War is Good for the Cold-Hearted Stock Market

Look at the headlines.

Figure 1: Trump Military Headlines. Google Trends – “North Korea”

At 17-years-old, Donald Trump was named a captain for his senior year at a military boarding school. Spending five years at New York Military Academy, the school taught Trump to channel his aggression into achievement.

Under the Trump budget, almost every budget increase goes to military departments, 10% increase Y/Y in the budget for military spending. It’s not a rocket science to figure out Trump madly loves force.

Even Trump’s Secretary of Defense loves force. Mad Dog James Mattis once said, “It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.”

At his confirmation hearing in January, Mattis said, “My belief is that we have to stay focused on the military that is so lethal that on the battlefield, it is the enemy’s longest day and worst day when they run into that force.”

Then there came 59 Tomahawk missiles to military bases in Syria and “Mother of All Bombs” on Daesh tunnels in Afghanistan. All of those came during the heightened tensions with North Korea.

War is Good for the Cold-Hearted Stock Market

North Korea acting out is a good thing for America. War throughout the history has made us united. Not to mention that the stock market goes up.

Figure 2: S&P 500 Index (SPX) – Daily Chart.
The first circle represents the time of news reports on U.S. airstrikes on Syrian bases.
The second circle represents the time of news reports on most powerful non-nuclear bomb being dropped in Afghanistan

As you can see in figure 2, the stock market barely reacted to the recent U.S. military actions that Trump gave a green light to.

As a trader and investor, I wouldn’t be concerned about the potential war with North Korea. (Although I would be concerned about the loss of human lives and loss of limbs.)

In early 2013, there were increased tensions with North Korea, similar to today. At the time, the stock market did not give a damn about the threats from DPRK.

Figure 3: S&P 500 Index – Daily
The first headline shows two arrows.
The first arrow represents when the headline came out. The second arrow represents February 12 when NK conducted the nuclear test.
The second headline represents North Korea threatening the west as usually.

Not only does the stock market not care about North Korea, but also for any other war in the past century. War is good for the cold-hearted stock market.

Over the past 4 decades, Dow Industrials on average was turned on by U.S.-led military operations, returning 4% in a month after the beginning of military operations and more afterward.

Figure 4: War is Good for the Cold-Hearted Stock Market
Recent Three Wars

When the U.S., with support from allies, started bombing against Taliban forces in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, the stock market went up, not down. Even after 12 days later when the first wave of conventional ground forces arrived, the stock market kept going up. By the year-end when Taliban collapsed, S&P 500 was up about 14.5%.

Figure 5: S&P 500’s reaction to the U.S. military action in Afghanistan – Weekly Chart

When the U.S. began the major combat operations in Iraq on March 20, 2003, the stock market skyrocketed as shown in the candlestick bar on the highlighted portion of S&P 500 Weekly chart in figure 6 below. By the time the operations ended on May 1, the stock market was up about 11.5%.

Figure 6: S&P 500’s reaction to the U.S. military action in Iraq – Weekly Chart

On March 19th of 2011, multiple countries part of NATO intervened in Libya. By the end of intervention on October 31st, the market slid 20%. The drop cannot be blamed on the NATO-led forces. This was due to the fears of contagion of the European debt crisis and first-ever downgrade of U.S. AAA credit rating.

Figure 5: S&P 500 reaction’s to the U.S. military action in Libya – Weekly Chart

The only difference this time is we got leaders who very much loves forces and are violent themselves. Another difference is that North Korea is little powerful today than they were in 2013. But they are very weak compared to China, Russia, Europe, and U.S. It’s better to act now before North Korea gets even stronger. Although lives and limbs will be lost, I think there’s a greater cost if we allow North Korea to get even stronger.

China and North Korea

With China possibly increasingly going against North Korea, Kim Jong-un might act even more violent. I don’t think China really wants to break off its relationship DPKR due to the geographic proximity and China’s willingness to make more friends in the region. Besides being a military and diplomatic ally, China is also an economic ally. In 2015, the second largest economy accounted for 83%, or $2.34 billion, of the North Korea’s exports.

In late February, China sanctioned coal shipments from North Korea, who is a significant supplier of coal. Instead, China has been ordering the coal from the U.S. In the past, Trump said he wants to help the country’s struggling coal sector.

As Reuters reported, Thomson Reuters Eikon data shows “no U.S. coking coal was exported to China between late 2014 and 2016, but shipments soared to over 400,000 tonnes by late February.”

Is China having a change of heart on its relationship with North Korea? I don’t think as China’s trade with North Korea still increased by almost 40% in the first quarter of this year. China also buys other stuff, such as minerals and seafood. Looks like China wants to be on the good side of North Korea and Trump. The Art of the Deal.

