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Nike Stock Rally Could Be Tested With Thursday Earnings … Or Not

Luke Lango

Shares of Nike (NYSE:NKE) have roared higher over the past three months as investor confidence has returned to financial markets. After the shares dropped to $68 in mid December, NKE stock has rallied nearly 30%, and done so with essentially zero volatility (the biggest drop in the last three months was a 2% slip in early March).

This rally in Nike stock is about to get a gut check with its after-the-bell earnings report on Thursday. If those numbers are good, that will confirm the legitimacy of that three-month NKE stock rally and the shares should remain on an uptrend. If they aren’t good, the opposite could happen. Investors will question the legitimacy of the big 2019 rally. They will sell. The stock will drop.

So, here’s the big question: will the numbers be good?

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They should be. All signs point to the thesis that Nike continues to fire on all cylinders in a still red-hot global athletic apparel industry. As such, the quarterly numbers should be good. They should confirm the stock’s big year-to-date rally. Importantly, they should keep Nike stock on a winning path.

Investment game-plan? Stay the course with this long-term winner. If it pops after earnings, stick with the rally. If it drops, add on the dip. In the big picture, NKE stock remains a buy-and-hold move for the long haul.

Nike Is (Still) Firing On All Cylinders

The big rally in Nike stock over the past year has been powered by one big picture idea: Nike is firing on all cylinders again. Long story short, after ceding share to smaller athletic apparel players in 2015/16, Nike has punched back in 2017/18, and won back almost all of the share it lost in the previous two years. As the company has done this, Nike stock has run up to new all-time highs.

Key evidence supporting this narrative? Here are the important data points:

  • Domestic and global search trends remain healthy and imply strong year-over-year growth in brand interest and awareness.
  • Web traffic share remains stable, and Nike remains the number one sports shopping website globally.
  • Foot Locker (NYSE:FL) just reported a robust double-beat quarter that included impressive 10% comparable sales growth. Essentially 70% of Foot Locker’s product is Nike product, so Nike stuff is clearly selling well. Further, Foot Locker management said on the conference call that both Nike and Jordan were very healthy during the quarter.
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods (NYSE:DKS) didn’t report great holiday quarter numbers. But, management did say several times on the conference call that they were very enthusiastic about the Nike brand because of the product Nike is bringing to market.
  • Both Skechers (NYSE:SKX) and Under Armour (NYSE:UAA) reported strong quarterly numbers recently that revealed two common themes: stabilized global revenue growth and big gross margin improvement. Broadly speaking, these reports imply that the global athletic apparel space remains hot, and that competitive pressures in the market are easing and allowing for margin expansion.

Overall, it appears that Nike is set to report strong quarterly numbers. The company is firing on all cylinders in a red-hot athletic apparel industry that is benefiting from broad revenue growth and margin improvements.

Nike’s quarterly numbers will look something like high single-digit revenue growth and healthy margin expansion. Those numbers will be more than good enough to keep Nike stock on a near-term winning trajectory.

Nike Stock is a Long-Term Winner

In the big picture, Nike stock is a buy-and-hold stock for the long run. Why? Because Nike has dominated the secular growth athletic apparel industry for the past 20-plus years, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

There are two big pieces here: One is that the athletic apparel space will continue to grow over the next several years. Broadly speaking, lifestyle apparel continues to converge on athletic apparel and power robust growth across the whole crossover athleisure category. This is a byproduct of consumers globally wanting to lead more active, fit, and healthy lifestyles, as well as be more comfortable and casual in everyday wear. Thus, so long as those trends persist, the athletic apparel space should continue to grow its share of the global retail pie over the next several years.

The other is that Nike is the king of this space, has been for a long time, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Time and time again, competitive threats emerge to challenge Nike’s dominance. Every time, Nike punches back, neutralizes the threat, and proceeds to only extend dominance. Just look at Under Armour and Adidas (OTCMKTS:ADDYY), once-red-hot athletic apparel brands that have cooled dramatically over the past several quarters as Nike has fought back.

Overall, then, expect Nike to remain the leader in a secular growth category for a lot longer. So long as Nike maintains this leadership position, Nike stock will head higher.

Bottom Line on NKE Stock

Nike stock is a long-term winner that’s firing on all cylinders right now. That positions the stock favorably heading into this week’s earnings report. It seems like good numbers are already mostly priced in, so you might not get a big post earnings pop in NKE stock, but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that strong numbers will keep Nike stock on a long-term winning trajectory.

As of this writing, Luke Lango was long NKE, FL, and SKX. 

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