The move comes on the back of a stronger-than-expected earnings report, following the stock's impressive move so far this year. Shares of GM are now up almost 20% so far on the year, although they are roughly flat over the past 12 months.
EPS of $1.40 came in 19 cents ahead of expectations, while revenue of $38.4 billion grew 1.9% year-over-year and crushed estimates of $36 billion by $2.4 billion. That's a huge beat that isn't really being reflected in Wednesday's rally.
Making the beats more impressive? Just a few weeks ago, General Motors said it expects its 2018 full-year guidance to come in ahead of its own expectations (which were strong when issued in the prior quarter as well), while also issuing stronger-than-expected 2019 guidance. So, analysts and investors already knew the fourth quarter was going to be good and then management still comes out with better-than-expected results.
That's impressive execution from CEO Mary Barra & Co., not to mention positive guidance for 2019. When issued on Jan. 11, consensus estimates called for earnings of $5.95 per share, a decline from 2018. However, management expects earnings growth, with results coming in somewhere between $6.50 and $7 a share.
If GM hits near the midpoint, that will represent growth -- albeit barely -- from 2018's full-year earnings results of $6.54 per share. However, the point isn't whether GM grows earnings 1% or 5% in 2019. It's the fact that, despite how poorly investors continue to think the company is doing, the automaker is actually doing much better. It is slimming itself via a restructure while economic times are still good to properly position itself for the future. It continues to grow its sales and earnings, even during a time where U.S. auto sales are stagnating and when China, GM's largest market, is failing to grow for the first time in two decades.
All the while, we have a stock that pays a near-4% dividend yield and trades at roughly 6 times 2018 earnings and the low end of its 2019 guidance range. Should GM hit the high end of its range with earnings of $7 per share, it will trade at just 5.5 times earnings.
Despite all this, GM stock just doesn't get that much love. Its rallies tend to fade and investors just don't buy into its good story. They don't care that GM continues to execute or that its Cruise asset has gone from a $1 billion valuation to $14.6 billion in just a few year's time.
It's as if everyone has assumed the global economy will plummet any day now and as a result, they have one foot out the door and are not willing to buy GM, Ford (F) - Get Report , Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) - Get Report , Daimler (DDAIF) or any other automaker, perhaps with the exception of Tesla (TSLA) - Get Report . But one could argue that GM is executing better than all of these automakers and deserves to trade higher.
At the very least, though, GM is getting some love over the last six weeks and has been drifting higher since it raised its outlook a few weeks ago. Today's breakout seems relatively muted, but not so much when considering how much it has rallied. As long as GM holds this $39 level and the market doesn't go into turmoil, a drift up to $44 doesn't seem out of the question, although it won't happen overnight.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author had no positions in the stocks mentioned.