Is this time is also different when it comes to the stock market? I don’t believe so. I’m not worried about the negative impact on the stock market due to North Korea, even though they were to be invaded.

However, I’m watching very cautiously China and Russia getting into an armed conflict with the U.S because of the North Korea situation. Armed conflict between the superpowers is a game changer. Although that’s very unlikely as superpowers argue all the time.

Suggestion For Your Portfolio

The situations might affect the markets for a very short period of time, especially if there’s uncertainty. But investors shouldn’t worry about it. The market could care less about a war, specifically when it’s aboard.

During the times of war, don’t reduce your holdings because of misconception war is bad. If you do, you will miss the gains.

Figure 6: Capital Market Performance During Times of War
Sources: The indices used for each asset class are as follows: the S&P 500 Index for large-Cap stocks; CRSP Deciles 6-10 for small-cap stocks; long-term US government bonds for long-term bonds; five-year US Treasury notes for five-year notes; long-term US corporate bonds for long-term credit; one-month Treasury bills for cash; and the Consumer Price Index for inflation. All index returns are total returns for that index. Returns for a war-time period are calculated as the returns of the index four months before the war and during the entire war itself. Returns for “All Wars” are the annualized geometric return of the index over all “war-time periods.” Risk is the annualized standard deviation of the index over the given period. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

FireEye’s Future Prospects Bright, But Investors Should Avoid The Stock (Second Seeking Alpha Article)

About two weeks ago, my second article was approved on Seeking Alpha. The article is about FireEye (NASDAQ: FEYE). The first article was about Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE: LLY)

The article can also be found at http://seekingalpha.com/article/3966410-fireeyes-future-prospects-bright-investors-avoid-stock.

If you have any questions/suggestions, feel free to contact me anytime. Thank you.


  • FireEye acquired four companies in the last three years.
  • Issued nearly $900 million in debt and continues to lose money.
  • Possible secondary offering, diluting shareholders’ equity further.

Founded in 2004, FireEye (NASDAQ:FEYE) has grown exponentially. The importance of security is extremely vital, and the demand for security continues to increase as cyber attacks increase and the world becomes more connected.

In 1988, after four years from the Macintosh introduction, the Internet’s first ever worm virus hit the computers. The Morris worm – one of the finest recognized worms to affect the world’s nascent cyber infrastructure – changed everything. Bugs in the code caused hundreds of systems to slow down and crash. Computer security was then no longer a science fiction.

Today, it is not just a computer security, but also smartphone security, cloud security, and so on. In short, the Internet is everywhere. As FireEye says:

“Attackers are clever, technology is complex, and experts are in short supply.”

FireEye stands out in the global Specialized Threat Analysis and Protection (STAP) market. According to research firm IDC, FireEye had 37.9% of the nearly $1 billion STAP market in 2014, seven times greater than its closest competitor. The $930 million STAP market grew 126.3% from 2013. By the end of 2019, it’s expected to reach $3.14 billion, compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.6% from 2014 to 2019.

From the STAP market alone, FireEye generated $353 million in revenue, a 119.2% growth year over year (Y/Y). The STAP market revenue accounted for a whopping 82.86% of FireEye’s total $426 million revenue in 2014. If the company can maintain its 38% of share by 2019, it could be generating about $1.2 billion in revenue from that market alone.

STAP Market Revenue and FireEye's Revenue at 37.9% share
STAP Revenue – 2011-2019 ($M)

While these are great news, there’s a disappointment. FireEye’s 37.9% share of the market in 2014 declined from 43.1% in 2013 due to a growing competition, notably from Palo Alto Networks (NYSE:PANW).

In April 2014, Palo Alto Networks acquired Israeli cyber security start-up Cyvera for nearly $180 million. In September 2014, it introduced Traps, an endpoint STAP product that was built on the technology from Cyvera.

FireEye itself admits the intense competition it operates in. In its 2015 annual filing, it recognized that “several vendors have either introduced new products or incorporated new features into existing products that compete with our solutions…independent security vendors such as Palo Alto Networks…offer products that claim to perform similar functions to our platform.”

In December 2013, FireEye acquired Mandiant, a leading provider of advanced endpoint security products and security incident response management solutions, for approximately $1.02 billion in cash and stock. Mandiant is well known for a report it published in February 2013, detailing a secretive Chinese military unit believed to be behind a long list of cyber attacks on U.S. companies.

The combination of former FireEye, attack detector, and Mandiant, attack responder, came after the Snowden leaks in June 2013. The marriage between them created a major force in the cyber security industry.

During the fourth-quarter conference call, chairman and chief executive officer of FireEye, David DeWalt, stated:

“We’ve gone from selling discrete web and email security appliances to enterprise customers to delivering a global threat management platform integrated across the network, endpoint and cloud to customers large and small.”

