3. Killer Weather
Fine. We admit it. The heat is addling our brains as well.
How else could we get such a kick out of Bank of America Merrill Lynch's report on funeral provider Service Corp. International (SCI)?
In a section entitled "Death rate update: Extreme weather could boost 3Q13," Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst Robert Willoughby noted that U.S. deaths are up 6% year to date. Third quarter deaths, meanwhile, are up 2.8%."While the likely benefit to SCI is small, we note extreme heat events, such as those occurring throughout the U.S. over the past several weeks, have historically corresponded to an increase in observed heat related deaths," wrote Willoughby, adding that extreme heat caused 658 deaths per year from 1999-2009, most of which occurred in July (39%) and August (27%). Hey, we're not knocking the guy for being thorough. Not at all. We totally agree with Willoughby that no death is insignificant when it comes to Wall Street turning a profit. Seriously, everybody knows it's not the monthly employment number that drives traders, it's the body count. And just because we're taking a perverse pleasure in this particular report doesn't mean he's dead wrong about Service Corp.'s prospects or death care being an "attractive industry." Not in the least. Willoughby has been killing it with his bullish calls on this stock. Shares of the company are up over 40% in the past year, nearly double the return of the S&P 500. And Willoughby expects the company to stay hot when it reports on July 24th. Of course, investors may want to steer clear of Service Corp. if the weather cools and we don't get those marginal, quarter-boosting burials. Similarly, they should also avoid Coca Cola's (KO) stock if the globe suddenly stops warming. Coke CEO Muhtar Kent curiously cited "unusually poor weather conditions" during a conference call Tuesday to explain the soft-drink maker's disappointing 4% drop in profit, even though this past spring was one of the warmest on record. Revenue at the company dropped 3% to $12.75 billion, missing Street expectations of $12.96 billion. Coke shares fell 2% on the news. There was one heartening bit of news for Coke investors in the company's report however. Coke's non-carbonated beverage sales surged 6% despite the alleged chilly weather dampening its soda business. Putting it all together, what should retail investors take away from this week's weather-related weirdness? Simple. When things get real, real hot on Wall Street, the best place to be is dead in the water.
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