Nos momentos de incerteza, volte aos fundamentos. É o que sugere Tom Lauricella em Cash flow reigns once again for investors --- Accounting tricks can obscure quality of company earnings (The Wall Street Journal Europe, 13 May 2008), para quem o fluxo de caixa é imune a manipulações.
Headline earnings numbers -- typically net income -- can be massaged by perfectly legal accounting tricks, such as changing depreciation schedules or the way revenue is recognized. Cash flows -- how much actual money a company spits out -- are by no means immune from shenanigans, but many analysts consider them a cleaner way to assess a company's health.
There are other reasons to search out companies with strong cash flow. A company generating extra cash can avoid the costly proposition of raising money in today's unsteady markets. It also gives companies the flexibility to boost dividends or stock buybacks.
O conceito do fluxo de caixa disponível, que é representado pela soma do caixa operacional com o caixa de investimento, também é lembrado:
Operating cash flow is the amount of cash a company creates from its operations, unvarnished by earnings that come from things like asset sales. Free cash flow -- considered an even purer measure of a company's true profitability -- subtracts from operating cash flow the money going into capital investments. It's "as close as there is to a silver bullet when it comes to sorting out good companies from the pretenders," says David Sowerby, a portfolio manager at Loomis Sayles & Co.
Fluxo de caixa não é uma novidade no Mercado e também não é uma medida perfeita, como lembra o texto:
It also isn't a perfect yardstick. Companies can goose cash flows even when it's not in their interest. For example, they might cut needed capital spending to hoard cash and in turn jeopardize future growth.
Os investidores consideram que a diferença entre o caixa e o lucro pode dizer muito sobre uma empresa. Assim, a diferença entre ambos, expressa nos accruals, podem ser um sintoma de problemas para uma empresa:
Mr. Rothman says there are hints that quality is starting to matter more. Another Lehman strategy is one that screens stocks based on changes in their accruals -- things like unpaid bills or accounts receivable. It bets against stocks with rising accruals -- a signal cash flow might not be so healthy -- and favors stocks that generate operating cash. That strategy is up 5.6% so far this year, Lehman says, in part because it generally avoids financials.
Richard Sloan, of Barclays Global Investors, expects to see more strains on companies with rising accruals, especially those that have put large amounts of "goodwill" on their balance sheets in recent years that reflect the premiums they paid over book values in acquisitions.