Second-quarter earnings season is upon us. The broad outlook from Wall Street is not a rosy one. For the second quarter in a row, analysts are expecting the S&P 500 to report a year-over-year earnings decline. For comparison purposes, in the year ago quarter, S&P 500 earnings rose 25% year-over-year.
Although Q2 earnings are expected to be bad, it is important to note that Wall Street analysts have a history of underestimating EPS. For example, last quarter, analysts thought the S&P 500 EPS was going to drop 4% year-over-year. But Q1 earnings only dropped 0.3% year-over-year. This is nothing new. Over the past five years, reported S&P 500 earnings have exceed estimated S&P 500 earnings by 4.8%, on average, while the projected EPS growth rate heading into a quarter has historically been 3.7 percentage points below the actual EPS growth rate in that quarter.
If we extrapolate that trend out, then Q2 earnings will actually rise by about a percent. Importantly, that represents sequential acceleration form last quarter’s down 0.3% growth rate. Such sequential acceleration implies that corporate earnings may have bottomed, and that going forward, earnings will start growing at a healthy pace again.
From this perspective, Q2 earnings could provide a big catalyst for the market. If earnings do come in ahead of expectations and actually grow year-over-year, then the stock market will rally as investors take that as evidence that the mini-earnings draw-down of early 2019 is over.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at seven stocks to buy with the potential to lead an earnings rally this summer.
Reporting Date: July 24
The Thesis: One stock that looks due for a blockbuster summer earnings report and big subsequent rally is digital ad giant Facebook (NASDAQ:FB). Facebook has spent most of 2019 putting its 2018 user privacy headaches behind it. The Q2 earnings report should cement that those headwinds are in the rear-view mirror.
Global online ad spend trends in 2019 have been favorable. Facebook Stories usage has been on the up and up, while Instagram has seen an influx of new advertising opportunities, as has Messenger. Thus, Facebook’s user and revenue numbers should be good this quarter. The margin numbers should be good, too, as the lap gets easier. Further, Facebook management will be able to update investors on its new commerce initiatives, and bullish sentiment there could spark a rally.
All in all, it increasingly looks like the big 2019 rally in FB stock is set to take another leg higher this summer, making the social media giant a stock to buy.
Reporting Date: August 6 (estimate)
The Thesis: Ugly is the new cool, and because of that, “ugly” footwear brand Crocs (NASDAQ:CROX) has staged a huge operational turnaround over the past several years. But that turnaround hit a snag in the first quarter of 2019 as Crox ran into some demand and margin headwinds. Investors implied from this that the best of the CROX turnaround story had already materialized, and CROX stock subsequently dropped off a cliff.
But the best of this rebound narrative hasn’t materialized. Instead, most data points suggest that the Crocs brand is only gaining momentum. Piper Jaffray’s survey of young consumers found that Crocs has one of the fastest growing mind-shares in the entire footwear category, while both domestic and global search interest trends indicate that consumer interest surrounding Crocs is surging higher. Further, the company’s recent collaboration with Vera Bradley was a huge hit.
Overall, then, it looks likely that Crocs will report very strong second quarter numbers this summer. Those strong numbers will affirm that the best of this rebound narrative isn’t over just yet, and will consequently spark a nice recovery rally in CROX stock.
Reporting Date: August 15 (estimate)
The Thesis: Calendar 2018 was a really bad year for Chinese e-commerce juggernaut JD.Com (NASDAQ:JD). China’s consumer economy cooled off, JD’s revenue growth rates dropped, and the company’s margins were slashed in half. In response to those adverse trends, JD stock lost more than half of its value in 2018.
But all three of those trends have reversed course in 2019. China’s consumer economy has picked up steam recently, especially over the past two months, during which retail sales growth has accelerated meaningfully and notched a 12-month-high in June. At the same time, JD’s revenue growth rates have stabilized in the ~20% range, while operating margins have expanded by 70 basis points or more in each of the past two quarters.
