After a mixed first half, appliance sales seem to be holding up. Whether investors can clean up with Whirlpool (WHR) - Get Report will find out when the company reports fiscal third-quarter earnings Tuesday.
Earlier this year, Whirlpool was one of the best-performing stocks in the S&P 500. But at the end of April, the company missed the first quarter and investors dumped the stock. Year to date the stock, now at around $169, is up about 16%.
However, If appliance sales hold up through the U.S. election, Britain's departure from the EU and currency fluctuations, I think the stock can get to the $180s.
Whirlpool reported first-quarter earnings of $2.63 per share, 6 cents worse than the consensus estimate. Revenue fell 4.7% to $4.62 billion. Foreign exchange took 1% out of the results. Despite the miss, management seemed confident they would be able to meet 2016 guidance. At the end of the first quarter, the company saw earnings between $14 and $14.75 per share.
The company turned things around for the second quarter. At the end of July, Whirlpool reported earnings of $3.50 per share, 10 cents better than expected. Revenue fell 0.2% to $5.2 billion versus the $5.11 billion consensus. Management felt so confident with how the business was shaping up, they raised the bottom end of its previous guidance by 25 cents.
After the second-quarter report, the stock made a double top by early August. Since then the shares drifted lower as investors anticipate the third quarter report on Tuesday.
On Sept., the World Trade Organization ruled in favor of Korea in a decision related to a 2011 anti-dumping case against Korean appliance makers. WHR fell 8% on the news. The United States must now reduce its antidumping and countervailing duties against Korean-made machines, such as those from Daewoo, LG and Samsung.
This decision won't have much effect on Whirlpool or the North American laundry market, since shortly after the duties were imposed, the Korean manufacturers shifted production to China. The United States has already filed a dumping complaint against laundry machines made in China, but that case will not be resolved for years. So, in essence, the competitive landscape is unchanged.
Whirlpool was never a revenue growth story. The real story was margin expansion.
Gross margins are expected to rise from 18.8% in 2016 to 19.1% in 2017, compared to 17.7% in 2015, due to improved productivity, a richer product mix and a rebound in shipments. Operating margins should increase from 7.5% in 2015 to 8.4% in 2016 and could get as high as 9% in 2017.
For the third quarter, analysts are looking for earnings of $3.88 on sales of $5.3 billion. That would represent a 0.8% increase in revenue.
Appliance sales seem to be holding up, since home sales continue to rise. As recently as August, the Commerce Department said purchases of new single-family homes rose 12.4% in July from a month earlier to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 654,000 homes. That was the highest level since October 2007. Through the first even months of the year, new home sales also rose 12.4%, compared with the same period last year.
Next year, revenue is expected to be flat at $20.8 billion, but earnings are expected to jump between 16% and 17% to $17.21. At the current price the stock is trading at just 9.3 times 2017 estimates. Historically, the stock trades between 9 and 11 times estimates.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.