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Why Shares of Rockwell Automation Climbed in November

By Lou Whiteman - Dec 4, 2019 at 12:14PM

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After a series of guidance cuts, the industrial robotics company gives investors some relief.

What happened

Shares of Rockwell Automation ( ROK 0.53% ) climbed 13.9% in November, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence, fueled by better-than-expected quarterly results and improved guidance. The results came during a difficult quarter for many industrial companies and suggest that Rockwell's niche focus is more resilient than the overall industrial economy.

ROK Chart

ROK data by YCharts.

So what

Rockwell's entire monthly gain came during one trading session, with the company reporting fiscal fourth-quarter adjusted earnings of $2.01 per share on revenue of $1.73 billion, beating expectations for EPS of $1.92 on sales of $1.65 billion. It had lowered the bar, reducing annual earnings guidance twice, but the results helped ease fears that the company's manufacturing customers were cutting, or at least delaying, capital spending.

Robotics on display on an automotive factory floor.

Image source: Getty Images.

Rockwell Automation provides robotics and Internet of Things technologies that help automate factories and assembly lines. Coming into November, bears had feared that manufacturing customers, stung by tariff concerns and a slowing global economy, would cut back on factory modernization that might seem like a luxury in lean times.

But bulls had argued that slow times are exactly when Rockwell's products show their value, by allowing customers to cut staffing and streamline operations. The company also seemed to benefit from having a diverse customer base. It reported 1.4% organic sales growth in the quarter, driven by strength in energy, mining, and life sciences, as well as better performance in automotive.

Now what

Rockwell Automation also provided an optimistic outlook for fiscal 2020, with an estimated earnings per share range that, even at its low end, is still $0.18 better than the consensus. The company believes cost-cutting and its diverse customer base will help counter industrial sector weakness.

A good portion of the November jump appears to be a relief rally, and shares seem unlikely to repeat such a dramatic move in the months to come. But Rockwell Automation has made a strong case that it has the wherewithal to survive and keep growing through a slowdown, making it a solid long-term buy.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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