At The Motley Fool, we poke plenty of fun at Wall Street analysts and their endless cycle of upgrades, downgrades, and "initiating coverage at neutral." Today, we'll show you whether those bigwigs actually know what they're talking about. To help, we've enlisted Motley Fool CAPS to track the long-term performance of Wall Street's best and worst.
Wedbush gets "Hexed"
In honor of National Poetry Month, we're going to start with a few lines from Mr. Screamin' Jay Hawkins:
"I put a spell on you
'cause you're mine
You better stop the things you do
I ain't lyin'."
Of course, if you ask the analysts at Wedbush Morgan, the last thing they want aerospace materials maker Hexcel
If Hexcel can accomplish all this, Wedbush sees the stock rising to its new target price of $32 a share within a year. But can Hexcel keep it up?
That's the question
Key to Hexcel's magical performance in Q1 was a bumper crop of aircraft sales at Boeing
Taking its cue from Hexcel's new and improved guidance, Wedbush argues that $1.55 in 2012 per-share earnings, followed by a bump to $1.65 in 2013, should be enough to justify the shares' $32 target price. But me, I'm not so sure.
Consider: Right now, Hexcel shares fetch a premium 19 times valuation on trailing earnings. Up those earnings to $1.55 a share, and yes, a sustained 19 times multiple would seem to justify $32 a share on the stock. But really, that valuation's only realistic if Hexcel can grow fast enough to sustain it -- say, 20% a year.
The problem here is that most analysts think Hexcel can only maintain about 12% annual earnings growth over the long term. Even this year's optimistic forecast suggests only about a 15% growth pace in 2011-2012, followed by a reversion to 6% growth in 2012-2013. That hardly seems fast enough to explain why investors would keep paying 20 times earnings for this stock.
A better idea
But here's the good news: There are other ways to play the surge in commercial aircraft construction that's giving Hexcel wings this week -- ways other than investing in overpriced Hexcel. Honeywell
Most obviously, airplane engine-builder General Electric
Long story short, Wedbush Morgan did us all a favor by highlighting Hexcel's superb results. But at its current premium price, Hexcel stock looks most useful as an example that spurs us to seek better bargains elsewhere.
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