Southwest Airlines (LUV) Stock Gains on Report Suggesting Strong Industry-Wide Performance

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Southwest Airlines (LUV) shares are up 1.52% to $42.96 in early market trading on Monday following a Barron's report Saturday suggesting that airline stocks could gain by as much as 50% in a year.

While Southwest is set to rise just like its counterparts, according to the report, it may be primed to do so at a much more modest rate due to the stock's already strong performance over the past three years.

"Southwest's share price has more than tripled in the past three years, to 34.22. But Southwest now trades at a premium to the group and could be challenged to perform as well as its peers from here. One of the keys to its past success has been offering low prices on high-frequency, short-haul flights, particularly between mid-size cities." said Barron's writer Jack Hough.

The report stated that the big four airline companies, Southwest, Delta Air Lines (DAL), United Continental (UAL) and American Airlines Group (AAL), could rise between 15% and 50% in a year.

This optimistic outlook is due to falling jet fuel prices due to the global supply glut of crude, economic growth and lessons the industry has learned about the negative impact of increasing capacity too quickly.

TheStreet Ratings team rates SOUTHWEST AIRLINES as a Buy with a ratings score of A-. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate SOUTHWEST AIRLINES (LUV) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, impressive record of earnings per share growth, solid stock price performance, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures and notable return on equity. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows low profit margins."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • LUV's revenue growth has slightly outpaced the industry average of 3.1%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 6.0%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • SOUTHWEST AIRLINES reported significant earnings per share improvement in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES increased its bottom line by earning $1.65 versus $1.06 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($3.36 versus $1.65).
  • Powered by its strong earnings growth of 200.00% and other important driving factors, this stock has surged by 26.95% over the past year, outperforming the rise in the S&P 500 Index during the same period. Looking ahead, the stock's sharp rise over the last year has already helped drive it to a level which is relatively expensive compared to the rest of its industry. We feel, however, that other strengths this company displays justify these higher price levels.
  • Net operating cash flow has increased to $1,452.00 million or 29.75% when compared to the same quarter last year. Despite an increase in cash flow, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES's cash flow growth rate is still lower than the industry average growth rate of 74.17%.
  • The current debt-to-equity ratio, 0.39, is low and is below the industry average, implying that there has been successful management of debt levels. Despite the fact that LUV's debt-to-equity ratio is low, the quick ratio, which is currently 0.57, displays a potential problem in covering short-term cash needs.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: LUV Ratings Report

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