Earlier this year, General Electric (NYSE:GE) stock surged from a split-adjusted $50 per share to as much as $115.36 per share. The surge was mostly due to the Covid-19 “reopening” trade, along with success with its turnaround. Yet in recent months, shares in the industrial conglomerate have traded sideways.
Its strong results for the quarter ending June 30 may have bolstered bullishness among many sell-side analysts. But said results haven’t done much to boost investor enthusiasm. Instead, the market continues to take a “wait and see” approach.
So, does this mean you can buy it now with minimal risk of loss until GE makes more progress? Not exactly. The stock might not move higher.
At today’s levels, shares appear fully priced based on 2022 projections. That’s assuming it hits or exceeds these numbers. If it doesn’t, and instead stumbles in the quarters ahead, the stock could see a double-digit percentage pullback. That may make buying risky right now.
So, what’s the better way to approach this situation? Hold off buying for now. Instead, wait for more uncertainty to get priced into shares.
Despite Strong Results, It’s Not the Time to Buy
As seen from its latest quarterly earnings, General Electric appears to be making more progress with its turnaround. For the June quarter, the company slightly beat analyst estimates for revenue and earnings. But its improving free cash flow for its industrial segments was music to the sell-side community’s ears.
Estimates now call for the company’s industrial segments to generate $4.3 billion in free cash flow this year and $5.6 billion in 2022. With its situation improving and its share price holding steady, it may look like a good time to buy GE stock at today’s levels.
But considering other factors, you may want to think again. Although the situation’s improving, General Electric’s turnaround is not complete. Already fully-priced based on 2022 projections, the company may have to do more than meet or slightly beat projections for shares to move higher.
Worse yet? If factors like inflationary pressures impact results in the quarters ahead, this stock could lose its current “priced for perfection” status. If this happens, shares could be at risk of taking a double-digit percentage fall from today’s prices.
Fully Priced, GE Stock Could Go Lower
At today’s prices, shares of GE stock trade at a forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 50.51x. Again, continued earnings beats are needed to move the stock higher. But the larger concern may be the downside risk from General Electric falling short of expectations in the quarters ahead.
If inflationary pressures intensify, as Culp warned in the earnings statement, it may slow down the recovery of its stronger units, like healthcare. It may also impact harder-hit segments, like aviation, that have only started to bounce back. Additionally, the intensity of the delta variant of Covid-19 is another variable at play for the quarters ahead.
So, if subsequent results fall short of expectations, what kind of drop in price could GE stock experience? There is a chance it will be able to maintain a similar forward earnings multiple.
However, investors might start to believe the company’s earnings will be more in line with the estimated low of $2.66 per share rather than the consensus price of $4.10 per share. In that case, a double-digit percentage decline from today’s levels appears possible.
Wait for an Uncertainty-Fueled Dip Before Buying
Even with strong results and many analysts bullish on its prospects, investor enthusiasm for General Electric has not seen an increase. Instead, it’s plateaued, as seen from the stock’s struggles to move higher in recent months.
Some may see this is a time to buy, ahead of CEO Larry Culp’s turnaround continuing to play out. However, shares are already priced as if it’s for certain the company will hit 2022 projections. If factors like inflationary pressures derail this, investors could factor in more uncertainty into its share price.
Given that GE stock is, to some extent, still “priced for perfection,” you may want to wait for more uncertainty, and another dip in price, before buying.
On the date of publication, Thomas Niel did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
Thomas Niel, a contributor for InvestorPlace.com, has been writing single-stock analysis for web-based publications since 2016.
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