What image pops into your mind when you hear the term "CEO?" Regardless of who you are, you're probably primarily thinking of some well-paid Harvard grad that plays tons of golf, and doesn't work quite as much as they should do to warrant their seemingly endless perks. In many cases, that would be a very fair assessment. But believe me when I say you have no idea what the CEO of your investment is doing during a given month -- not a clue.
There is a such a yawning information disconnect between institutional investors and the average Joe that it's frightening. I am starting to feel odd securing on-camera interviews and learning information behind the scenes that my mom and dad can't necessarily find or understand if they were to unearth from a source.
All in all, never before have I been more lukewarm than I am right now on the idea of buying of stocks as a means to build wealth over the long term. (Go ahead and send me bunches of data stating otherwise). Yes, I will continue to recommend things because that's my job -- but I can't say I'll like doing it. All retail investors can do is hope and pray that their research has positioned them in a good business with durable competitive advantages that will stand the test of time, for example as new entrants to the market appear and as economic cycles run their course.
Check out, for instance, the tidbits I have learned in the past five days. To you they may seem minor, but in my opinion they constitute key business attributes that aren't discussed on earnings calls or presentations, nor in filings. Frankly, they are the actions of the CEO -- the man or woman responsible for thinking critically, and for driving shareholder value and an inkling of social value.
• I interviewed a Hain Celestial (HAIN) executive responsible for overseeing the BluePrintCleanse green juice line, and prior to it this said that the company was speaking to Target (TGT). I took this to mean a deal is in the works, which would be good news for Target. The green-juice market is exploding!
• General Mills (GIS) is putting smaller plastic bags inside cereal boxes found at Costco (COST) and Wal-Mart's (WMT) Sam's Club. That has aided in reducing packaging costs and pallet weight, which saves on fuel.
• Hotels and other vacation services are increasingly teaming up with celebrities in the restaurant business to boost average amounts spent per visit. Normally, celeb-inspired restaurants and bars are not included in one's vacation package.
Earnings Season: Round 1
Tech earnings releases will commence in earnest this week, but I would like to highlight two important non-tech reports in particular.
First, Sherwin William's (SHW) second quarter has all the makings of pure ugliness in light of musings from Lumber Liquidators (LL), Owen's Corning (OC) and The Container Store (TCS). This is also given the company's soft performance in the first quarter.
Second is Wolverine Worldwide (WWW). It may not be as bad as Sherwin Williams, but I am concerned about how strongly fashion-footwear at stores such as Zara, Aldo and H&M -- and sports sneakers by Nike (NKE) and Under Armour (UA) -- are weighing on the company. Should Wolverine surpass my expectations, it may be a positive indicator on J.C. Penney's (JCP) second quarter.