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Volatility Ahead: How Shareholder Meetings Could Shake Up Your Portfolio

Published 04/08/2024, 09:43 AM
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  • With 2023 in the books and S&P 500® profit growth in full swing, market participants turn their focus to quarterly reports and annual shareholder gatherings
  • Our team highlights major multinational companies with confirmed events
  • From vehicles to chips to banks to chocolate, a variety of industries could see volatility as shareholder meeting season kicks into high gear
  • Companies have faced a range of challenges over the past two-plus years. Following the 2021 boom driven by intense fiscal and monetary stimulus, along with the subsequent dramatic rise in interest rates throughout 2022, last year was tough at the macro level as corporate profit growth stalled. But the Q4 reporting season underscored just how strong large multinational firms are in producing cash flow and rewarding shareholders.

    According to Factset, a third-straight quarter of EPS growth is the current forecast among S&P 500 companies. We’ll know a whole lot more beginning this Friday when the big banks begin posting first-quarter results.

    Investors will also be curious about dividend and buyback plans now that the earnings recession is clearly in the rearview mirror. Furthermore, capital markets may be turning the corner with a few decent IPOs in recent weeks and M&A activity showing vital signs in some industries.

    Why Shareholder Meetings Matter

    Clues on all these areas are commonly provided at shareholder meetings. At annual events, stockholders vote on important company decisions such as electing board members (we saw the drama on that front last week with Disney (DIS)), approving M&A actions, and other corporate moves.

    Shareholder meetings offer a platform for management teams to hear from equity owners big and small while relaying operations plans to the market. The gatherings can become tense, though, when activist investors assert themselves. Enhanced stock-price volatility can also come about when major strategy shifts are announced unexpectedly or if surprising financial details are presented.

    Gather Round

    The April through June stretch is the peak season for shareholder meetings. Let’s shed light on some of the most notable events that could move individual stocks and drive industry price action. There’s even a sweet treat at the end.

    Global Shareholder Meetings by Month (2022-2024)

    Global Shareholder Meetings

    Source: Wall Street Horizon

    • April 16: Stellantis

    The auto OEM space is in flux. Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) reported very weak March EV numbers and a tepid outlook while Ford (NYSE:F) posted solid year-on-year hybrid sales. Investors may get a glimpse of how the situation has unfolded at Stellantis (NYSE:STLA) after a tumultuous second half of 2023 – recall last year’s labor strikes and an eventual agreement reached between workers and management. Then in March, Stellantis reported that it will cut 400 tech jobs, so all may not be so well with the US automaker.3 Looking ahead, rival Ford’s shareholder meeting is slated for May 9.

    • April 22: Broadcom

    Powering markets higher last year and during the early part of 2023 was the semiconductor area. Broadcom (NASDAQ:AVGO) is seen as the little sibling of sorts to NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA), but the former’s 100%-plus return over the past 12 months is no sleeper among momentum traders. The AI infrastructure buildout player’s shareholder meeting could provide further details about the chip industry’s growth trajectory. AVGO’s Q2 earnings release doesn’t come until June 12.

    • April 24: ASML Holding (AS:ASML)

    Keeping on the semiconductor theme, the third-largest non-US stock hosts its shareholder meeting just two days after Broadcom’s. The Dutch firm, part of Goldman’s vaunted “GRANOLAS” trade, is also a beneficiary of the AI boom. Strong EPS growth is expected this year, but shares trade at a lofty forward earnings multiple. Any financial updates presented could move the stock as well as European equity ETFs.

    • April 24: Bank of America (BAC)

    Broadening out, Bank of America’s shareholder event comes just eight days after the release of its Q1 profit report. CEO Brian Moynihan has navigated volatile financial and capital markets okay, but BAC’s 1-year stock performance pales in comparison to peer JPMorgan’s (JPM). Be on the lookout for comments about consumer spending and risk appetite among institutions at the event. Money Center banks would benefit from more active capital markets as the year unfolds, so say analysts at Morgan Stanley, but much uncertainty remains.

    • April 30: Citigroup (C)

    Citi’s shareholder gathering takes place the following Tuesday after its April 12 first-quarter report. CEO Jane Fraser has been leading a turnaround at the $120 billion market cap bank, and the stock has responded well – up 20% year to date. Last month, the industry reported improved credit card delinquencies and a decline in net charge-offs. It comes as card issuers are seen being negatively impacted by a new swipe-fee agreement, potentially having a material impact on revenue.

    • May 1: The Coca-Cola Company

    Speaking of the consumer, volatility could come about on April 30 when Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) reports Q1 results. Its annual shareholder meeting occurs the next day on Wednesday, May 1. The stock is down fractionally in the past 12 months, no doubt hurt by the rising popularity of GLP-1 wonder drugs. But Coca-Cola hiked its dividend by more than 5% earlier this year, perhaps a sign that the Consumer Staples stalwart remains a dominant brand around the world. Growth in its Latin America, Asia-Pacific, and EMEA regions helped drive a 7% year-on-year revenue jump, as reported back in February.

    • May 4: Berkshire Hathaway

    The most famous shareholder meeting is arguably the one hosted by the Oracle (NYSE:ORCL) of Omaha. “Woodstock for Capitalists” will have a somber tone on the first Saturday in May, however. The event comes after the passing of Charlie Munger, the late vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRKa) (BRK.A). Still, value investors will look forward to hearing what Buffett has to say about the state of the economy and what Berkshire plans to do with its growing cash position. Q1 2024 earnings are also released at the annual event.

    • May 6: The Hershey Company

    Last but not least, this year’s shareholder meeting in Hershey, PA, might capture more attention following the meteoric rise in cocoa futures in the past three months. Rising from $4,000 to above $10,000 per ton, cocoa topped copper in value last month. Ironically, Hershey (NYSE:HSY) shares have been generally rangebound between $180 and $205 since October 2023. Hershey has an unconfirmed Q1 2024 earnings date of Thursday, May 2.

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