There’s no getting around it owning Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) has been tough to do for the better part of the past four years. F stock is down 40% from its late-2013 high, reaching another multi-year low just this week.
Worse, a big part of the recent weakness was well-deserved. Per-share profits were stagnant in 2017, and down from 2015’s profit peak, on the heels of last year’s “peak auto” headwind.
Bolstering the concern owners F stock holders have voiced of late was Tuesday’s disappointing Q4 report from General Motors Company (NYSE:GM), which was marred by lower year-over-year revenue. It’s just not an encouraging picture.
Yet, priced at only 5.5 times its trailing earnings and 6.8 times its projected per-share profits, F stock may simply be too cheap to continue shunning.
Calling a spade a spade, Ford has been lagging multiple rivals on multiple fronts.
Yes, General Motors is one of them, though hardly the only one. Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) is also proving to be a problem for Ford, exposing Ford’s vulnerabilities by validating electric vehicles; Ford should have been doing more sooner to develop its answer to EVs.
Don’t misunderstand. Tesla is a fiscal mess, and struggling to reach meaningful output of the mid-priced Model 3 that would prove disruptive to Ford’s core market. In and of itself it’s not a threat.
Tesla, however, is driving GM and others like Toyota Motor Corp (ADR) (NYSE:TM) and Daimler AG (OTCMKTS:DDAIF) into the electric vehicle business, most of which are going to roll out multiple EVs as soon as (if not before) Ford is able to do the same.
To its credit, Ford is now moving faster in that direction, though the acceleration won’t come cheap. It’s committed $11 billion to electric vehicle development, aiming to offer 40 all-electric cars by 2022. Either way, it’s easier said than done.
Ford is also late to the party when it comes to the car-sharing movement, only recently kicking off subscription-based access to a vehicle through its recently-launched Canvas. General Motors’ Maven unit, conversely, has been offering mobility solutions for a while now.
It all looks horrifying, and perhaps it is. Yet, F stock is still too much of a bargain to pass up here.
It’s a bit anti-climactic to begin with the point rather than build up to an idea, but it’s more effective in this case to get straight to the point: F stock is priced like an apocalypse is right around the corner. The aforementioned P/E ratio of less than 6.0 is, to put in bluntly, ridiculous.
It’s not an interpretation the analyst community collectively holds, by the way. On a scale of 1.0 to 5.0 (where 1.0 is a “Strong buy” and 5.0 is a “Sell”), F stock presently rates at 3.0, or the equivalent to a “Hold. For bullish-leaning analysts, being neutral is tantamount to a bearish call.
It’s a case, however, where some analysts (perhaps most of them) have been unable to offer bullish stances simply because doing so could be career-killing. Deserved or not, if F stock is destined to keep moving lower simply because traders have been trained to drag it lower, then nobody can afford to step in front of that bearish train.
And after four years of selling despite decent results, that’s exactly what the market’s been trained to do.
It’s a problem for newcomers to be sure. The value argument for Ford holds water, but the momentum is pointed in the wrong direction. Getting in here is the equivalent to catching a falling knife. If we’re not at the bottom though, we should be near it.
Bottom Line for F Stock
It admittedly takes a lot of guts to wade into a new Ford position at this time; it’s taken almost as much in the way of guts to stock with a position in Ford stock this long. It would be much easier to simply wait for tangible evidence that shares are moving higher for the long haul again.
The flaw with that strategy: Sometimes the best and most rewarding piece of a rebound rally is the earliest part, and you won’t likely get much of a warning that it’s begun. Of course, once analysts realize F stock is on the mend, a swath of pent-up bullish recommendations will likely surface, exacerbating the very rebound those analysts have been waiting on.
Still intimidated? Join the club. This isn’t a trade for the faint of heart, or for anyone who isn’t willing to keep such a trade on a short leash. The value is certainly there, though.
As of this writing, James Brumley held a long position in Ford. You can follow him on Twitter, at @jbrumley.