In this crazy market environment, it's easy to make a rushed investment decision or hold a stock too long without realizing things have changed. All of us are busy, and the past couple of years have been incredibly distracting. That's why it's possible you're sitting on some stock positions right now that could end up burning you in the very near future.
With this in mind, here's a closer look at three stocks you'll most definitely want to scrutinize closely in case you're currently holding any of them.
1. Deere & Company
A spectacular 2021 for farm machinery manufacturer Deere & Company (DE 0.77%) looks like it's extending into this year. Specifically, last year's 24% top-line uptick more than doubled 2020's pandemic-suppressed profits, and analysts expect revenue growth of 18% for 2022 to drive per-share earnings up from $18.99 to $22.99. Revenue growth is projected to slow a bit in 2023, but earnings growth is expected to stay close to its current pace.
It's all part of the bigger reason Deere shares have held their ground this year while the broad market lost ground.
These forward-looking expectations, however, may be more than a little too optimistic.
It's not the sort of data most investors consider -- or even know about -- when they're thinking about which stocks to buy or sell. But, the fact that Creighton University's Rural Mainstreet Index of Farm Equipment Sales fell every month from April to August (following 20 consecutive months of growth in the midst of the pandemic) is telling. The index showed a slight improvement for September, but only a slight one. Farmland prices are also weakening in a big way.
Connect the dots. The buying boom and subsequent sky-high prices for farming equipment seen in 2021 are quietly but dramatically cooling off.
Things could get worse before they get better, too. As farmer and trade publication Successful Farming's contributing editor penned late last year in the midst of the boom that boosted Deere & Company's stock, "In two to three years I predict we will see prices of late-model large machinery soften and then fall as more new iron sales from 2022 and 2023 hit the used market as trade-ins."
Deere's construction business is in a similar situation, facing a comparable slowdown and reduction in pricing power.
2. Royalty Pharma
Royalty Pharma (RPRX -1.35%) is anything but your typical pharmaceutical company.
Just as the name suggests, the organization acquires the rights to royalty payments on sales of certain drugs. It will also provide funding for drugs currently in development, securing part of their revenue stream if and when they're approved. Last week it announced an agreement with Merck, for instance, offering partial funding of Merck's phase 3 trial for schizophrenia treatment MK-8189 in exchange for a portion of sales the drug may eventually generate. All told, Royalty Pharma is capturing a portion of the revenue generated by a few dozen different drugs, with a dozen more still in development.
It's a rather clever business model, working more times than not over the course of the past several years. It's volatile and capital-intensive. But, broadly speaking, it works.
There's a potentially fatal flaw with the model, though. If federal regulators or legislators clamp down on drug pricing, drug companies may rethink the value of such a partner and opt to stop sharing costs and royalties with third-party players like this one. After all, it's possible for most pharmaceutical companies to fully fund all of their own R&D and ultimately keep all of a drug's future profits; Royalty Pharma doesn't bring any developmental value or IP of its own to the R&D table.
And don't think for a minute this headwind isn't already blowing. A big piece of the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act takes aim at the burgeoning costs of prescription drugs by allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for them. Also, just last week, President Joe Biden ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to explore other ways of lowering consumers' costs for prescription drugs. These are just small hints of a much bigger effort that could be adverse to Royalty Pharma's bottom line.
3. Erie Indemnity
Finally, add insurer Erie Indemnity (ERIE -0.64%) to your list of growth stocks you might want to think about shedding if you currently own it.
As far as property and life insurance providers go, Erie isn't exactly a household name. The $12 billion company turned $2.6 billion worth of revenue into a net income of just under $300 million last year, which is respectable but hardly head-turning. Neither are its relatively flat top and bottom lines. Analysts are calling for stronger top-line growth of 5.6% this year and 4.4% next year, matched with improved per-share earnings. Namely, last year's bottom line of $5.69 per share is projected to swell to $5.94 this year and $6.50 per share for 2023. That's an improvement on recent results but still modest, even by the slow-moving insurance industry standards.
So why are Erie Indemnity shares moving like a growth stock even when it isn't one (the stock is up more than 40% since May's low)? That's a good question. There is no good answer.
And there's the rub. Without a good answer, Erie Indemnity shares are too subject to the same sort of sell-offs we saw back in early 2021 and way back in 2019.
Bolstering this potential bearishness is the stock's valuation. Erie shares are now trading at 39 times this year's expected earnings and nearly 36 times next year's projected per-share profits. That's well beyond the average insurance stock's earnings-based pricing, leaving this one uncomfortably vulnerable to a corrective move.