Editor's Note

Oil prices went on yet another wild ride, falling nearly -2.5% to hit a new low.

The support garnered from rumor seems to have worn off, now it looks like the slide in energy prices will deepen. If the market does not disconnect from oil prices hopes for a bounce back, rally or reversal may evaporate into thin air. The silver lining is that the more oil prices decline the more talk we'll hear about a deal to support prices, and maybe we'll even get one.

What I'm waiting for is for more obvious signs that low oil prices are helping the consumer and business. Earnings so far this season, while bad overall in terms of S&P 500 earnings growth, are much better than expected.


NEW BULLISH Plays


JBHT- JBHunt Transportation - Company Profile

While the majority of the transportation sector has been in decline in response to lower energy costs trucker JBHunt has been expanding its fleet, hiring new drivers and increasing load volumes across the country. In its most recent earnings report the company produced EPS in line with estimates but it is the internal data that is most promising.

JBHunt Transport services and its wholly owned subsidiaries is a diversified transportation and logistics company operating throughout North American. Operations are centered in the United States with some portions operating in Canada and Mexico. The company operates in the intermodal space using its own fleet and to some extent third party operators in 4 sub-segments.

Why We Like It

Fourth quarter results were good. Earnings were in line with expectations on flat revenue but as mentioned, it is the internals that are most interesting. Q4 operating income was up 5% over the previous year with a 9% increase in EPS. Full year results include a 13% increase in operating income with a 16% increase in EPS. Full year revenue was flat, not something we necessarily want to see, but when taken in light of lower fuel surcharges is not the red flag it would seem to be. Remember, in recent years revenues among the entire transportation sector have been inflated due to surcharges related to what were then record fuel prices.

Three of the four business segments showed notable increases. The Integrated Capacity Solutions segment, management of third party transportation services, showed a 4% decline in revenue due to decreased spot market activity and lower revenue per load. The other three segments; Intermodal, Dedicated Contract Services and Trucking all showed notable increases in revenue of 1%, 2%, and 3% respectively for a total operating revenue increase of 9%.

Drivers of the gains, no pun intended, include increases in new customers, revenue realizations from previous rate increases, improved fuel economy, lower maintenance costs attributed to newer equipment, less reliance on third party shippers, increased fleet size and improving margins. These were offset by higher wages and increased costs of recruitment and retaining employees but those cost are ultimately a sign of ongoing improvement in the labor market and the consumer that will eventuall spill over into this and other segments of the economy.

Earnings results are all well and good but the reason why we really like this stock is two-fold; a recent dividend increase and a couple of analyst upgrades. The board of directors approved and announced a 5% increase to the dividend on January 28th. According to the board earnings and free cash flow warrant the increase. As for upgrades there were two; one in early January and another just after the earnings report was released. The stock was upgraded from hold to buy at BB&T and from peer perform to outperform by Wolfe Research. Based on the average analyst target of $87.14 there is still a minimum upside potential of 16%.

Our play; buy the May $80 call with a trigger price of $76.00.




NEW BEARISH Plays


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