In a perfect world, stocks would move in tandem with their company’s underlying results. They’d also move proportionally with those results, meaning modest earnings growth would lead to a modest appreciation in a stock’s price, while high growth rates would send a stock skyrocketing.
The thing is, we don’t live or trade in a perfect world — stocks can and do get overheated, running up to levels that aren’t justified no matter how you slice it. Those runups never last forever, though.
Here are five of these stocks that have come too far, too fast, and are poised to pull back soon:
Click to Enlarge YTD Return: +16%
Not that a 16% rally in less than four months is unheard of, but for a consumer staples name like Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), it’s definitely out of character.
It’s also out of character for a company that only posted a 4% increase in income last year, and is only on pace to grow the bottom line by 7% this year. Indeed, the 16% run-up has left shares priced at more than 22 times their trailing 12-month earnings.
It’s worth mentioning that Coca-Cola announced plans Wednesday to replace the bulk of its board of directors. Many of them are elderly, with a couple of them in their 80s. The new board will consist of younger directors, which some anticipate could update the company’s approach and direction. That might well happen, but there’s no guarantee a younger board will actually help invigorate slow sales growth. It will guarantee at least some disruption about how the company runs itself, however, and the transition itself could be accompanied by some growing pangs at a most inopportune time.
Click to Enlarge YTD Return: +25%
Not that cable television company Discovery Communications (NASDAQ:DISCA) isn’t viable, but at a trailing P/E of 31.9, it’s not nearly as viable as the market is pricing it to be.
But the future looks bright for DISCA, right? Yes, 2014’s estimated per share earnings of $4.24 translates into a forward-looking P/E of only 18.67.
Thing is, the company has fallen short of earnings estimates in three of the past four quarters. That doesn’t bode well for future results, and the one thing the market likes less than meeting weak targets is failing to meet an earnings target.
Click to Enlarge YTD Return: +21%
Although General Mills (NYSE:GIS) fared much better in the face of soaring commodity prices last year than many expected it to, 2013’s slide in food commodity prices has been an absolute boon for the Cheerios maker.
Corn prices have fallen from $7 per bushel at the end of 2012 to a current price of $6.40. Wheat has fallen from $7.93 to $6.92. As a result, shares are up more than 20% for the year so far.
Investors, assuming commodities prices will continue to deteriorate, are feeling great about the wide margins expected through the end of the year. In fact, the market might be a little too certain that commodity prices are going to sink indefinitely.
As the old saying goes, expect it when you least expect it. With falling-commodity euphoria in full swing, now’s the time we’re most apt to see corn and wheat prices reverse higher. When they do, General Mills will be one of the first names dumped.
Click to Enlarge YTD Return: +21%
It’s almost been a little creepy how Ventas (NYSE:VTR) has plowed into new-high territory of late despite a downgrade from Citigroup to a neutral rating and reports that three major insider owners sold off fairly significant portions of their VTR position last month. Then again, sometimes a stock’s momentum can linger for a while, even through bad news.
A stock can’t rise forever on its own, though, and with insiders realizing shares are worth selling now — even if only part of a position — that’s a hint worth taking.
Click to Enlarge YTD Return: +22%
By all accounts, things couldn’t be much better for Kimberly-Clark (NYSE:KMB), the tissue and toilet paper company behind brand names like Kleenex and Cottonelle. The country’s ongoing dance between cold weather and warm weather has kept flu season going strong far longer than it usually lingers, and Kimberly-Clark upped its full-year outlook when it posted Q1’s earnings beat a few days ago. Even Jim Cramer made a point of calling the stock a winner.
This is an “as good as it gets” scenario … which is the problem.
What’s left to spur a stock that has gained 10% in a month and plowed into new all-time highs like it was wading into the kiddie pool? That’s just it — there’s nothing left that could really prod news-driven traders into another big round of buying. The would-be sellers are now the majority here, and that’s a dangerous situation.
In fact (and ironically), the fact that Jim Cramer is finally talking about Kimberly-Clark might be the proverbial kiss of death; the world’s most prolific pundit has a knack for pointing out stocks right around the time they top out.
As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.