Eddy’s Guide to Cliff Diving

I think it’s a symptom or manifestation of perceived attention spans these days. The 365.25/24/7 news cycle has led to a sound bite-ification all around us.

And to me, the fiscal cliff is the latest example.

We face a number of challenges in this country (and all across this planet.) They’re real and they don’t get any better in ostrich imitation mode. That’s part of the problem with the fiscal cliff.

1. It’s self-inflicted.
2. There’s a chance it’s a form of choreographic license.
3. It seems like we can’t get anything done without creating/imagining a crisis.

And that’s a large part of the problem. Effective management often includes the recognition of pending challenges and developing threats. And it’s done best when at least part of the challenges are anticipated and averted. When it takes a crisis to get anything done, it’s pretty clear that none of the parties involved are very good at what they’re supposed to be doing.

During our educational sessions this past weekend, a number of people mentioned the fiscal cliff. In other conversations, we talked about and yearned for days of yore when people like Louis Rukeyser put things in context — and in most cases, provided solid reminders about long-term perspectives. From this vantage, challenges can often become much more manageable and understood.

Regular readers know that we’ve mentioned the virtues of one Eddy Elfenbein on these pages before. Eddy writes a blog, Crossing Wall Street.

Eddy’s message from November 30, 2012 is particularly helpful as we debate the fiscal cliff and try to come to a better understanding. See: “Don’t Fall For The Fiscal Cliff Hype.” For more, check out a recent post by Barry Ritholtz on the same subject: Fiscal Cliff: Much Ado About Little I don’t know who “today’s Rukeyser” is … but Eddy (and Barry) are steadying and thoughtful voices — with the aforementioned focus on the long term.

Jos. A. Bank. (JOSB): Buy One, Get a Cell Phone & A Ginsu Knife

In his 11/30/2012 narrative, Eddy questions the ability of Jos. A Banks (JOSB) to be successful when they seem to be giving out not just the kitchen sink, but the bathroom sink, a couple of hoses, a cell phone and a sack full of ginsu knives with the purchase of every suit these days. He is not alone in his skepticism.

The stock price has dropped from $55 to the low $40s recently.

The Value Line low total return forecast checks in at 8.5% — and we build a return forecast of 11.8% based on a sales growth forecast of 10% and a net margin approaching 10% also. We’re using a projected average P/E of 12×.

Here’s a look at the business model analysis:

I think margin compression has an uncomfortably high probability — and this probably has a lot to do with the preliminary bearish rating on JOSB at stockcharts.com (PnF). And if that materializes the EPS trend/forecast will be impacted. The price has tracked a little above the earnings trend shown in the visual analysis … and it’s feasible to expect something not dramatically different from the $60-90 price range suggested by Value Line.

It doesn’t matter if Eddy is a modern day Rukeyser (yet). He certainly belongs in the club.