The first is that I've found I get a few more miles per gallon by inflating my tires to the high end of their recommend range. The second is the theories of Joseph Schumpeter.
Schumpeter (1883-1950) was born in Moravia--then part of Austria-Hungary but now in the Czech Republic--and was a gifted mathematician. But his love was economics, particularly as related to entrepreneurship, and he's best remembered for his socio-economic theory of creative destruction.
At the root of creative destruction, according to Schumpeter, are entrepreneurs, some laboring as individuals and some as employees of forward-looking firms, but all possessing a spirit of innovation that drives economic growth forward by improving on and "destroying" the old. And if the old is a hide-bound, monopolist entity or system that has long been a barrier to progress, so much the better.
Innovation From Creative Destruction
According to Schumpeter, innovation tends to come from companies and individuals that provide any of the following:
--New markets or products
--New sources of labor and raw materials
--New methods of organization or management
--New methods of inventory management
--New methods of transportation
--New methods of communication
--New methods of advertising and marketing
--New financial instruments
What are destroyed by these innovations are companies and systems that have become entrenched, that are regarded as part of the status quo. The destruction is painful to those individuals who are part of the established system (look at how digital photography killed Polaroid and Kodak) but it's generally rewarding to society as a whole, because the new methods, technologies and systems provide more value at lower costs than the old.
Today, though it's not widely acknowledged yet, what's being destroyed is our petroleum-based economy. That it's an entrenched part of our global economy is obvious. But it's been entrenched for less than a century--oil replaced coal, remember--and it's time for something better.
That "something better" will apparently consist of a combination of solar power, wind power, biofuels, battery technologies, nuclear, hydroelectric and geothermal power ... and plain old conservation. The providers of these new technologies will thrive, while individuals, companies and institutions with stakes in the old petroleum economy will fight the transition. But progress, driven by innovation, will occur. It is unavoidable.
Perhaps the biggest beneficiaries of this change will be those people in societies that never had a stake in the oil economy. We've seen in recent decades how whole societies that never could afford the infrastructure of a wire-based telecommunications network embraced the cellular telephone. Now imagine how remote societies that couldn't afford to build a petroleum infrastructure will benefit from the technologies that slowly supplant petroleum.
As investors, our job at Cabot is to steer you toward the stocks that benefit from this long transition, and to steer you away from those that suffer from it. You may have noticed that General Motors stock (GM) hit a 53-year low (!!) last week. It's lost 88% of its value since it peaked in early 2000, and while traders might play it for a bounce, that's a high-risk endeavor. The main trend is down; four years ago, more than 400 institutions owned GM. Since then, more than half have jumped ship.
So who's building this yet-to-be-determined future? Where are the investment winners? In recent months we've mentioned solar power stocks First Solar (FSLR), JA Solar (JASO) and LDK Solar (LDK), as well as Chinese biodiesel firm Gushan Environmental (GU) and wind-power company American Superconductor (AMSC), to name a few. Today I bring you another.
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How to Find the Gems in Wall Street's Rubble
In roughly six weeks, the market has fallen off a cliff. The Dow has lost about 1,600 points--or about 12%--since May 19 when the index closed slightly above 13,000. Each day, Wall Street traders are fretting more and more about over-stretched consumers, the overly long credit crunch and the far-from-over U.S. economic slump.
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Alpha Natural Resources - up 54%
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The stock today is Energy Conversion Devices (ENER), which earned a spot in Cabot Top Ten Report back on May 12, when it was trading at 51. Today it's 74.
Here's what editor Michael Cintolo wrote back then:
"After failing to meet analysts' estimates in five consecutive quarters, the company hit a home run last week when it announced that revenues had soared 155% in the quarter, while earnings had flipped from a loss of 17 cents to a profit of 23 cents. The big reason? New President Mark Morelli, who came on board in September. The company, which we've followed for years, has developed much great technology, but old management cared more about science than profits. Morelli, contrarily, cut 160 engineering positions--in areas like fuel cells and cognitive computing--and left 100, mainly in the solar power division. Fully 90% of the company's revenues now come from solar power products. The company's main advantage is that it makes its products from amorphous silicon, which is not only less costly than polysilicon, but lighter. Energy Conversion Devices incorporates this silicon into flexible rolls, which double as a roofing material in both industrial and residential applications. Going forward, the company is looking to sell other non-core assets and drive this solar power business as fast as it will go. We like it."
Since then, the stock is up 45%, while the broad market is in the toilet. And what's next? Anything can happen, of course, but the long-term picture remains very bright, especially if you buy even half of my vision about the slow demise of our oil-based economy.
And even if you don't buy it, you've got to ask yourself why all these alternative energy stocks are so strong. The answer, to me, is simple. An increasing number of investors, both individual and institutional, are expecting great growth of both revenues and earnings in these companies in the months and years ahead, so they're climbing on board now, in some cases buying with the proceeds of their shares of GM.
Editor's Note: Energy Conversion Devices will be followed in every issue of Cabot Top Ten Report until its momentum fades. This momentum-centric advisory, published every Monday, is your ticket to the hottest stocks in the market, perhaps the next Crocs, DryShips or Illumina. To get started with a no-risk trial subscription, simply click the link below.
Yours in pursuit of wisdom and wealth,
Publisher of Cabot Wealth Advisory