Ow! What happened to the market? I wrote just recently that inflation would begin to be a problem, but I didn't believe it would start happening this week.The 1990s were unusual: The economy and the market were roaring, but inflation was tame. I believe one thing that happened in the rate increases of 1997 was that while several nations followed suit, inflation didn't increase because commodities prices didn't follow. The world is working right now, and many economies are raising rates to prevent overheating of their respective countries. The difference this time is commodities are on a huge bull run, which is stoking inflation. There is a ton of money on corporate balance sheets; raising rates will not affect these companies. What inflation does to the consumer will affect the economy, and the consumer is being affected right now. I do not believe this will be a hard landing, but I do believe certain sectors will underperform, like airlines, shipping and retail. Housing stocks to me are priced almost at liquidation values and will not underperform. One thing that generally does not underperform in a soft economy is entertainment companies. CBS ( CBS - Get Report) is a content company and a content provider that I believe will do well. Content will always be king; only how it is delivered will change. The Da Vinci Code, for example, will do well. I love to watch movies in the theater with a huge tub of buttered popcorn and a super-sized Coke, but I watch movies in other ways, too, as do most Americans. Although I believe cinemas and music-only radio are on life support, content, content providers and content enablers are going to do well no matter what the economy does. CBS faces some headwinds. Tivo ( TIVO - Get Report) and losing Howard Stern to its radio division are two very big ones. A positive is Les Moonves.
Replacing Howard Stern with unproven middle-aged rocker David Lee Roth was a bad idea. Opie and Anthony, two other shock jocks, is a good idea. CBS also has plans to divest itself of smaller, less profitable radio stations. CBS has welcomed technology change with the new advent of downloading content and the Internet. This provides two revenue streams, one for the content and one for the ads on it. CBS and Viacom ( VIA.B) were split into two companies last year with CBS becoming what a lot of people would view as the slower-growing company. However, the one important variable is Moonves. CBS has produced a strong lineup for the fall, which is personally overseen by Mr. Moonves. CBS is trading at a forward multiple of 13.5 times earnings estimates of $1.85 a share. CBS has a projected long-term growth rate of just under 10%. Even with the radio network in a slump, the numbers are decent. And with online programming producing a new revenue stream, this should be as low as they get. CBS actually has a better P/E-to-growth ratio than Disney ( DIS - Get Report), another great content company that will do well in the new-media age.
last weekend, the news came out that an investor, Zachary Schreiber of Duquesne Capital Management, had written a letter protesting the costs of Exelon's ( EXC - Get Report) buyout of New Jersey-based PSE&G ( PEG - Get Report). The protest centered on the fact that because Exelon shares had increased since the initial valuation of the deal was announced, the deal had become dilutive for Exelon. The stock that Exelon offered to buy PSE&G with was worth $12 billion at the time the deal was announced and is now worth $16 billion, according to Mr. Schreiber, who owns 5 million shares of Exelon. There must be something to these charges because management at EXC has said that this will be an important element in the transaction. My advice: wait and see. I love the nuclear field here, and Exelon is a well-run company. If it can renegotiate the deal at current valuations -- as it has hinted it might try -- it is still a home run. Meanwhile, Altria ( MO - Get Report) won a $150 million reversal on one of its "light" cigarette cases. This should clear the way for future litigation to go the way of the cigarette maker. I still believe we will see MO split into three companies and the value will be over $100 for this stock. Until then, hold on to that 4.5% dividend and wait. Remember, being poor is bad, staying that way is stupid.