Because all three of these trends have reversed course, it is likely that JD puts up impressive summer 2019 numbers. Those impressive numbers should sustain the big 45% year-to-date rally in JD stock.
Foot Locker (FL)
Reporting Date: August 24 (estimate)
The Thesis: Owing largely to fears regarding trade war escalation and its impact on the company’s demand and margins, footwear retailer Foot Locker (NYSE:FL) has dropped over 20% in 2019. But the U.S. and China have declared a trade war truce, meaning conditions on the trade front won’t get worse anytime soon.
At the same time, Foot Locker reported strong numbers last quarter that comprised positive comparable sales growth and gross margin expansion. Nike (NYSE:NKE), who is Foot Locker’s largest brand partner, just reported very strong 10% constant-currency revenue growth in its most recent quarter. Lululemon (NASDAQ:LULU), who doesn’t sell through Foot Locker but nonetheless is an important player in the athletic apparel market, also reported strong revenue growth last quarter.
Broadly, then, athletic apparel adoption tailwinds remain alive and well, while trade war headwinds have been put on pause for the foreseeable future. That combination means that Foot Locker likely had good a Q2, and that management will issue a favorable guide. In response, beaten up FL stock should rally.
Reporting Date: July 24
The Thesis: Shares of electric vehicle maker Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) were hammered in early 2019 amid a global auto and EV demand slowdown which negatively impacted Tesla’s first quarter delivery numbers. The consensus thesis became that the best of the Tesla growth narrative was over. In response, TSLA stock crashed.
But that consensus thesis was disproved by a strong Q2 delivery report, in which Tesla delivered a record number of vehicles. TSLA stock rallied after the Q2 delivery report. But it’s still well below where it was following the bad Q1 delivery report, and that’s mostly because investors want to see how margins played out in Q2. Given the rampant increase in scale, it’s likely that margins similarly moved higher in Q2. Thus, the Q2 earnings report should also reaffirm that Tesla’s bad Q1 was an anomaly that won’t repeat.
If so, TSLA stock has runway to retake the $300 level this summer. It also helps that 30% of the float is short — a historically large number, even for Tesla — so in the event that second quarter numbers are good, TSLA stock is positioned for a huge short squeeze rally.
AMC Entertainment (AMC)
Reporting Date: August 7 (estimate)
The Thesis: Following a record year in 2018, box office results have been sluggish through the first half of 2019. Year-to-date through June, box office sales were down over 9% relative to 2018. As the box office has been sluggish, so have shares of America’s largest movie theater operator, AMC Entertainment (NYSE:AMC). Year-to-date, AMC stock is down 20%.
But not all hope is lost for AMC stock. Thanks to the huge success of the most recent Spider-Man movie, July box office revenues are up slightly year-over-year. This renewed box office growth will likely persist into the end of the year, given the upcoming releases of Lion King, Frozen 2, and a new Star Wars movie. At the same time, AMC’s subscription movie-going program, Stubs A-List, is gaining tremendous traction.
All in all, I think AMC’s next earnings report will be quite good. The trailing three month numbers might not be the best. Bu, the guide will likely be good, and management will likely talk up the success of Stubs A-List on the call. That will be enough good news to get shorts – who represent a whopping 30% of the float – to cover, and spark a big rally in AMC stock.
Reporting Date: August 22 (estimate)
The Thesis: The story at Chinese e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) is similar to the story at peer JD.Com. Calendar 2018 was a rough year, defined by slowing consumer strength, falling revenue growth rates, and compressing margins. But calendar 2019 has been very different. The Chinese consumer is starting to bounce back. Revenue growth rates at Alibaba are stabilizing. Margin expansion is coming back into the picture.
As these new and favorable trends persist throughout 2019, Alibaba should report solid numbers. Those solid numbers will converge on a relatively cheap (only 26-times forward earnings, versus a five year average forward multiple of 29) and beaten-up (11% off 2019 highs) BABA stock. This convergence should result a healthy rally in Alibaba stock.
As of this writing, Luke Lango was long FB, CROX, JD, FL, NKE, LULU, TSLA, AMC, and BABA.
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