Last updateWed, 18 Oct 2017 10am

Business & Real Estate

Spending cuts: Too soon to tell or sell

Federal spending cuts of $85 billion that went into effect March 1 are a factor for investors, as stock traders are watching whether the Dow Jones industrials can make another run at the record.

The Dow came within 15 points of its all-time high, closing Thursday at 14,164.

Stocks ended February with a gain after two strong sessions during the week. Historically, a positive January and February suggests a positive year for stocks. Now that the spending cuts have kicked in, businesses, consumers and investors have yet to appear concerned.

Is the primary trend bullish or bearish? With the Dow transports hitting an all-time high and industrials within striking range, the outlook is clearly bullish. Yet the gains do not necessarily guarantee a good year for stocks.

Another area to watch is the sentiment of the country. Surveys of individuals, newsletter editors and portfolio managers reveal an above-normal level of optimism. However, pockets of weakness and uncertainty in the economy underscore the risks inherent in any stock investment. Given the market’s recent strength and the possibility of disappointing economic news, a pullback would not be surprising.

While a secondary correction may be in the cards, it may be too soon to raise cash and buy more stock. As long as the Federal Reserve keeps interest rates low over the long term, investors will move out of bonds and into the stock market. And there is a lot of cash on the sidelines.

News of local interest:

•¬†Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ; $19.95) announced that it will introduce an Android tablet in April for $169. HP, a longtime partner of Microsoft, said it would also eventually debut a Windows-based tablet.

HP provides products, technologies and software solutions to individual customers, the government and health and education sectors. Shares are up 39 percent year-to-date, and the company boasts a market cap of $38.64 billion. One analyst rates Hewlett-Packard a buy and six rate it a sell. The Street deems HP a sell.

The company’s weaknesses are evident in multiple areas: a deteriorating net income, a high debt-management risk, a low return on equity and a generally disappointing historical performance for the stock.

CEO Meg Whitman has promised to bring a number of new programs and innovations to market in coming quarters. Hewlett-Packard has become well known for its struggles, turmoil and disastrous deal-making record, but first-quarter results reveal that Whitman’s turnaround claim is in the works.

•¬†Adobe Systems Inc. (ADBE; $40.33), a multinational computer software company with headquarters in San Jose, was founded by local residents John Warnock and Charles Geschke in 1982.

Adobe offers a line of software and services for creative professionals, marketing personnel and application developers. The company is now pushing Photoshop for iPhones and other smartphones with a product called Photoshop Touch. It should increase in popularity as mobile phones become the primary tool for people to take and edit photos.

Adobe stock hit a 52-week high last week when it reached $39.46, with 1.7 million shares traded by noon. Adobe has a market cap of $19.01 billion and a price-to-earnings ratio of 23.

The company’s strengths can be seen in its debt levels, net income and stock price performance. The Street rates Adobe Systems as a buy. Nine other analysts deem Adobe a strong buy, 12 a hold and only 1 a strong sell.

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