Due to CSX’s (NYSE:CSX) earnings and revenue miss, many analysts and pundits have begun to take a more bearish view of CSX stock. With its 2019 revenues set to fall 1%-2%, according to its own estimates, CSX could face a rough ride. Also, the trade war with China and signs of an economic slowdown have weighed on CSX’s freight volumes and intermodal transport business.
The low cost of rail transport has and will continue to bolster CSX’s business model in the long-term. However, falling revenues and economic headwinds look positioned to derail CSX stock for the foreseeable future.
CSX Stock Price Tumbled
On July 16, CSX stock price fell by more than 10% following the company’s earnings. The company’s earnings and revenue fell short of analysts’ average expectations. Moreover, the company’s guidance also came in below the average estimate. CSX expects its revenues to come in 1%-2% lower than last year’s revenue of $12.25 billion or between $12 billion and $12.13 billion. The average revenue estimate had previously stood at $12.47 billion.
The negative sentiment spread across the railroad industry. Union Pacific (NYSE:UNP), Kansas City Southern (NYSE:KSU), and Norfolk Southern (NYSE:NSC) also plunged on July 16. The sellers appear to have made the right call. Norfolk Southern’s earnings subsequently came in below analysts’ average estimates, while Union Pacific’s top line missed the consensus outlook.
The Economic Cycle Bodes Poorly for CSX Stock
In a previous article,I predicted that guidance would likely determine the near-term performance of CSX stock. Since the company had already cut its revenue guidance in January, issuing lower guidance a second time destroyed the confidence many had in CSX stock.
Additionally, CSX and its peers serve as a proxy for the overall economy. As InvestorPlace columnist James Brumley stated, there is now widespread concern that the economy is slowing.
The Fed attempted to address this issue with a cut in interest rates recently. Before this cut, the Federal Reserve had not reduced rates since soon after the 2008 financial crisis. So far, the Fed’s move has failed to rejuvenate CSX stock.
CSX stock price traded above $71 per share before the cut. Since it occurred, the stock fell for the rest of the week. As of this writing, the CSX stock price now stands at about $66.50 per share.
Moreover, InvestorPlace columnist Josh Enomoto points out that CSX stock dropped massively during the 2000 tech bubble and the 2008 financial crisis. During both downturns, CSX stock price lost more than two-thirds of its value. If rate cuts fail to head off an economic slowdown, I wouldn’t be surprised if history repeats itself.
I do not necessarily believe that the CSX stock price will fall by two-thirds again. However, it may be vulnerable enough to justify selling the equity. Traders have few reasons to ride out such a downturn.
The Bottom Line on CSX Stock
Rail remains the lowest-cost means of transporting freight. For this reason, I like the railroad industry in general, and I think CSX stock will deliver returns over the long-term.
But at this stage, I see more to lose than gain by holding CSX stock at these levels. When investors sour on CSX stock, history has shown that they turn on it hard. The recent rate cut did not boost CSX stock price, and the stock began a new downward move following the news.
That does not mean traders should stop paying attention to this company. I think CSX stock will be a great buy during the depths of a recession. However, in the late stages of an economic expansion, traders should stay off the tracks, since for now, CSX is much more likely to report negative news than positive metrics.
As of this writing, Will Healy did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned stocks. You can follow Will on Twitter at @HealyWriting.