off shore


Jason Norris of Ferguson Wellman by Jason Norris, CFA Executive Vice President of Research


The more things change, the more they stay the same. Five months ago, we rebuked the old Wall Street adage of “sell in May and go away” which, through the end of August, was a good call. From May 1st to Aug 31st, the S&P 500 was up just over 7 percent. However, just like clockwork, the month of September looks to be producing the same results it historically has. Since 1928, September is the only month out of the twelve that has an average negative return. With only a couple of trading days left, it looks like that trend will not be “bucked” this year. Even though there is still time to pull even, the end of the month is usually the weakest (see below).

SP 500 Seasonality

Source: Renaissance Macro Research

Send for the Man

While this has been a bad week for stocks, it was also not a good week for healthcare mergers and acquisitions. On Monday afternoon, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew issued some administrative rules making it harder for U.S. companies to start inversion mergers. This type of merger allows a U.S. company to buy a smaller foreign company and relocate offshore to lower tax jurisdictions (see an earlier post for details). Most of these deals are centered in the healthcare space and while these changes will not stop potential inversions, they are designed to make them more difficult. For example, Medtronic is currently in talks to purchase Covidian (based in Ireland) and would use a meaningful amount of offshore cash to finance the deal. With these new rules, Medtronic would not have access to that cash without paying U.S. taxes. Therefore, they will have to look for other financing means, most likely debt, thus slightly increasing the cost. We still believe the deal will be completed, but it does show that the U.S. Treasury is adamant about changing this part of the U.S. tax code. AbbVie and Shire may also be affected; however, the tax benefits are not as meaningful and the gains from the Shire pipeline are significant enough to proceed.

Lesson Learned

Last week was not a good week for Apple. After announcing a record weekend of sales for the iPhone6 and iPhone6+ with over 10 million handsets sold (and this without shipping any to China), any good financial news was eclipsed by issues with the iPhone6+ bending and a botched iOS update. Investors didn’t have patience for the stock during the last few days. We believe that despite these hiccups, this iPhone launch will net over 60 million units this month, and based on pricing and component costs, should be accretive to gross margins.

What we know

  • The trend of September probably won’t be broken and stocks will give back some of their summer gains
  • Both buy and sell side analysts have been on the phone with their tax attorneys due to Secretary Jack Lew’s administrative order regarding inversions