At long last, the big boys are striking back, with the behemoth-dominated S&P 500 handily besting the small-cap-centric Russell 2000 over the past six months.
'Bout time, too. Large caps have underperformed the little fish for so long that, on the basis of relative valuations, the share prices of mainstays such as Intel
Of course, whether the recent large-cap winning streak will last is anyone's guess. Over the near term, anyway, Mr. Market can move in mysterious ways. For long-haul investors, however, all the to-ing and fro-ing amounts to so much sound and fury: It doesn't signify a thing. It's a company's operating fundamentals that matter, and when it comes to those, FedEx
Thanks! I'll be here all week
But seriously folks, here we have a high-quality big boy that, for the trailing 10-year period that ended in October, cranked out an annualized gain of some 19.2%. That mark leaves FedEx's typical industry rival eating proverbial dust by more than seven percentage points, and it wallops the S&P 500 by more than 12 points over that period.
What's more, FedEx sports a price-to-earnings ratio that clocks in below both its own five-year average and the industry peer group, too. And that discount comes despite the fact that -- in addition to its eye-popping performance history -- the company cranked out more than $1.1 billion in free cash flow (FCF) during fiscal 2006.
Free cash flow -- cash from operations minus capital spending -- is a favorite metric of my colleague Philip Durell, the Fool who specializes in uncovering dirt cheap dream stocks for members of his Inside Value investing service.
I'm a big fan of FCF, too. Unlike earnings, after all, cash is tough to "stage manage." And while I wouldn't necessarily call FedEx "dirt cheap," I like its valuations in light of the company's forward-looking prospects. So too, apparently, do the legions of analysts who cover the company. As a group, those analysts estimate that FedEx will grow earnings by more than 15% over the next five years.
Don't get me wrong
Analyst estimates, of course, should be taken with a block of salt. But on an apples-to-apples basis, the forecasts for FedEx easily surpass those of the firm's chief competitor -- and fellow titan -- United Parcel Service
In an important sense, then, you get the best of both worlds with FedEx: a greater rate of anticipated earnings growth without a valuation premium. Can you say "margin of safety?"
Here's the wrap
I can -- and I do. Indeed, I've just added FedEx to the list of stocks I think will outperform the market over on the Fool's recently hatched CAPS investing database. CAPS provides a choice opportunity to harness the collective intelligence of the Fool's razor-sharp community, with more than 12,000 members so far weighing in to rate stocks as prospective overachievers -- or laggards.
CAPS is totally free, by the way, so click here to give it a try and add FedEx to your overperform or underperform list. Once you've taken care of that business, stay tuned: Early next week, we'll tip our CAPS and announce which blue-chip company has taken top honors for 2007 based on our community's input.
To read about the rest of our blue-chip candidates, click here.
Shannon Zimmerman runs point on the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service, and at the time of publication, he didn't own any of the securities mentioned above. You can check out the Fool's strict disclosure policy by clicking right here.