What: Emerson Electric (NYSE:EMR) shares rose a solid 11.4% last month. That comes on the heels of a 7% or so February advance. At this point, the shares are up around 13% for the year after falling for a spell at the start of 2016. Not much has changed at Emerson, however, so it's really the market that's rethinking the stock.
So what: Emerson is one of the world's largest and well-known industrial giants. That said, global demand is a big determinant of the company's success. And that's been a trouble spot for a couple years now as industrial demand has hit a funk. Adding to that issue is Emerson's foray into the data center market, which hasn't turned out as well as planned, and you can see why the shares were off some 35% from their 2014 highs early in January.
But Emerson hasn't grown to the ripe old age of 125 by being a wallflower. For example, it recognizes that the data centers investment isn't working for it, and has plans to spin the division off. It's also rejiggering the rest of its lineup to focus on its automation solutions and commercial & residential solutions businesses. Once streamlined down to that core, it plans to start building itself up again via bolt-on acquisitions.
So while revenue has fallen for two years, and will likely fall again in 2016, the company is working hard to position itself for the future. And, even during this transition, compounded by weak global demand and a strong dollar, it was still able to earn $3.17 a share in fiscal 2015, pulling out the benefit of a one-time gain. Management expects earnings to fall between $3.05 and $3.25 a share in fiscal 2016.
Having said that, its easier to see why value-oriented investors started to think that, maybe, Emerson's stock had become a bargain when the shares fell over 35% below their 2014 highs. After all, an industrial giant with a long history of successful reinvention trading more than a third below its highs while still earning more than $3 a share sounds compelling if you have a long-term bent. So, the gain in March, and the advance over the year-to-date period, is likely a mixture of investors seeing value in Emerson and the broader market moving back toward a generally positive outlook.
Now what: For investors hoping to get aboard an Emerson stock rally, you've missed a big move -- the stock is up 25% since its mid-January nadir. There could be more room to run, but I wouldn't expect the immediate future to be as bright as the recent past. That said, investors with a longer time horizon should still be digging into the Emerson tale. Once the company cuts back to the core, it could be an interesting growth story again. But that won't play out right away, so you'll need to be patient.