While this first week of earnings season is typically light in terms of the number of reports, that will not be the case next week. We’ll have a treasure trove from which to identify potential earnings trades — which, as we’ve said before, can be just as much of a challenge as having little to pick through.
Let’s look toward a big name reporting Monday. International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM) reports after the bell on Monday, with analysts looking for $3.22 per share. (The whisper number is $3.27.) That number represents year-over-year growth of 14.2%, a relatively modest figure compared to the average 18.7% increase logged during the past four quarters.
One thing you can say about IBM — Big Blue doesn’t often miss an estimate. You’d have to go all the way back to April 2005 to find the last time the company fell short. So, beating this time around probably won’t be an issue, especially with rather muted expectations.
Of more importance than beating, of course, is how the stock does after reporting. IBM gets a gold star in that category as well. The shares have gained ground in the week following the past five reports, with an average weekly gain of around 6% after the past three.
Currently, the shares are dueling with new high territory around the $186 mark. The stock reached an all-time peak during Wednesday’s session at $188 before pulling back. Taking out the July peak just below $186 was a key technical move this week.
Sentiment toward IBM is not as ebullient as one would think, given its record price. The short-interest ratio is just below the multiyear peak reached in April. And 11 of 26 analysts rate the stock a “hold,” leaving room for upgrades for a stock that has outperformed the Dow for more than a year.
IBM is a model of consistency and reliability when it comes to earnings. That’s a hard combination to find. While it’s not a sure thing, it’s pretty close. Solid earnings track record, strong performance after earnings, new all-time highs, and enough skepticism to add more buying pressure is a bullish combination.
What’s more, IBM options are very reasonably priced. Buy the in-the-money IBM Nov 185 Calls for around seven bucks, which should give ample time for a post-earnings move to play out.