The market is getting toppy again, based on reaction to the superb tax quarter turned in by Intuit Inc. (NASDAQ: INTU ).
The accounting software company said it had net income of $1.2 billion, $4.68 per share, during the quarter ending in April, on revenue of $2.9 billion. That's a 15% rise in the top line and a 24% increase in earnings, over the previous year .
It was well ahead of what analysts had been expecting.
In response the shares fell by $2, as investors took profits . But on May 23, this was followed by a rise of $5.69 per share, or 3%, as new investors piled in. The new investors were buying its higher guidance , growth of 12-13% instead of the previously estimated 7-9%.
The reaction was all nerves, selling on the news, then buying on speculation. It's the very definition of a toppy market.
Happy Tax Season
The April report is as good as it usually gets for Intuit, whose best-known offering is the TurboTax tax preparation program. Accounting is a seasonal business, and so is accounting software.
The nervousness wasn't limited to investors. It also impacted analysts. First Analysis dropped its rating on the stock to "Underweight" after earnings, helping its May 22 decline. Then Credit Suisse kept its own rating at "Outperform" but raised the price target to $215 per share, helping its rise .
The nervousness among analysts regarding Intuit is general. Of the 21 now following the stock, more have it as a hold than a buy, and the overall rating has dipped recently to "hold" from "overweight ." The shares are up 23% so far in 2018, climbing this "Wall of Worry" to record highs.
Even the writers at InvestorPlace are feeling a little stretched. Nicholas Chahine called the higher guidance "muted" and said investors were "leery ." He then suggested an options strategy that would win on the stock's rise, and indeed the stock did rise soon after his piece was published.
Beneath the surface, there are some things happening at Intuit that are more interesting than a spreadsheet.
The company's results are being boosted by the "gig economy," people freelancing and doing multiple jobs instead of just going to work for a single employer. This feature of the recovery has, surprisingly, continued to grow even while unemployment has fallen to 4%.
Intuit is also becoming more of a fintech play, syncing to payment networks through Paypal Holdings Inc (NASDAQ: PYPL ) as well as bank networks. Collecting transactions directly from banks has long been my family accountant's favorite part of the software, and the new capabilities extend this to freelancers who may only maintain PayPal accounts.
The Bottom Line on Intuit Stock
So long as the economy remains strong, Intuit is going to be a winner.
The problem is that views on that differ. The recovery is now in its ninth year, and faith in economic policymakers is down, despite Wall Street and analysts pounding the table on behalf of the recent tax cuts.
Conservative investors see the tax cuts as what they are, a one-time boost for corporate executives that isn't trickling down beyond stock buybacks and will have to be paid for down the road, when the economy is bound to be less healthy than it is.
With investors selling on good news, Intuit is looking like a risky bet. The company is a proxy for measuring economic growth, and this price action is signaling trouble ahead.
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Dana Blankenhorn is a financial and technology journalist. He is the author of the historical mystery romance, The Reluctant Detective Travels in Time , available now at the Amazon Kindle store. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org follow him on Twitter at @danablankenhorn . As of this writing, he owned shares in AMZN.