White Rabbit: Don’t just do something, stand there – Walt Disney, “Alice in Wonderland” 1951
Kudos to Ben Hunt for this excellent piece on the role of narrative in markets, and for using better quotes than me. Anyone who can base insightful equity analysis around a quote from the Godfather deserves special mention.
Ben takes us all the way from his overarching explanation of what is behind market moves, right down to the nitty gritty, which in this instance means Salesforce.com. The image below shows the inexorable rise of analysts’ forecasts for the company’s earnings, even though Ben notes that he is “pretty sure that Salesforce.com has never had a single penny of GAAP earnings in its existence”. The chart also shows the large wobble that the shares had earlier in the year, although the doubters have since seen the error of their ways.
In a simple but telling piece of analysis, Ben shows that in the last five years, owning Salesforce.com on only the 21 days after its earnings releases and the 43 days that the Fed made an announcement, returned 167%. Owning Salesforce.com on the other 1,208 trading days would have lost 8%. For a stock up 138% in that time, you could have been standing around doing nothing an awful lot and avoided losing money.
Ben also notes that CEO Marc Benioff, whose ebullient narrative drives the stock’s upward trajectory when the Fed Chairman is not doing this for him, uses 10b5-1 programs to sell shares in his company every day. These programs are predetermined sales and thus do not flag on the OTAS Insiders stamp, but you can see them by unticking the Priority Transactions box in your Core Summary app.
In many ways Salesforce.com is typical of the handful of software companies that truly make it. Over time the company’s success returns cash flow and eventually earnings and the rating slowly normalises. While Salesforce.com is still 3.8x the average sector multiple, the steady de-rating appears to be well underway.
Reflecting on Ben’s analysis that you make money in short bursts and could spend most of your time doing nothing, I was struck by the similarity of this to the OTAS trading mantra, which may be expressed as SLOW DOWN AND DO NOTHING. Most of the time when trading you may leave your orders in an algo and do something else. Only in exceptional circumstances do you need to intervene to adjust an order and OTAS will fire an alert to tell you when that happens.