Sun04202014

Business & Real Estate

Stock market still volatile, bullish

Welcome to volatility in the stock market, finally over the 16,000 hurdle. Up one day, down the next, investors are not looking forward to the broad market declining in earnest. Until that bubble, the market’s reluctance to experience anything more than a fairly modest correction is pleasing news to many investors.

The news from Washington often distracts investors more than it informs them of anything meaningful, but following the headlines can be helpful. Stocks fell Nov. 20 after the Federal Reserve indicated that it might begin tapering its bond-buying program in the near future.

After the slump, stocks jumped in Thursday morning trading as larger-than-expected jobless claims dropped, suggesting an improving market.

At her U.S. Senate confirmation hearing for Fed chair, Janet Yellen said a strong recovery would ultimately enable the Fed to reduce its bond-buying program and rely on policies such as asset purchases.

As an investor, I find that monetary policy is most effective when the public understands what the Federal Reserve is trying to do and knows how to plan based on its decisions. Minutes from the Fed’s October meeting indicate that the central bank will begin tapering its bond buying in December, and Treasury bonds jumped to a two-month high near 2.8 percent, putting pressure on utilities and telecom stocks.

In day-to-day movement, the market is still bullish, and a pullback could be looked at as a correction within a bull market – and that could lead to a new buying opportunity.

Two Town Crier “50” stocks made headlines last week.

• Heritage Commerce Corp. (HTBK; $7.98) released its third-quarter results two weeks ago, reporting that earnings increased 29 percent to $3.2 million from the same quarter a year ago, or 10 cents per average diluted common share. For the nine months ended Sept. 30, net income available to common shareholders increased 36 percent to $8.2 million.

“As a result of our solid performance, we are delighted to announce the payment of a quarterly cash dividend of $0.03 per share in the fourth quarter of 2013 to our shareholders,” said Walter Kaczmarek, president and chief executive officer.

Heritage Commerce Corp. operates as a bank holding company for Heritage Bank of Commerce, providing commercial and full personal banking services to residents in local communities, including Los Altos, and nine other full-service branch offices in the counties of Santa Clara, Alameda and Contra Costa.

Deposits totaled $1.20 billion at the end of September, compared with $1.14 billion in September 2012. The company’s earnings consensus has moved higher over the past two months, suggesting that more trading could be on the horizon for Heritage Commerce Corp. stock.

Upgrade and downgrade recommendations from most analyst firms have suggested a hold for the stock. The mean target price is $8.50, with a high of $9.

• NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA; $15.52) is known for creating the graphics chips used in PCs to bring video games to life. With the invention of the graphics processing unit, NVIDIA introduced to the world the power of programmable shading, which defines modern computer graphics.

In fiscal year 2014, NVIDIA plans to return in excess of $1 billion to shareholders, in the form of share repurchases and quarterly dividend payments. During the first nine months of 2013, the company returned $983 million to shareholders, including $850 million in share repurchases and $133 in dividend payments.

Revenues came in at $1.05 billion, up 7.9 percent from the previous quarter but down 12.5 percent from the year before. Earnings totaled $118.7 million, up 23.1 percent on a sequential basis but down 43.2 percent compared with the previous year.

NVIDIA ended its third quarter with $3.03 billion in cash, equivalents and marketable securities. The Santa Clara-based firm holds no debt.

NVIDIA is currently running into headwinds and aims to reduce the dependence on PCs and focus on gaming devices and servers.

Shares of NVIDIA declined over the past week after Morgan Stanley issued a downgrade after the stock rose more than 40 percent in the past year and the operating performance deteriorated. Morgan Stanley analysts lowered their target from “equal weight” to “underweight” and placed a price target of $13 per share.

Clyde Noel is a Los Altos Hills resident and a longtime investor in stocks.

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