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Heartland Express Inc. Stock Downgraded (HTLD)

Editor's Note: TheStreet ratings do not represent the views of TheStreet's staff or its contributors. Ratings are established by computer based on metrics for performance (which includes growth, stock performance, efficiency and valuation) and risk (volatility and solvency). Companies with poor cash flow or high debt levels tend to earn lower ratings in our model.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Heartland Express (Nasdaq:HTLD) has been downgraded by TheStreet Ratings from buy to hold. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its increase in net income, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures and notable return on equity. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including a generally disappointing performance in the stock itself and poor profit margins.

  • EXCLUSIVE OFFER: Jim Cramer's Protégé, Dave Peltier, only buys Stocks Under $10 that he thinks could potentially double. See what he's trading today with a 14-day FREE pass.

Highlights from the ratings report include:

  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Road & Rail industry average. The net income increased by 19.0% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $16.59 million to $19.73 million.
  • HTLD has no debt to speak of therefore resulting in a debt-to-equity ratio of zero, which we consider to be a relatively favorable sign. Along with this, the company maintains a quick ratio of 2.50, which clearly demonstrates the ability to cover short-term cash needs.
  • HEARTLAND EXPRESS INC has improved earnings per share by 21.1% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently. But, we feel it is poised for EPS growth in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, HEARTLAND EXPRESS INC reported lower earnings of $0.71 versus $0.78 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($0.80 versus $0.71).
  • The gross profit margin for HEARTLAND EXPRESS INC is currently lower than what is desirable, coming in at 25.40%. Regardless of HTLD's low profit margin, it has managed to increase from the same period last year. Despite the mixed results of the gross profit margin, the net profit margin of 14.69% trails the industry average.
  • HTLD has underperformed the S&P 500 Index, declining 7.70% from its price level of one year ago. Turning toward the future, the fact that the stock has come down in price over the past year should not necessarily be interpreted as a negative; it could be one of the factors that may help make the stock attractive down the road. Right now, however, we believe that it is too soon to buy.
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Heartland Express, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, operates as a short-to-medium-haul truckload carrier of general commodities in the United States. The company has a P/E ratio of 17.5, below the S&P 500 P/E ratio of 17.7. Heartland Express has a market cap of $1.11 billion and is part of the services sector and transportation industry. Shares are up 0.5% year to date as of the close of trading on Friday.

You can view the full Heartland Express Ratings Report or get investment ideas from our investment research center.

-- Written by a member of TheStreet Ratings Staff

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