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Stryker's Still Too Risky

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- There's not much anyone can do whenever the Street has made up its mind about fundamental metrics on which it wants focus. Nor can we control what the Street decides to completely ignore. But I can't see how shares of Stryker (SYK - Get Report) makes any sense at these levels.

The last time we discussed this company, I told you that the stock was too expensive. Not only was Stryker (at the time) trading at a P/E of 21, which (then) exceeded the industry average of 20, but the stock was also trading at a P/E three points and four points higher than rivals Zimmer Holding (ZMH) and Covidien (COV), respectively.

If that was not enough, add the fact that the company was mired in legal battles due to product recalls for two of its artificial hip implants. Even then, the stock was up 20%.

Now, following another subpar quarter, I'm even more concerned about the growth challenges that lie ahead, even if the Street believes the company will get by unscathed.

It's pointless to dispute Stryker's strong market position. I won't disagree that the company has a solid lead in the in the orthopedic and medical technology market where it competes with (among others) Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Medtronic (MDT). But that's not the issue here.

What concerns me is, as seen by the stock's recent 52-week high and 11% gain over the past three months, investors are already pricing in a victory over the recall situation. Whether or not this works in your favor, it doesn't excuse the fact that this is a dumb bet and completely unnecessary. Bulls will disagree.

However, before you send your emails, consider that in the most recent quarter the company earned 56 cents per share on revenue of $2.21 billion. The earnings-per-share amounted to $213 million, which means that earnings declined by 35% since the April quarter. For a stock that is trading at such enormous expectations, while carrying above-average risk, I don't believe that investors should be please with 4% organic growth.

As with the April quarter, I wasn't all that impressed with Stryker's segmental performance. While the company did well in orthopedics, growing by more than 7%, the company's MedSurg segment grew just 4% (as reported). Even its Stryker's hip and knee business, which both grew in mid-single-digits, the company didn't meaningfully outperform Johnson & Johnson, which carries significantly less investment risk.

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