Friday, June 12, 2009

BA,SAS,Swiss still in the midst of the storm

Markets have continued to drift gently higher since I last wrote - proving my upside market sense and timing to be out of step with prevailing sentiment . After the sharp increases of April and May which gave us the strongest bear market rally in history, there seems to be less conviction that the equity rally has much further to go amid signs that interest rates in the UK and US might have to reverse course and move higher. In the broader economy it's interesting to note that:
  • Irish prices fell by 4.7% in the year to May - the steepest fall since 1933
  • US household net worth ( including real estate,stocks, and bonds ) was off $14 trillion from its 2007 peak
  • US May retail sales were off 10.8% from year ago levels - gas station sales were down 33.8% and car dealership sales off 19.6% from prior year levels.
I keep on looking for signs of 'green shoots' in the airline industry but all I see so far is proliferating weeds. If I could discern that corporate or vacation passengers were returning to their established travel plans then I would feel much more confident that we had hit a low point from which the economy was set to recover. In the airline sector, like the auto and banking sectors we are just beginning to see that consolidation and capacity reduction are needed to remove chronic over supply and restore profitability.

IATA has said that the worlds airlines are seeing few concrete signs of recovery and many of them are at a knife edge. Yields are crumbling and losses are widening at a hectic pace. IATA also revised its forecast for industry losses in 2009 to $9 billion a doubling from its forecast of $4.7 billion made just two months ago. After September 11 airline revenues fell by 7% and it took three years to recover. This time round revenues are down by more than 15% and the demand side is showing little sign of improvement.British Airways CEO says the carriers business faces 'serious threats' while Aer Lingus managements says this is the most difficult environment in its 73 year history.
  • May 2009 Air France-KLM y-o-y passenger numbers down 7.8%. Asia Pacific down 10.9% and Trans-Atlantic down 9.3%.
  • May 2009 SAS Group y-o-y passenger numbers down 17.1%.
  • May 2009 SkyEurope passenger numbers down 37.5%
  • Swiss CEO says that premium passenger and cargo demand has stabilized at a very low level and that prospects of a recovery this year are unlikely.

From the perspective of the airlines this economy ain't on the mend and higher fuel and financing costs aren't going to make it any easier to make a profit let alone survive. I'm told that Uniteds order for 150 new planes is dependent on the manufacturers finding the financing! I think we will avoid a depression thanks to government largesse but consumer expenditure hit by higher taxes,higher borrowing costs and higher unemployment is going to take a long time to recover. This now becomes a stock pickers market with sectors where demand is little impacted by a huge downturn in credit looking attractive no matter what happens to the broader indices. Pharmaceuticals fit the bill, as do restructuring plays, consolidation candidates, agriculturals and some precious metals.

No comments:

Post a Comment