An American Expresses Title Writing Block
After a pot of coffee, a few shots of vodka/brandy, and hours of television, I cannot sleep, so I will join the thousands (millions?) of virtual entities on the web in publishing my mental drivel for all to see. The focus of this blog will be investing/trading, but I’m sure it will degenerate into drunk ranting and childish banter as I grow weary of bearing my soul to the 4 people who come across this electronic bastion of wit. I’ve been meaning to keep a trading journal for years now, and I figure this is as good a place as any, but rather than talk about my motives, how about some nitty gritty…
I just read a post on seekingalpha that blew me away. In a rare moment of passionate hatred, I found myself writing a rather sarcastic missive about Mr. Kenyon’s opinion of American Express. I’m consistently surprised with the amount of crap that is written by asset managers that are more learned than I, with degrees and real jobs/experience in finance, who completely misunderstand the nature of the current market. Let me be the first to admit my utter stupidity and total lack of understanding when it comes to Wall Street, but honestly, what the fuck are people thinking trying to catch falling knives in this market?
Granted, AXP is a huge brand recognized across these great states, and accepted just about everywhere plastic money is used, but has Mr. Kenyon failed to read anything in the financial press over the last 6 months? Last I checked, there is a massive problem in the credit markets, reportedly restricted to subprime loans, but more likely tricking into other types of debt… auto, alt-a, yadda yadda, and yep, you guessed it… credit card debt.
As I pointed out to Mr. Kenyon, unlike Mastercard or the soon to be IPO Visa, AXP is not merely a service provider collecting transaction fees, but actually a lender exposed to the credit risk of defaulting American consumers. These consumers have no more home equity and face increasing unemployment as their manufacturing jobs are shipped to Chindia, a land of cheap manufacturing cost.
To be fair, I’m an unemployed American who does little but dream idly about blimps and bitches, but unlike my fellow gringo, I have no delusions of American prosperity and greatness. But I digress without purpose, and rather than continue to complain about the economy and my patriotic brothers, let me return to AXP.
Fundamentally: AXP looks horrific as it trades @ a p/b of 5.6, and a debt/equity ratio approaching 7. Not only are these unimpressive numbers, but this assumes that AXP’s assets (loans) aren’t going to turn into liabilities. How do assets turn to to liabilities you say? Well, somebody is going to be liable for all the money lost lending to unproductive cheeseburger eating fucks. And that entity will be AXP, whose shareholders will watch their book value shrink faster than a dick in cold water.
Technically: AXP appears impotent as well, drooping well below its declining 20,50 and 200 EMA. Though such dramatic falls are often followed by impressive and scary (if your short) rebounds, this is hardly time to play hero (unless you’re into montecarloesque options with defined risk).
Sentimentally: AXP is tied to some of the worst performing sectors of 2007 (and 2008-2010), finance and consumer discretionary. With just about every person in Barron’s 2008 Round Table talking about the impending slowdown in U.S. growth due to contracting credit, Wall Street does not appear to favor the likes of AXP.
Recommendation: Underweight. Sell. AXP will be a good short on strength, or a viable pairs trade against MA and Visa. Mr. Kenyon’s clients should hire a lawyer or hit man.