Your company would have to do something seriously wrong to not do well in this market. Both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 are up about 10% so far this year, so they should lend themselves to raising the buoyancy of most stocks.
While there are obviously some stocks that aren't faring nearly as well as the indices (and some are doing really, really bad), there are more than a handful of companies beating the market handily. Let's look at why Lumber Liquidators (NYSE:LL), Kite Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: KITE), and Weight Watchers (NASDAQ:WW) have far outstripped the market.
Lumber Liquidators (up 125%)
Flooring specialist Lumber Liquidators has finally put the past two years behind it. Crushed by a spurious 60 Minutes report that linked its laminated flooring to elevated health risks, Lumber Liquidators was run through a wood chipper and saw its stock lose some 80% of its value. While it has regained nowhere near the value it lost from that debacle, 2017 is proving to be the year where it's gotten its footing again.
The flooring specialist has been helped along by an improving economy, a housing market that looks healthy, a customer base that's starting to return to its stores, and a series of analyst upgrades. The recent blowout earnings report from Home Depot (NYSE:HD) shows just how good Lumber Liquidators target market is. While its own financial report earlier this month may not have been quite as phenomenal, it was able to notch sales growth of 11% on an 8.8% increase in comparable store sales, leading to a 38% rise in gross profits.
At around $36 a share, Lumber Liquidators stock is trading at the level it hasn't seen since the 60 Minutes report broke. It's important to note that Lumber Liquidators also botched its response to the story and wasn't helped by having three executives quit in quick succession, or that the government also charged it with violating the Lacey Act by importing protected wood species. All of that is behind it now, though, and customers are returning once again to its stores. Whether it can regain the lofty heights it once held remains to be seen.
Kite Pharma (up 203%)
Clinical-stage biotech Kite Pharma has markedly improved its performance from last year when it lost more than a quarter of its value over concerns about the safety of its experimental chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) drugs following another biotech's attempt at developing similarly situated drugs. But now many are expecting the biotech to see its CAR-T therapy axicabtagene ciloleucel, or Axi-Cel, win FDA approval later this year for treatment of for aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Kite is ramping up for commercialization of what it calls "one of the most powerful anti-cancer agents for certain patients." The biotech has completed recruitment and training of cell therapy account managers to support customer service and logistical coordination of axi-cel's launch and conducted test runs of technical operations for ordering, scheduling, processing, and shipment of cell therapy product at various major medical institutions. Kite should be able to hit the ground running if the FDA gives it the agency's imprimatur in late November as expected.
So it's not surprising that Kite Pharma has tripled in value already in 2017, but investors should probably use caution from here. Far too often, drugs that have received regulatory approval don't capture the kind of share in the market they thought they would.
Weight Watchers (up 319%)
Weight Watchers investors can probably thank Oprah Winfrey for sparking their company's ascendance in 2017, quadrupling in value as it adds more customers, grows sales, and widens profits. Following a 16% gain in new subscribers in the first quarter, the weight-loss-management service added on another 20% in the second giving it a total of 3.5 million subscribers at the end of June.
Weight Watchers has a new CEO now who intends on updating the programs it offers subscribers. Along with enhancing its digital offerings -- its online program enjoyed the strong subscriber growth in the second quarter -- and planning to make Weight Watcher meetings more meaningful and useful for its members, it's easy to understand why investor enthusiasm for this stock has taken off.
Shares have more than quadrupled since the start of the year, and analysts still see the weight-loss shop as being able to grow earnings at a 15% clip annually for the next five years. Still, a 300% gain in eight months is a lot of ground to eat up, so it's rational that people might think it's ready for a pullback. While possible, Weight Watchers stock isn't so excessively priced. It trades at 30 times earnings, but only 18 times next year's estimates, and while its price is also 18 times the free cash flow it produces, meaning it's no bargain-basement stock, it's not grossly overvalued, either.