Since falling to an October low of $14.65, shares of corporate advisory companyResources Connection (RECN) - Get Report have surged more than 16% to Thursday's closing price of just over $16 -- vastly outperforming the 9% rise in the S&P 500 (SPX) index during that span.
While this may not seem like a drastic upward stock movement for the 20-year old company, it does, however, put RECN shares near their January 2011 high. And ahead of its second-quarter fiscal 2016 earnings results, which are due out before the opening bell Wednesday, investors should consider taking their profits, including RECN's 3.65% year-to-date gains, and moving on to better prospects.
Why is the January 2011 high so important? Take a look below at the red arrow on the chart. It's taken RECN stock roughly five years to get back to its current level of around $17 a share.
In other words, even with an earnings beat Wednesday, investors who buy the stock at current levels risk having to hold shares that likely have peaked. Not to mention, absent groundbreaking earnings results and a glowing outlook for all of 2016, the shares are likely to pull back to their October low, especially after they've delivered more than 16% gains in only two months.
For the quarter that ended November, consensus earnings-per-share estimate calls for 25 cents a share on revenue of $154.88 million, translating to increases of 13.6% and 2.2%, respectively. For the full year, ending in May, earnings are projected to rise 13% to 85 cents a share, while revenue of $614 million would mark a rise of 4% above last year.
In fairness, despite the lackluster revenue growth, these projections do seem impressive. But on their own, they don't support the recent surge in the stock. Nor do they suggest that the gains are sustainable. At best, at around $17 -- priced at a P/E of 22, which is one point higher than the S&P 500 index -- the shares are fairly valued with limited upside potential.
Consider, based on fiscal 2016 consensus estimates of 85 cents a share, this puts RECN's forward P/E at 20, or three points higher than the S&P 500 index. And even based on fiscal 2017 estimates of 99 cents a share, the forward P/E is only in-line with the S&P 500 index, suggesting it's at that point RECN stock becomes fairly valued with the rest of the market.
In short, investors must reconcile where the premium is going to come from. It's likely for these reasons, the stock has a consensus hold rating and an average analyst 12-month price target of $18, just slightly above Thursday's closing price of $16.34. But should the stock fall back to their October low of around $14.65 then all bets are off.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.