For frequent readers of the TheStreet, this probably comes as no surprise.
Both fellow contributor Ted Reed and I have been pounding the table, saying that Mulally would stay put. But there was always doubt since Mulally wouldn't confirm that fact himself.
Maybe there was no one around to pick up the news. Maybe it came as no surprise. But the piddly 1.5% move higher in Tuesday's after-hours trading session came as a bit of a surprise to me.
Maybe the price action will be different in Wednesday's pre-market action, or perhaps shares will drift higher throughout Wednesday's session as more casual investors catch wind of it.
Still, there is a lingering, almost eerie feel to the sluggish price action. Of course, it came as no surprise that shares of Microsoft (MSFT) fell on the announcement. Mulally has been rumored for months to be in line to replace CEO Steve Ballmer at Microsoft.
But Ford investors were surely hoping for a bigger pop in the share price.
December's weaker-than-expected auto sales figure could still be putting some pressure on the stock I suppose, but this Mulally nonsense has been dragging on for months. To have the unclarity removed should be seen as a good thing.
The reason for the stock failing to gain steam comes from one of three reasons (in my mind):
- Investors are not yet aware of the decision.
While it's a possibility, I sincerely doubt it. This is 2014, and news travels awfully quick. Still, it's possible.
- General Motors (GM) has had so many positive catalysts, along with short-term headwinds removed, that shareholders have sold F in favor of GM.
This seems quite logical actually. The Treasury recently exited its position in GM, while the company announced a seamless change in leadership from Dan Akerson to Mary Barra.
The company's luxury line, Cadillac, saw sales soar 21.9% in 2013, while GM's sales as a whole climbed 7% year-over-year. A respectable increase, considering that 2012's sales were nothing to sneeze at. Also, the Cadillac CTS just won the coveted Motor Trend Car of the Year award.
So there are definitely some reasons for investors to be excited about what's going on at GM. (I am, although I'm not an investor!).
- Investors were concerned about a Mulally departure, but are now worried about an actual succession plan.
Then what? Will he stay or will he retire? Will he let investors know in a timely manner? All of these questions create one thing that investors hate: Uncertainty.
It brings on the mindset of, sell first, ask questions later. While that's not literally the case with shares of Ford -- although they've certainly been lagging -- it's clear that something is holding back the stock price.
Perhaps it's a combination of several things. Perhaps prospective buyers are only semi-relieved to hear that Mulally is staying, but want clarity on what will happen beyond 2014.
Perhaps some of those investors sold Ford, bought GM, and are now waiting for the right time to switch back. Maybe that "right time" will come when Ford announces Mulally's future plans -- whatever they may be.
For the first six month of 2013, shares of Ford were up more than 15%, while shares of General Motors were just below that mark. So there was a high correlation.
However, any correlation in the past has been left for dead. At least, recently. Ford shares are down roughly 7.5%, while GM is up about 17.5% in the past three months. Huge difference.
Perhaps the news regarding Mulally will be what kickstarts a reversion to the mean. In plain English, perhaps Ford shares will begin to trend higher while shares of GM move lower, with both 'reverting to the mean.'
In any light, Mulally staying on board is a positive thing. The next big question now of course, is will he retire at the end of this year? Hopefully the answer isn't as hard to figure out as this most recent one was.
At the time of publication, the author was long shares of F.
-- Written by Bret Kenwell in Petoskey, Mich.
This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.