The rally removed only a small portion of recent losses for shareholders, and the stock remains lower by 25% in the past year.
Investors were pleasantly surprised by the equipment rental giant's fourth-quarter earnings report that in late January showed steady operating improvements. United Rentals achieved 17% higher rental volumes and a 2% uptick in rates, which allowed pre-tax earnings to rise at a healthy clip. "We delivered strong fourth quarter results," CEO Michael Kneeland said in a press release, "including broad growth and rental rate improvement in a year that leveraged our numerous competitive advantages."
Kneeland and his team are hoping to lean on those advantages to push sales up to between $9.15 billion and $9.55 billion in 2019 from $8 billion in 2018. If it pairs those gains with further improvements in rental rates and return on invested capital, then shareholders could see more market-thumping growth from this beaten-down stock, especially if tariffs lessen their impact on United Rental's cost structure over time.