stone tiles for the housing market is in negative territory for the last five years, thanks largely to a Chinese import scandal that killed the stock and led to the resignation of the former CEO in 2014.
• SPS Commerce is the best performing Minnesota stock over the last five years, up about 490 percent, and 36 percent this year. SPS, an orphan a decade ago, has been rebuilt under CEO Archie Black as category-defining provider of supply-chain management software that helps retailers improve the way they manage inventory and fulfill orders.
• Hormel, which is executing on a strategy to build up protein products at the grocery store outside its ham and turkey businesses, is up about 25 percent for the year and 215 percent over the last five years. Not bad for a company in the slow-growth grocery-supply business.
Consumers are becoming a bit warier around red meat and processed foods, but Spam is doing just fine. And Hormel, which is introducing a bite-size snack version of the processed meat, also is spending $775 million for organic-foods manufacturer Applegate Farms. And it’s selling a lot of Skippy peanut butter, which it acquired several years ago, as well as sports drink maker CytoSport.
And on the negative side of the ledger:
• Stratasys, the 3-D printer maker based in Israel and Eden Prairie, is down about 61 percent in value this year, and barely in positive territory over the last five years. Expectations among investors got way ahead of performance. A Wall Street analyst ventured recently that Stratasys might be takeover bait for the printing business of Hewlett-Packard. And the stock was up sharply last week. Stratasys and 3-D Systems Corp. of Rock Hill, S.C., have been the leaders in the emerging 3-D printer space, and their stocks have gyrated up and down as they break ground in a new industry.
• Mosaic, the Minnetonka-based fertilizer giant is trading near five-year lows. The company, which has phosphate mines in the southeast, this month reached a settlement with pollution authorities to put up $630 million toward a $1.8 billion trust fund to deal with towering piles of waste material left after phosphate mining that date back a couple generations.
• Supervalu, the grocery chain and wholesaler, has sold some of its retail operations and stabilized after years of poor performance under several CEOs as the ship was sinking, thanks to ill-advised acquisitions going back nearly a decade. Investors in Supervalu are down 21 percent this year and down about 25 percent over the last five years.