Friday, October 13, 2006

The most leading indicator of them all?

We all have our favorite leading indicators to judge which way the market is blowing: new orders for consumer goods, average weekly hours, vendor performance, change in unfilled orders, M2, you name it.

But I may have found the most "leading" indicator of them all - pulled IPOs.

Three planned initial public offerings were pulled off the market yesterday, when the companies decided it was better not to raise the money than go public in "adverse market conditions". Yes, those are the exact words used by both El Pollo Loco and Light Sciences when they took their IPOs off the calender. Hexion Specialty Chemicals didn't give a reason.

Most investors will wonder what the heck those companies are talking about, but 51 companies have put off their IPOs this year with nearly 75% citing adverse market conditions as the reason. (To be fair, last year a total of 45 companies had yanked their IPOs by mid-October, and 50% of those cited adverse market conditions).

I dug into the archives and found that this is hauntingly similar to the situation in November of 2000, when many companies cited adverse market conditions and decided to wait for the market to improve. Instead the market moved sideways for about 5 months and then plummeted.

Now, obviously this isn't enough to base investment choices on, and 5 months is enough time for almost anything to happen, but amid all the otherwise good news it is a sobering thought that we are seeing a similar behavior to the last time the market crested.
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Anonymous Paul Gutches said...

Been enjoying your blog, at first for the Apple tidbits, but have been taking in your general market comments now as well. Good stuff.

Seems to me the decision to pull an IPO is made based on all the usual leading indicators we look to for orientation. So isn't the conclusion of poor market conditions a subjective statistic based solely on the perceptions companies are making of the leading indicators? That to me puts us back at square one.

I question how interesting the pulled IPO data is in isolation. Adverse market conditions could mean unsettled industry standards in the specific market they are trying to enter, or fierce competition, etc. I am thinking that the percentage of IPO's that have been canceled out of the total # of planned IPO's would be more intriguing. If 51 companies out of 200 (I have no idea how many have applied to go public) have pulled out in 2006 as opposed to 51 out of 75 in 2000... that would say something more interesting to me...

I am not a financial guy on any level other than my personal investments and don't have the numbers but would be interested to know.


Paul G

5:54 PM  

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