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Should Value Investors Pick Alaska Air Group (ALK) Now?

Zacks Equity Research

Value investing is easily one of the most popular ways to find great stocks in any market environment. After all, who wouldn’t want to find stocks that are either flying under the radar and are compelling buys, or offer up tantalizing discounts when compared to fair value?

One way to find these companies is by looking at several key metrics and financial ratios, many of which are crucial in the value stock selection process. Let’s put Alaska Air Group, Inc. ALK stock into this equation and find out if it is a good choice for value-oriented investors right now, or if investors subscribing to this methodology should look elsewhere for top picks:

PE Ratio

A key metric that value investors always look at is the Price to Earnings Ratio, or PE for short. This shows us how much investors are willing to pay for each dollar of earnings in a given stock, and is easily one of the most popular financial ratios in the world. The best use of the PE ratio is to compare the stock’s current PE ratio with: a) where this ratio has been in the past; b) how it compares to the average for the industry/sector; and c) how it compares to the market as a whole.

On this front, Alaska Air Group has a trailing twelve months PE ratio of 14.00, as you can see in the chart below:



This level actually compares pretty favorably with the market at large, as the PE for the S&P 500 stands at about 18.13. If we focus on the long-term PE trend, Alaska Air Group’s current PE level puts it below its midpoint of 12.80 over the past five years. Moreover, the current level stands well below the highs for the stock, suggesting that it can be a solid entry point.



Further, the stock’s PE also compares favorably with the Zacks Transportation sector’s trailing twelve months PE ratio, which stands at 15.66. At the very least, this indicates that the stock is relatively undervalued right now, compared to its peers.


 
We should also point out that Alaska Air Group has a forward PE ratio (price relative to this year’s earnings) of just 10.81, which is higher than the current level. So, it is fair to expect an increase in the company’s share price in the near term.

P/S Ratio

Another key metric to note is the Price/Sales ratio. This approach compares a given stock’s price to its total sales, where a lower reading is generally considered better. Some people like this metric more than other value-focused ones because it looks at sales, something that is far harder to manipulate with accounting tricks than earnings.

Right now, Alaska Air Group has a P/S ratio of about 0.94. This is a bit lower than the S&P 500 average, which comes in at 3.28x right now. Also, as we can see in the chart below, this is well below the highs for this stock in particular over the past few years.



If anything, this suggests some level of undervalued trading—at least compared to historical norms.

Broad Value Outlook

In aggregate, Alaska Air Group currently has a Value Score of A, putting it into the top 20% of all stocks we cover from this look. This makes Alaska Air Group a solid choice for value investors, and some of its other key metrics make this pretty clear too.

What About the Stock Overall?

Though Alaska Air Group might be a good choice for value investors, there are plenty of other factors to consider before investing in this name. In particular, it is worth noting that the company has a Growth Score of B and a Momentum Score of A. This gives ALK a Zacks VGM score — or its overarching fundamental grade — of A. (You can read more about the Zacks Style Scores here >>)

Meanwhile, the company’s recent earnings estimates have been mixed at best. The current year has seen one estimate go higher in the past sixty days compared to eight lower, while the next year estimate has seen two up and six down in the same time period.

This has had a dismal impact on the consensus estimate though as the current quarter consensus estimate has dropped by 3.6% in the past two months, while the full year estimate has inched lower by 3.9%. You can see the consensus estimate trend and recent price action for the stock in the chart below:

Alaska Air Group, Inc. Price and Consensus

Alaska Air Group, Inc. Price and Consensus

Alaska Air Group, Inc. price-consensus-chart | Alaska Air Group, Inc. Quote

Apart from this soft trend, the stock has just a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) which is why we are looking for in-line performance from the company in the near term.

Bottom Line

Alaska Air Group is an inspired choice for value investors, as it is hard to beat its incredible lineup of statistics on this front. However, with a sluggish industry rank (among Bottom 43% of more than 250 industries) and a Zacks Rank #3, it is hard to get too excited about this company overall. In fact, over the past two years, the Zacks Transportation-Airline industry has clearly underperformed the broader market, as you can see below:



So, value investors might want to wait for estimates and analyst sentiment to turn around in this name first, but once that happens, this stock could be a compelling pick.

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