Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
What: Manitowoc (MTW 0.40%) is lifting investors' hopes to new heights. After a super ride in January, shares of the crane maker went wilder last month, gaining 15% to hit a price level not seen in nearly five years. The stock continues to climb as of this writing, and has surged a solid 32% year to date.
So what: While investors had a good set of numbers to cheer about in January, February was a relatively quiet month. So, what's fueling the market's optimism? Is there more upside left in the stock, or has it run its course and could reverse anytime?
Having treated investors to surprisingly good numbers on Jan. 30, Manitowoc investors were in a great mood as the new month rolled in. But the first week was a mixed bag. On the one hand, Longbow Research downgraded Manitowoc stock to neutral, while on the other, Stifel Nicolaus decided to upgrade it, and upped its price target to $33 a share. The market generally takes to negative news more seriously, and Manitowoc investors were no different. The stock traded flat over the week.
The real story started thereafter. China reported record imports of coal and iron ore for the month of January, sending shares of mining companies and equipment makers higher. Around the same time, Europe checked in with better than expected economic data -- for the first time since 2010, the top six eurozone economies expanded during the quarter through December 2013. Manitowoc investors were super excited -- after all, the company derives nearly 20% and 15% revenue from Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, respectively.
The excitement didn't end there. Before the month drew to a close, Deutsche Bank decided to join the league of several analyst firms that had already given a green thumbs-up to Manitowoc stock and initiated coverage with a hold rating.
But doesn't a hold rating mean that the stock will perform in line with the market over the next one year? So, the upside potential does look limited.
Now what: A major event kicked off today -- the international construction industry exhibition, ConExpo at Las Vegas. The event, which is held once every three years, serves as a major platform for new product launches and orders.
Manitowoc has tasted success at the earlier editions of the show, and is betting big on this one with at least 10 new cranes and boom trucks lined up for launch.
Manitowoc's fourth-quarter orders jumped 30% year over year, and the ConExpo could just help the company maintain the uptrend in the current quarter. Keep an eye on updates over the next few days, as any positive news from Las Vegas could push Manitowoc shares higher.
Manitowoc is undoubtedly in a stronger position today than where it was some months or quarters ago. Nonresidential construction activity in the U.S. is improving, Manitowoc's food-service equipment business seems to be turning around, order rate has picked up, and margins are beginning to look much better.
Yet at 27 times earnings, Manitowoc stock is trading at a wide premium to most peers. The stock's run from here could largely depend on news from international markets, particularly China and Europe, where uncertainties remain. That said, unless there's some major setback, there's no reason why Manitowoc shares shouldn't tread higher this month. Only, given the stock's recent rally and valuation, the pace could slow down a bit.