What happened

On another down day for stock markets -- Dow down 3%; Nasdaq off a more modest 0.3% -- Waste Management (WM 0.39%) shares fells farther than most. By close of trading today, Waste Management stock had fallen 10.6%.


Glowing red stock chart arrow trending down

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

The easy answer is coronavirus. And the nearly as easy answer is the Senate's failure to pass a coronavirus bailout bill over the weekend. But there's a third factor at work here today.

This morning, investment bank Stifel announced it is retaining its "buy" recommendation -- but lowering its price target -- on Waste Management shares. There aren't a lot of details available on this price action. StreetInsider.com, for example, notes only that it happened, and that the cut is from a price target of $130 a share to $115.

Still, investors appear to be reacting to the negative sentiment instinctively and leaving the "whys" for later.

Now what

Does this make sense, though? After all, Stifel still says Waste Management is a "buy" -- just not as strong a buy as it once believed. And with Waste Management closing the day below $88 a share, even Stifel's new, more muted endorsement implies that Waste Management stock could still rise nearly 31% over the next year -- and pay its shareholders a 2.2% dividend yield to boot.

Even if all this is true, however, I still more or less agree with investors' caution on this one. At its present $37.3 billion market capitalization, Waste Management stock sells for 22.2 times trailing earnings. That's less than WM once cost, but with the S&P 500 having fallen below 17 times its earnings, it leaves Waste Management stock looking pricey relative to the alternatives. Meanwhile, the stock's 8% projected growth rate -- even if unaffected by coronavirus -- is slower than the 10% growth average expected out of the S&P 500 as a whole.

Long story short, a relatively high price tag plus subpar growth means the worst may not be over for Waste Management stock just yet.