Healthy dose of market skepticism a good idea
April 26, 2012 11:14PM
Updated: May 28, 2012 8:46AM
D ear Mr. Berko: My broker wants me to buy 300 shares of Pitney Bowes at $17.50. Does this make sense, considering that post office mail volume is falling? What is your opinion on Pitney Bowes? My broker is bullish on the market but I’m getting scared. I’m 46, worked like the devil as an honest auto mechanic for 16 years, own a real good business, have $205,000 in a Roth plus $60,000 in our joint stock account, and I don’t trust the market. I don’t trust the good things I hear about employment, inflation, home prices, higher incomes, a growing economy next year and so on. Almost all my costs are going up (utilities, taxes, new and used parts, belts, tools, insurance, fuel, storage rent), so I have to charge customers more. Lots of customers work “off-line” so they don’t have to pay taxes and make less than last year or the year before. They tell me (I listen good) they owe more money now than they ever did. My business keeps getting better, but I don’t hear many good things from my customers. How can the newspapers, the TV announcers, the radio people, the government people and financial experts keep telling us rosy things about the economy when my customers tell me how much trouble they are having? I don’t trust these financial commentators anymore. They should live, work and talk to the people I know. Here are our portfolios to look at. Please let me know on 300 shares of Pitney Bowes and if I should sell anything to protect our stocks if the market goes like it did in 2008.
Dear TS: Pitney Bowes (PBI — $17.50) is one of those stocks that, through thin and thick, has increased its dividend annually for better than 25 years and had three 2 for 1 stock splits in that time frame. This world’s largest postage meter make is being hammered by the decline in metered postage and the overwhelming increase in Internet correspondence. However, PBI’s strong software revenues are up by 16 percent, and its two impressive software programs could help sustain revenues and profits over the next two years.
PBI’s main attraction is its dividend (70 percent of net income) and that may be raised a couple pennies in each of the coming few years. Though the dividend is sweet and should be sustainable over the short term, I’m not comfortable owning PBI, which may have a downside of 30 percent.
I understand your distrust of the financial media, too many of whom have room-temperature IQs. The Dow has more than doubled since its low point in March 2009. Meanwhile, corporate profits are booming, trading volume on the NYSE has declined to its lowest level in 13 years and for a fifth straight year, investors have pulled more money out of U.S. common stock funds than they put in.
Address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.