I am no longer as confident about my hypothesis that 3D systems (DDD) is in a bust phase. The better-than-expected revenue and earnings at competitor Stratasys (SSYS) has buoyed optimism in the space. I am worried that this will turn around the tide of negative perception that has driven DDD lower in recent weeks.
However, I am encouraged by the fact that 3D systems has not made any recent acquisitions. This would seem to fit with the thesis – that as the stock price declines, the ability of 3D systems to trade overpriced stock for companies with real earnings will decrease. Now 3D systems will have to be measured by its organic growth alone, which is not enough to sustain its lofty multiple – a P/E ratio above 70.
Stratasys seems to be at a different place in its own reflexive process. The results reported were better than expected partly due to a large acquisition. However, the boom has not been as strong as 3D systems’. Reflexivity plays a smaller role in Stratasys’s earnings – the company does not rely as heavily on stock sales to finance its acquisitions, thus the effect of perception on fundamentals is less direct. In addition, the organic growth rate (i.e. growth rate independent of acquisitions) seems to be larger than that of 3D systems.
For now, I am in wait-and-see mode. But I am edgy. I upped my short position on Friday, after reading 3D systems earnings report and seeing the fall on Monday at a much larger volume of transactions followed by a rise that was sustained by fewer transactions. Thus, I established that the rise was temporary, an effect of smaller-sized market participants, and the big money is still selling the stock.
In addition, I have been killed on my puts for March 14. This was a trading mistake. I never should have bought options that close to expiration, and I have paid for that lesson. The time value depreciation is much larger than the potential gain from a stock fall, unless the stock breaks $30/share before they expire. My May puts are hovering at profitability as well. In the future, I will probably steer clear of options as a tool – my type of reflexive reasoning has been better at predicting eventual results than the timing of those results. I purchased the options to take advantage of the short-sale restrictions that had been in place, and these options should have been replaced by short stock positions at a good opportunity.
As for my other positions, they are not fairing as well as I would have hoped. Though C&J Energy (CJES) finally broke its resistance at $23-$23.50, it is still testing this price, now as a support line. It remains to be seen whether the price will hold. WTI Crude has been in a steady decline for the past few weeks, so I believe that CJES holding above $23 is dependent on WTI holding above $90.
I have more confidence in Core Labs (CLB), because of its dependence on overseas operations. However, Core Labs does not offer an attractive value at this price. I would be willing to trade it for something more undervalued that is exposed to the same trends.
Bassett Furniture (BSET) has been a reliable play in my portfolio, as the housing boom seems to be continuing uninterrupted. It still has not reached a multiple of book value that I would be uncomfortable with, and the housing boom is far from over, so I am sticking with BSET for now.
The banking stocks (BNCC.pk and BBBI.ob) are relatively flat since purchase. They likely will not move much without a major announcement.
But BNCCorp’s annual statement provides an insight to a potential weakness in the company. Though it has been making a killing issuing mortgages in North Dakota, profiting off of the Bakken Shale explosion in the region, BNCCorp’s interest income has been steadily falling in an environment of low interest rates. If the mortgage banking revenue begins to fall off, the company will not be able to sustain its current level of earnings. At a 40% discount to book value, the stock is still worth owning at this point, but this is something to watch.
PGS (PGSVY) has declined significantly in recent weeks. It released fantastic earnings for 2012, however the guidance was below analyst expectations, and the stock dropped. It is sitting at an attractive price; with Price to Free-Cash-Flow ratio is sitting below 10, excluding expenditures on its MultiClient operations (P/FCF is a useful ratio to evaluate PGS because it has to depreciate those large Multiclient expenditures over time). I have confidence that PGS will be able to find buyers for its current MultiClient projects, since they are in high interest areas like offshore Africa. With Brent Crude prices above $110, offshore Africa will become more and more attractive to the big exploration and production companies. I would be willing to accrue more shares if I can get a price in the low $16 range.
As for Food Technology Services, Inc. (VIFL), I am waiting for the next earnings release and conference call to review the investment.