According to a report by Cybersecurity Ventures, the global cyber security market is expected to grow from $106.32 billion in 2015 to $170.21 billion by 2020 at a compound annual growth rate of 9.8%. In its cyber security 500 list of the world’s hottest and most innovative cyber security companies, FireEye came in first.

While FireEye may be the hottest, its stock is the ugliest. The share price of FireEye was down 35% last year while the NASDAQ 100 Technology sector has declined 2.8%. Since hitting an all-time high at $97.35 on March 2014, the stock is down 82%. The stock hit all-time lows on February 12th – the day after the fourth-quarter earnings report – at $11.35. Since then, the share price is up 55% at a current price of $17.60.

FEYE Chart
FEYE data by YCharts

In May 2014, FireEye acquired nPulse Technologies, a privately-held network forensics firm, for $56.6 million. nPulse specialized in the analytics of a cyber attack and how the attacks may have affected the networks. nPulse was a partner of FireEye prior to the acquisition. It seems FireEye benefited from the partnership with nPulse. The combination of Mandiant and nPulse gives FireEye an all-encompassing security framework.

In January 2016, FireEye acquired iSIGHT Security, a cyber threat intelligence solutions provider, for $200 million. iSIGHT is memorable for its discovery of a zero-day vulnerability – a hole in a software that is unknown to the vendor – affecting Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) devices. It was used by Russian hackers to hijack and snoop on computers and servers used by NATO, the European Union, telecommunications and energy sectors.

In February 2016, FireEye acquired Invotas, a small company based in Virginia focusing on security automation and orchestration. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. FEYE said it plans to integrate the security orchestration capabilities from Invotas into the FireEye global threat management platform, “giving enterprises the ability to respond more quickly to attacks through automation,” and help customers deal with the “severe shortage of resources by automating the security process and building intelligence into their operations.”

FireEye expects iSIGHT and Invotas to add approximately $60 million to $65 million to 2016 billings and approximately $55 million to $60 million to 2016 revenue. That alone would bring 7.52% to 8.15% growth to the billings Y/Y. Revenue would grow 8.83% to 8.63% Y/Y.

For the year ending December 31, FireEye expects revenue from $815 million to $845 million and billings from $975 million to $1.1 billion. If the revenue grows as expected, it represents a growth of 31% to 36% Y/Y, and the billings would grow 22% to 32% Y/Y. After subtracting the revenue growth from iSIGHT and Invotas, organic growth would range from 22.85% to 28.48%. Of course, that does not include other acquisitions. The question is what is FireEye’s real organic growth?

FireEye's Key Financials and Growth Rate
FireEye’s Key Financials and Growth Rate

DeWalt believes bringing FireEye, “Mandiant, iSIGHT and Invotas together, we’ve created a cyber security like no other, one with a suite of leading technologies, world-class cyber security expertise, and nation-grade threat intelligence, all brought together to form a comprehensive threat management platform.”

At the end of 2015, the company had $402.1 million in cash and cash equivalents, up from $146.4 million in the end of 2014. With short-term investment – which can be liquidated in less than a year – of $767.8 million, total cash and ST investment adds up to $1.17 billion, an increase of 190.86% from $402.2 million in 2014. Most of the increase in total cash can be attributed to the issuance of debt last year. In 2015, FireEye issued a total debt of $896.5 million. It currently has $706.2 million in debt, which I expect to increase as the company continues to lose money.

FireEye believes the existing “cash and cash equivalents and short-term investments and any cash inflow from operations will be sufficient to meet our anticipated cash needs, including cash we will consume for operations, for at least the next 12 months.” But, I do not take its word for it, considering the company loses about $135 million every quarter, or $500 million in a year. In addition to the issuance of debt, total stockholders’ equity decreased to $1.04 billion in 2015 from $1.25 billion in 2014, as the amount of common shares increased 8.8 million to 162 million. As FireEye continues to lose money, it is possible it might do a secondary offering, which will dilute shareholders’ equity further.

One sign that FireEye is investing into the future is its workforce. At the end of 2015, FireEye had approximately 3,100 employees, up from 2,500 in 2014 and 1,678 in 2013. Growing workforce shows the company is optimistic in the future. Make no mistake, FEYE is clearly positioning itself to take a bigger share of a growing industry.

I believe FireEye is a great company that has the potential to succeed in the growing security market. But, it is too early for me to be optimistic in its future stock performance, as it continues to lose money and possible secondary offering this year.

FireEye is due to report its first-quarter earnings on Thursday, May 5th.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: All information I used here such as revenue, etc are found from FireEye’s official investor relations site, SEC filings, and Bloomberg terminal. The pictures you see here including “FireEye’s Key Financials and Growth Rate” and “STAP Revenue – 2011-2019 ($M)” are my own.