MSC Industrial Direct (MSM - Get Report) , a specialist in metalworking and maintenance, will report second-quarter fiscal 2016 earnings results before the opening bell Wednesday. With the stock now trading near 52-week highs, taking some profits off the table ahead of the earnings report would be a wise move.
MSC Industrial is headquartered in New York and distributes an array of industrial products, including measuring instruments, tooling components, cutting tools and fasteners. Missing Wall Street's revenue estimates in four out of the past five quarters hasn't kept its shares from surging 33% year to date and 23% over the past six months.
Plus, since MSC stock bottomed at $54.19 on Jan. 4, the shares have skyrocketed 42% to a new 52-week high. That performance has bested the S&P 500 (SPX) index and has crushed the 7% year-to-date rise in the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT - Get Report) . Yet the company's revenue and earnings for both the just-ended quarter and fiscal year are projected to decline.
For the quarter that ended in February, MSC is expected to earn 78 cents per share on revenue of $685.75 million, translating to year-over-year declines of 7% and 3%, respectively. For the full year ending in August, earnings are projected to decline 3% year over year to $3.67 per share, while revenue of $2.88 billion would mark a decline of 1% from the year-ago quarter.
The trend in both quarterly and fiscal-year projections shows that revenue and profits have been hard to come by, thanks to the decline in U.S. manufacturing. And they're not expected to improve any time soon. Since the start of the just-ended quarter, earnings estimates for the quarter ending in May have also been reduced by a penny to 99 cents per share.
As MSC's earnings estimates have been reduced, its price-to-earnings ratio has increased, thanks to the rise in share price. That suggests that investors have disregarded analysts' warnings. As it stands, the stock is now priced at a forward P/E of 21, based on fiscal 2016 estimates of $3.67 per share. That P/E is four points higher than that of the average stock in the S&P 500 index.
The smart play here would be to lock in the past three months' gains, wait for management to issue guidance for fiscal 2016 and beyond, and then decide how to proceed. With such strong gains already on the table, moving on to stocks with better earnings prospects would be smart.