Second quarter earnings season is upon us, and Wall Street watchers are focused on the results. Weighing in after looking at the initial results, investment firm RBC describes the earnings season as ‘pivotal.’ After the grim results in Q1, investors are hoping for better earnings in Q2, but are girding themselves for the possibility of downward revisions.
But for now, at least, the results have been, in RBC words, ‘less bad than feared.’ The firm notes that 56% of the revisions to EPS estimates so far for 2020 and 2021 have been upward. It’s a welcome positive sign, especially considering indicators that economic activity is faltering while COVID cases are rising. Restaurant bookings have stalled, and public transit activity is inconsistent at best. It’s important to remember that Q2 saw lockdowns in April, reopenings in May, and the signs of a feared ‘second wave’ in June.
In the mid-term, RBC’s analysts believe that markets – which have tended to hope for a Trump win in the coming November election – are starting to accept that former VP Joe Biden is currently in the lead. RBC points out that Biden’s current economic positions may not be as unfriendly to business as is commonly assumed.
The upshot is, that conditions are unsettled and investors are trying to remain upbeat. To help along the process, RBC has tagged three stocks that are worth buying, and sees at least 30% upside for each. We ran the trio through TipRanks database to see what other Wall Street’s analysts have to say about them.
The Gap, Inc. (GPS)
One of retails most recognizable names, The Gap has had a hard time during the pandemic crisis. First quarter results – released at the start of June and covering the period of the strictest lockdown policies – showed an earnings loss of $2.51 per share. This was a far cry from the previous quarter’s 58 cent profit, and far below the 65-cent loss forecast. The impact of the pandemic on retail was clear as early as March; that month, Gap announced its Q1 dividend and later suspended it before payment.
GPS stock performance has been volatile in recent months. The stock plunged in February and March, as the crisis ramped up, rallied when restrictions were lifted and retail activity restarted, and plunged again, less deeply, after the first quarter results. While the stock is still 24% from February levels, it has regained what it lost after the June earnings release.
Covering GPS for RBC, analyst Kate Fitzsimons upgraded her firm’s stance from Neutral to Buy. She backs that with an $18 price target, suggesting an upside potential of an impressive 45% for the coming year. (To watch Fitzsimons’ track record, click here)
In her comments, Fitzsimons described a clear path forward for the retailer: "With COVID-19 near-term pressuring results, we see multiple catalysts ahead for shares, including: 1) a fall 2020 analyst day, wherein the new management team including CEO Syngal and CFO O'Connell will update investors on brand metrics; 2) strength at Old Navy, with its value focus and off-mall penetration key assets and with execution issues in women’s in the rear view; 3) the 1H21 launch of Yeezy Gap;and 4) benefits with occupancy and expense reduction efforts as 2020 store closures (likely above the original 170 target), rent renegotiation work, and expense reductions efforts at HQ take hold. With secular tailwinds for the Old Navy and Athleta brands at their backs, on top ofthe team's own self-help efforts, we expect shares are positioned for outperformance."
Fitzsimons is clearly on the bullish side when it comes to GPS, but Wall Street is more cautious. The stock’s analyst consensus rating is a Hold, based on 2 Buys, 10 Holds, and 2 Sells set in recent weeks. In a sign that GPS may be turning bullish, the stock’s recent appreciation has pushed its value above the average price target of $12.38. The shares are currently selling for $12.89. (See GPS stock analysis on TipRanks)
Cerence, Inc. (CRNC)
The next stock on our list is an interesting tech company. Cerence develops AI systems and interfaces for the automotive industry. Cerence saw bookings and revenue increase during the 2020 fiscal second quarter. The reporting period covered calendar Q1, and saw bookings reach a company record of $533 million and revenue grow 23% year-over-year to $86.5 million.
Cerence has been trading publicly since October of last year, after it spun off from Nuance, Inc. In that time, CRNC shares have gained nearly 50%, with most of that coming in the past three months.
RBC’s Joseph Spak explains why the stock could continue its rally: “There is strong demand for vehicles to be an extension of the consumer’s digital life. Voice-powered assistants are increasingly important for a more intelligent, connected and safer driving experience. Further, post COVID-19, we believe voice may be an interface of greater importance vs. touch, especially in a shared situation.”
In line with his comments, Spak initiated coverage of CRNC with a Buy rating. His $50 price target implies a one-year upside potential of 28% for the stock. (To watch Spak’s track record, click here)
The analyst consensus on CRNC is a Moderate Buy. The stock has 5 reviews, breaking down to 4 Buys and 1 Sell. Shares are selling for $39.41; the average price target of $40.60 reflects some Wall Street caution, and suggests just a modest upside of 3%. (See Cerence stock analysis on TipRanks)
International General Insurance (IGIC)
The last on our list of RBC recommendations today is IGIC. This veteran of the insurance industry went public this past March, just in time for the coronavirus crisis and market collapse. Shares remain down after five months of volatile trading.
IGI is well-known as a niche underwriter, and has some 20 years’ experience in the insurance industry. The company holds a risk portfolio in the energy, property, construction, financial, general aviation, and professional indemnity sectors. S&P Global Ratings gives IGI a rating of A-/Stable. The company boasts a market cap of $331 million, assets exceeding $1.01 billion, and 2019 net earnings of $23.5 million. In short, this is a solidly positioned, experienced underwriter in the insurance industry.
Mark Dwelle initiated coverage of this stock for RBC. He sees a bright future ahead for it, writing, “We see the company as a highly profitable niche underwriter of both insurance and reinsurance with a solid balance sheet and excellent underwriting credentials… As investors get to know IGI and tradeable float increases we expect the multiple to rise reflecting the company's favorable operating fundamentals.”
Dwelle starts this stock with a Buy rating, and his $10 price target indicates room for a 40% upside over the coming year. (To watch Dwelle’s track record, click here)
Dwelle’s is the only analyst review that IGIC has no record since the IPO. Shares are currently selling for $7.15. (See IGIC stock analysis on TipRanks)
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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.