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Can Conn's Keep It Up After Last Week's 17% Pop?

By Rick Munarriz – Feb 8, 2016 at 9:07AM

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The struggling consumer electronics retailer gets a boost after a major investor ups its stake.

Source: Conn's.  

Not everybody has given up on Conn's (CONN 0.12%). Shares of the consumer electronics retailer soared 17% last week -- making it one of the market's biggest winners -- after one of the stock's biggest shareholders grew hungry for more. 

Anchorage Capital Group, a New York-based hedge fund, made large purchases of Conn's stock on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. The three-day shopping spree added up to 898,301 shares, and its cost basis went up with every passing trading day.

When you're buying so much of a stock that typically trades a little more than 800,000 shares a day, those chunk trades in the open market will move the stock. Anchorage Capital now owns 4.5 million shares of Conn's, a little more than 14% of the entire company.

This doesn't mean that Conn's is back. The stock is still trading 39% lower than it was when the year began after shedding nearly half of its value last month. The retailer had a brutal January, kicking things off early when it announced disappointing quarterly sales and problematic delinquency rates. Conn's offers its customers financing, something that helps it close big-ticket sales but also exposes it to deadbeat borrowers. 

Comparable-store sales clocked in 5.6% lower than they did during the same seasonally potent month a year earlier. Gains in home products including furniture and mattresses were more than offset by sharp declines in more traditional consumer electronics categories. Adding insult to injury, Conn's 60-day delinquency rate by the end of the 2015 calendar year was 9.9%. That's a higher rate of deadbeats than a year earlier, and it basically means that nearly a tenth of its sales on credit have been in default for at least two months.

Conn's stock has been volatile. It soared 157% in 2013, in sympathy with category leader Best Buy (BBY 0.31%). That was the year that shares of Best Buy more than tripled after bringing in Hubert Joly as its CEO. It also didn't hurt that Conn's returned to profitability after back-to-back years of annual deficits before that.

Conn's stock went on to shed 76% of its value in 2014, a flat year for Best Buy. Shares of Conn's then came through with a market-besting 26% gain last year, but it has gone on to give it all back and then some in 2016. 

Last week's pop isn't sustainable unless Anchorage Capital has more buying in mind beyond last week's binge. The fundamentals at Conn's are going to have to justify higher stock prices, and that's not where the sentiment is at the time with analysts forecasting another decline in revenue this new fiscal year. Conn's is still profitable -- and that helps -- but what would really give the stock a boost is either a return to positive comps or a healthy decline in its financing department's delinquency rate. Without any of these things happening, it's going to be another long year for Conn's. 

Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Conn's, Inc. Stock Quote
Conn's, Inc.
CONN
$8.03 (0.12%) $0.01
Best Buy Co., Inc. Stock Quote
Best Buy Co., Inc.
BBY
$68.78 (0.31%) $0.21

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