Herbalife (NYSE:HLF) is no stranger to headlines. We all remember the wild moves on the verbal jabs between two titans of investing. Bill Ackman openly shorted the stock and Carl Icahn fiercely defended it. The fight went on for months but has since faded away.
Source: Aybek Erkinov via Flickr
Today, HLF stock is moving on a different kind of headline. Last night they reported earnings and investors hated the results. They missed both on the top and bottom lines. Also they made no headway against last year’s numbers so there was little to celebrate.
These day traders are quick to sell stock on even good reports, so they will sure sell the bad one. To make matters worse, management guided full-year numbers that are lower than anticipated. That alone is reason enough to crater the Herbalife stock. Frankly I am surprised that the drop isn’t bigger than this 4% dip on headline. Perhaps it is because the stock came into the earnings down 10% already when the S&P 500 is up 16% year to date.
What’s Next for HLF Stock
So is this a good time to catch the falling knife? Unfortunately there isn’t one definitive answer because it all depends on the investor time frame and thesis.
Fundamentally, HLF is not cheap. It sells at a 26 trailing price-to-earnings ratio, which is almost twice that of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), for example. This could be symptomatic of the industry because it is in line with Nu Skin (NYSE:NUS) valuation.
Nevertheless, if there is trouble on Wall Street, I’d bet that there is much more froth to come out of the HLF stock. This is not a knock against the company or its prospects. This is more to do with assessing the downside risk should the selling persist.
This week, we have seen more negative rhetoric calling for marketwide tops. Although I disagree with them, I have to respect the possibility that they are correct. This is proper risk management — regardless of my own opinion, I have to consider all scenarios in play.
Technically, HLF stock has a ton of trouble looming just below the surface. But luckily, so far the bulls have succeeded in defending the $50 level. In fact while the S&P 500 fell into its lows in December, Herbalife climbed higher from its bottom two months earlier. That is a sign of solid support.
The bad news is, that makes the line very important to hold. If for any reason the bulls lose it, then they trigger a bearish pattern to target $47.50 first then $42 or lower. This again is not a forecast, but it is one of the possible scenarios at hand.
Last night’s earnings report did not hold much good news, so it is hard to gauge if the weakness in their business will persist. Hopefully management guided lower to a number that they can actually beat, so they can over-deliver in three months.
The macroeconomic environment still favors the bullish thesis, but there are a lot of geopolitical threats that loom — mainly from the tariff wars. Sentiment, while much improved from last year, is still delicate. The bulls have one foot out the door at all times while we are still close to an all-time high.
The currency markets have been wild of late due to manipulation from the global central banks. This no doubt played a role in hurting Herbalife’s business. Regardless, the sales line needs to show growth for the company to continue to command its premium on Wall Street. Otherwise investors will reconsider their valuations for it.
This is a bottom that should hold even after the bad news of the quarter. So if I am already long I can hold out a few more ticks with proper stop losses. But if I want to start a new position now, it should be a fundamental one, meaning I’d be ready to hold it for the long term in case the price continues lower.
Otherwise, I’d classify it as a tactical trade and I’d need to be nimble with my stop orders. Else I’d risk turning a trade into an investment.
Nicolas Chahine is the managing director of SellSpreads.com. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. You can follow him as @racernic on Twitter and Stocktwits.
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