Control Your Inner Bull Going Into FedEx’s Earnings Report

by Joseph Hargett | March 19, 2013 10:46 am

Speedy delivery firm FedEx (NYSE:FDX[1]) is scheduled to release its fiscal third-quarter earnings ahead of the open Wednesday morning. Wall Street is expecting the firm to post a 10% decline in quarterly profit to $1.39 per share, marking FedEx’s second straight year-over-year decline. Revenue is seen rising 2.8% to $10.9 billion, the fifth straight quarter of single-digit growth.

So far, revenue growth has been in step with the broader global economy, which continues to advance at a modest pace. Many investors will be keeping a close eye on FedEx’s quarterly report, as the goods transportation company’s business is seen as a bellwether for broader economic growth.

Taking a quick look at sentiment, analysts appear to be harboring higher hopes than the consensus estimate reveals. Specifically, reports that the whisper number for FedEx’s Q3 stands at earnings of $1.42 per share. This could cause some concern for FDX bulls, as high expectations tend to have a dampening effect on post-earnings moves from the underlying stock; especially if the numbers come in light.

That said, the impact of third-quarter numbers might be limited, as most investors will be focused more on FedEx’s Q4 and full-year guidance. For the fourth quarter, analysts expect earnings of $2.12 per share, while full-year fiscal 2013 earnings are seen arriving at $6.35. FedEx has projected full-year EPS of $6.20 to $6.60 for fiscal 2013.

Pulling back for a broader view of Wall Street’s expectations, the brokerage community appears to have a mixed outlook. According to Thomson/First Call, FDX has attracted 18 “buy” ratings, eight “holds” and just one “sell” rating. However, the current 12-month consensus price target of $114 projects a gain of only about 6.5% over the next year for FDX shares. If FedEx reveals a solid third-quarter performance tomorrow morning, the stock could be in for a few price-target increases.

Turning to the options pits, short-term speculative investors appear to have a much more negative outlook for FDX. For the front two months of options, FDX sports put open interest of 27,470 contracts, compared to open interest of 17,591 call contracts. The result is a bearishly aligned March/April put/call open interest ratio of 1.56.

The majority of this put open interest is centered at the April 105 strike, where 4,005 contracts reside. By comparison, the most popular call strike is the April 110, with 4,319 contracts in open interest. It’s important to note that both strikes are on the cusp of FDX’s expected post-earnings move, which according to March implieds is about plus or minus 1.5%.

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From a technical perspective, FDX remains in fine shape. The stock has rallied more than 20% since bottoming near $85 in November, riding support at its 10- and 20-day moving averages. The shares currently are consolidating into support at the former of these trendlines, while contending with overhead resistance near $110.

On the downside, the lower rail for short-term support lies near $105, with long-term support emerging near $103.56 in the form of FDX’s 50-day moving average.

Depending on the stock’s performance today — and FedEx’s guidance, of course — FDX appears to be in a good position to continue its current uptrend. Still, it is always a good idea to limit your risk in an uncertain market environment, so FDX bulls might want to consider an April 105/110 bull call spread.

At the close of trading last night, this spread was offered at $2.68, or $268 per pair of contracts. Breakeven lies at $107.68, while a maximum profit of $2.32 — or $232 per pair of contracts — is possible if FDX closes at or above $110 when April options expire.

As of this writing, Joseph Hargett did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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