) -- Airline industry analysts love consolidation, but it sure hasn't done much for airline stocks.
In a report issued Wednesday, J.P. Morgan analyst Jamie Baker wrote that in the 19 days following the first newspaper report on April 7 of merger talks between
( UAUA) and
, shares in nearly every airline have declined. He sees a buying opportunity as a result.
The first report, in a
New York Times
column that covers the investment banking community, said that United was in merger talks with US Airways. Subsequently,
aside, calling it an
and reached a
During the 19-days that followed, while the S&P 500 lost 1%, stock in
fell 13%. Continental,
all dropped 2%.
( AAI) fell 1%.
On the plus side,
gained 6% and US Airways gained 2%, based on the perception they are acquisition candidates. United gained 4%.
In the past 30 days, Baker noted, declines have been even steeper. While the S&P Index has fallen 4%, the drop in airline stocks has ranged between a 6% decline for Alaska and a 22% drop for American.
During the period, Baker wrote, the price of oil has dropped about $5 a barrel, demand data released during earnings reports has been favorable, price targets have been raised for most carriers and ongoing consolidation indicates that capacity will likely decline. So the share decline is counter-intuitive.
"We're not fans of 'buy on weakness' calls, but that's what this is," Baker said. He recommended Delta and Southwest. But, he added, "for those who can stomach greater volatility, AMR's lagging year-to-date performance suggests that should management better execute, meaningful relative out-performance may potentially occur."
-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.