We are now halfway through the first-quarter earnings season, and the numbers have broadly been pretty good.
Long story short, this was supposed to be the weak earnings season, dragged by lower corporate spend and weaker consumer confidence in the last few months of 2018, with some hangover in early 2019. That has not been the case. To date, about half of the companies in the S&P 500 have reported earnings. More than three-fourths of them have reported numbers above expectations, while profits are coming in more than 5% above estimates.
In other words, earnings season has largely been a positive surprise, and that’s why the markets are trading at new all-time highs.
But not all stocks are impressing investors this earnings season. Just look at what happened with Alphabet’s (NASDAQ:GOOGL, NASDAQ:GOOG) earnings report yesterday. Indeed, there have been a handful of companies which have reported numbers that do reflect lower corporate spend and weaker consumer confidence in the last part of 2018 and into the first few months of 2019.
Which stocks fall in that category of under-performers? Let’s take a closer look at five stocks that flopped this earnings season.
First on this list is chip-giant Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), whose Q1 earnings report broadly confirmed that the semiconductor market, which fumbled in late 2018, is recovering more slowly than expected in early 2019.
Intel reported Q1numbers that were largely in line with expectations. But the company cut its full-year guide substantially and issued weak Q2 guidance. Why? Because underlying semiconductor fundamentals remain challenged by subdued demand and building supply. Intel expected these challenges to be largely in the rearview mirror by now. Instead, they’re still around, and management doesn’t expect them to simmer down until later this year.
In response, Intel stock dropped 10% following its dour Q1 earnings report. But, to be sure, these issues will resolve themselves by the back-half of 2019, when demand should come back and help clear excess inventory. Long term, the data and AI related drivers here remain healthy. The valuation on the stock close to $50 looks good. All in all, Intel’s earnings fumble looks more like an opportunity to buy than anything else.
Next up, we have Chipotle (NYSE:CMG), the red-hot Mexican eatery that reported strong Q1 number that just didn’t live up to investor expectations.
In a nutshell, CMG stock had rallied more than 60% heading into the Q1 print. On the heels of that big rally, Chipotle needed to smash estimates in order to satiate investor expectations (the average price target on the stock is $625, so clearly a huge beat was priced in). Instead, the company did top expectations, but not by enough. CMG stock proceeded to drop.
Zooming out, the stock still looks overvalued here and now. The stock smashed expectations, and still dropped a few percentage points. Growth will inevitably slow later this year as the lap get tougher, and the company’s beats will narrow and potentially even turn into misses. If/when they do, Chipotle stock won’t just shave off a few percentage points. It could drop in a big way. As such, against the backdrop of what projects as a slowing growth trajectory for the balance of the year, CMG stock doesn’t look too appetizing up here.
3M Company (MMM)
Industrial giant 3M Company (NYSE:MMM) missed the mark everywhere this earnings season, and MMM stock paid the price.
Against the backdrop of a global economy that continued to cool off in early 2019, 3M reported wide Q1 revenue and earnings misses. The company also cut its 2019 outlook and announced a round of job cuts. Overall, the report broadly confirmed that the global economy is slowing, and that 3M’s growth rates going forward will be slower than what they have been over the past several years. In response, MMM stock dropped over 10%.
After this big selloff, MMM stock still trades at 20-times forward earnings, which is roughly average for this stock. But growth going forward will be below average. Thus, the valuation still seems to be at a disconnect with growth, and that will ultimately hinder MMM stock from bouncing back anytime soon.
Shares of electric-vehicle maker Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) have been stuck in a downtrend for the past several months, and that downtrend ultimately came to a head with an ugly Q1 earnings report.
Broadly speaking, Tesla reported Q1 numbers which both pointed to slowing demand and implied that the prior quarter’s big profit was an anomaly. So long as investors perceive that demand is slowing at Tesla, and the company’s profitability remains a going concern, then TSLA stock will struggle to rebound from this sell-off.
Fortunately for shareholders, I think a turnaround is in the cards. The company is figuring out delivery logistics across three continents, and once they do, the numbers should improve. Meanwhile, demand should be re-stoked by an improving economy, low rates and the Model Y roll-out. Margins should concurrently improve. If all that happens, then TSLA stock should stage a big comeback from currently depressed levels.
Last up, we have consumer robotics giant iRobot (NASDAQ:IRBT), who reported Q1 numbers that simply weren’t good enough for investors who were expecting much more.
iRobot’s Q1 earnings report included a profit beat, but a revenue miss and a dramatic slowdown in revenue growth to sub-10% levels. Further, the full-year 2019 guide was largely maintained, but the stock had rallied more than 20% since the previous quarter, so investors were expecting the full-year guide to get raised, not be maintained. Overall, the report was decent, but well shy of what investors were hoping for.
In the big picture, iRobot remains the leader in the consumer robotics space, and is supported by long term growth drivers in automation and robotics. Competition is relatively muted. Margins are high. Growth trends are favorable. There’s a lot going right for this stock, and it’s already showing some signs of life following a big post-earnings sell-off. As such, now seems like a good time to buy into this strong stock at a relative discount.
As of this writing, Luke Lango was long INTC, TSLA, GOOG and IRBT.