It’s fair to say that over the past month, CSX (NASDAQ:CSX) has come off the rails. During the past month, CSX stock sunk as the transportation giant reported miserable second-quarter numbers in mid-July.
Revenues missed expectations by a wide margin, the biggest miss since early 2016. Earnings also missed expectations by the widest margin in the past five years. More important, the full-year guide was cut sharply to well-below consensus levels.
Ever since, CSX stock has dropped nearly 20%.
Some contrarian investors might see this big drop in CSX as an opportunity to buy into a company that ostensibly seems very stable. But, while I love to play the contrarian, I don’t think buying the dip in CSX here is the right move.
The reality is that CSX stock has come off the rails, and there’s no reason to step in the way of this “off the rails” train just yet. The fundamentals are weak and will likely get worse before they get better. The optics are ugly and won’t improve anytime soon. Meanwhile, the analyst community is growing increasingly bearish and won’t provide any support; neither will the technicals, since CSX has blown through pretty much all of its important technical and psychological levels.
In sum, then, there’s no reason to step in the way of this sell-off just yet. Instead, the smart move here is let this sell-off play out, and then buy the dip once the fundamentals, optics, and technicals become more supportive of a rebound rally.
The Rail Industry Is off the Rails
The 20% plunge in CSX stock over the past month is not unique to this specific company. Instead, it is part of a more wide-sweeping sell-off across the entire rail industry.
Alongside CSX, peer rail transport companies Norfolk Southern (NYSE:NSC), Union Pacific (NYSE:UNP), and Trinity (NYSE:TRN) all reported Q2 revenue misses with sluggish volume growth. All four stocks have fallen 8% or more over the past month.
Under the hood, the trade war is having a materially negative impact on the U.S. manufacturing sector. When the manufacturing sector slows, demand for rail transport slows, too, since companies are responding by transporting less volume, less frequently.
When volumes drop, margins take a hit because costs aren’t coming out of the system as quickly as volumes are dropping. Further, this pain may just be beginning. The trade war has escalated over the past few weeks, and as it has, it’s become increasingly clear that elevated trade tensions and slowing manufacturing activity are here to stay for the foreseeable future.
As such, the outlook for CSX and the entire rail industry over the next several months is sluggish volume growth alongside potential margin compression. That’s a losing combo.
No Reason to Buy the Dip Yet
At some point, this dip in CSX becomes a compelling buying opportunity, since CSX is a stable company with healthy long term growth prospects.
But, that point isn’t here yet. Instead, at the current moment, there’s very little reason to step in the way of this CSX stock sell-off.
First, as outlined above, rail industry fundamentals aren’t good now, nor do they project to improve anytime soon given trade war escalation. Second, CSX isn’t a standout in this industry. Instead, they’ve been hit like everyone else during this rail slowdown, reporting negative revenue growth last quarter.
Third, the optics here are bad. Investors quite simply do not want trade war exposure at the current moment. CSX stock has a ton of trade war exposure. As such, it is unlikely that investors will be attracted to the stock anytime soon.
Further, analysts are cutting estimates and the number of Buy recommendations on the stock has dropped from 11 at the beginning of the year, to five today, according to YCharts. Thus, there isn’t much support from the analyst community, either, and without that support, investors likely aren’t inclined to buy the dip in bulk.
Fourth, the technicals are broken. During this most recent sell-off, CSX blew through its 20-day, 50-day, and 200-day moving averages without any regard for those technical support levels. The next psychological level of support comes in at $65, where the stock has shown resilience before. Until the stock does show support there, there’s little reason to believe that there’s much technical support in this stock anywhere.
Overall, there’s simply very little reason to step in the way of this sell-off today. It increasingly appears that there’s more pain ahead for CSX. Investors should only buy the dip once it appears that the worst has passed.
Bottom Line on CSX Stock
Things are bad at CSX right now. The unfortunate reality is that things will probably get worse before they get better. That means that the recent 20% plunge in CSX stock isn’t an opportunity. Instead, the stock will likely sell-off more before it bottoms.
As such, now isn’t the time to buy the dip in CSX stock. Rather, it’s time to steer clear.
As of this writing, Luke Lango did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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