One of the potential outcomes of higher interest rates and energy costs is that they slow the economy so much that we experience a recession.
You have heard us say that stock prices follow earnings and, in a recession, it is normal for company profits to decline. The stock market is trying to figure out if we will have a recession and, if so, when. Of course, no one knows the answer and this is creating volatility in stock prices. The one thing we do know about recessions is that they end and a new cycle of growth begins.
An interesting aspect of the current “recession watch” is how strong corporate profits are today. Our Investment Research team recently finished digesting a couple hundred earnings reports for the quarter ended March 31, 2022. Earnings continue to grow and, in some cases, companies have reported record results. In cases where earnings are down, it is usually due to temporary factors like elevated transportation costs. We don’t know if there will be an overall decline in earnings at some point, but we are watching results carefully.
Additionally, our analysts continue to travel and meet with our holdings’ management teams — we just visited two in Dallas and Richmond — to ensure that we have our finger on the pulse of their operations.
- A noteworthy point: Some of the largest declines in the stock market this year are from speculative companies that may not be profitable, generate cash flow, or have an established business model. I want to contrast this with Fenimore’s holdings which, in our opinion, are competitively advantaged firms with significant cash profits and reasonable levels of debt. No matter what happens in the economy or markets, financially strong companies can weather the storm.
During these uncertain times, we can tell you with certainty that we remain committed to Fenimore’s investment philosophy and tenets that have successfully guided us through difficult times in the past. We believe that our holdings will partake in future growth because their management teams are focused on shareholder interests and they possess strong financial footings to help them endure the current decline and prosper when the markets recover.
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