Shares of Textron (TXT -1.22%) climbed 14.6% in April, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence, fueled by a strong first-quarter earnings report. Investors have had a long wait, but it appears the industrial conglomerate has finally turned a corner.
It's been a tough few years for Textron. Prolonged weakness in its Cessna business-jet unit, a sector that has never fully recovered from the 2008 financial crisis, has weighed on results, as have a series of one-time issues in various other units.
Textron's portfolio is diverse and impressive, including business jets, snowmobiles, car parts, and military equipment. But the company has been struggling to get out of second gear.
First-quarter results provided evidence to suggest the worst is over for Textron, and the shares reacted accordingly. The company earned $0.70 per share in the quarter on revenue of $2.88 billion, easily besting expectations for $0.47 per share in earnings on sales of $2.7 billion. And Textron raised its guidance for full-year adjusted earnings per share by $0.10 to a range of $2.80 to $3.
Even with the strong April, Textron shares are still underperforming the S&P 500 by about 50 percentage points over the past three years. The quarterly results were a step in the right direction, but the next few quarters will have to come in strong to really see the stock close that gap.
There are still some potential headwinds: Textron's Kautex auto business is likely to see weak demand into the summer due to automaker production issues. But the aviation business appears to be heating up, with Cessna booking business at a rate 1.8 times what was billed out in the quarter.
The big catalyst could come from the government, but is likely to take time: Textron's Bell helicopter unit is a finalist in two multibillion-dollar Army competitions. Should it win at least one, investors might finally see Textron really begin to close the gap with the broader markets.