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Why Harley-Davidson Stock Dropped -- Then Popped 5%

By Rich Smith – Updated Apr 24, 2019 at 11:09PM

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Analysts fear business is getting as bad as the bad old days of the crisis -- and that's good news?

What happened

Harley-Davidson (HOG -1.38%) shares took investors for a wild ride on Wednesday, first dropping on negative commentary from a stock analyst, then rebounding on positive news out of the Federal Reserve, and finally closing the day up 5%.

So what

So what happened? Well, the day dawned bleakly. Harley stock fell steeply after the company reported fourth-quarter 2018 earnings results yesterday. Piling on to the bad news, analysts at Stifel Nicolaus commented this morning that U.S. retail sales of Harley bikes are continuing to slide, and warned that management is guiding for 2019 shipments to dealers to be weaker than we've seen since the depths of the financial crisis in 2009-2010. Stifel responded to these "concerns" by cutting its price target on Harley-Davidson shares by 14%, to $37 (although Stifel maintained a "hold" rating, not a downgrade to "sell").

Then, however, the Fed announced that in light of economic uncertainty, it will be holding U.S. "targeted" interest rates at the 2.25% to 2.50% range, and not hiking rates -- at least for now -- sparking a widespread rally on Wall Street, and one that revived Harley-Davidson shares along with (almost) everyone else's.

Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special motorcycle

After the sell-off, some investors mount up on Harley stock once again. Image source: Harley-Davidson.

Now what

So what happens next? The Fed's interest rate news is obviously good news for Harley -- low interest rates in general mean low interest rates on loans to buy motorcycles, after all, which should support sales. And I have to say that Harley-Davidson stock at just 11 times earnings, and only 5.6 times free cash flow, looks awfully tempting.

Despite the company's slowdown in sales and in shipments, most analysts still see Harley-Davidson growing its earnings at a respectable 9.5% annual clip over the next five years. Perhaps all those investors who rethought themselves, and decided to buy Harley-Davidson stock after all today, had the right idea.

Check out the latest Harley-Davidson earnings call transcript.

Rich Smith has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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