Warren Buffett is easily the most recognizable value investor in the world. He didn’t invent the idea – his college instructor and mentor, Benjamin Graham, gets credit for pioneering the concept of determining how much a company should be worth based on its book of business – but he may be the most successful value investor of all time. The annual reports he has written for decades for Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) are major events for other value investors for the insights they offer about his investing methods and attitudes about current market conditions. He’s also pretty quotable; one of my personal favorites among his many descriptions about value investing refers to it as “buying a good stock at a nice price.”
One of the most impressive-performing sectors in the market throughout the year has been the Consumer Discretionary sector; as of this writing, and as measured by the SPDR Select Consumer Discretionary ETF (XLY), the broad sector has increased in value by more than 13% year-to-date. On a more focused scale, department stores have been a mixed bag; some, like TGT, KSS, and M have increased by 30 to 50% or more, while others, like JWN and DDS have only seen modest increases in price.
Macy’s Inc. (M) is an interesting case, not only for its impressive performance year-to-date, but also for the fact that despite the fact that is nearly 31% higher so far this year, it remains deeply discounted; after hitting a peak at around $42 in mid-August, the stock has dropped back nearly 22% to its current levels. That actually doesn’t even speak to the fact that at its current price, this fundamentally solid company is trading at an extreme discount based on more than one of my favorite valuation metrics.
Fundamental and Value Profile
Macy’s, Inc. is an omnichannel retail company operating stores, Websites and mobile applications under various brands, such as Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury. The Company sells a range of merchandise, including apparel and accessories (men’s, women’s and children’s), cosmetics, home furnishings and other consumer goods. Its subsidiaries provide various support functions to its retail operations. Its bank subsidiary, FDS Bank, provides credit processing, certain collections, customer service and credit marketing services in respect of all credit card accounts that are owned either by Department Stores National Bank (DSNB), which is a subsidiary of Citibank N.A., or FDS Bank. The private label brands offered by the Company include Alfani, American Rag, Aqua, Bar III, Belgique, Charter Club, Club Room, Epic Threads, first impressions, Giani Bernini, Greg Norman for Tasso Elba, Holiday Lane, Home Design, Hotel Collection, John Ashford, Karen Scott, Thalia Sodi and lune+aster. M’s current market cap is $10.1 billion.
- Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings increased almost 23%, while sales were flat, increasing not quite .5%. In the last quarter, earnings showed the same kind of growth, at almost 23%, and sales growth of just over .5%. M’s margin profile has narrowed, from about 6.6% over the last twelve months to 2.88% in the last quarter.
- Free Cash Flow: M’s free cash flow is healthy, at about $1.5 billion for the trailing twelve month period and translates to a Free Cash Flow yield of a little over 15%.
- Debt to Equity: M has a debt/equity ratio of .93, a relatively low number that indicates the company operates with a conservative philosophy about leverage. Their balance sheet indicates operating profits are more than adequate to service their debt, with healthy flexibility from cash and liquid assets as well.
- Dividend: M pays an annual dividend of $1.51 per share, which translates to a yield of 4.52% at the stock’s current price.
- Price/Book Ratio: there are a lot of ways to measure how much a stock should be worth; but one of the simplest methods that I like uses the stock’s Book Value, which for M is $19.20 per share and translates to a Price/Book ratio of 1.71 at the stock’s current price. Their historical Price/Book average is 3.06, which suggests that the stock is trading at a discount right now of nearly 79%. Their Price/Cash Flow ratio is a little less optimistic, since it is currently running “only” 42% its historical averages. Between the two measurements, the long-term target price could lie anywhere in a range between $47 and $58 per share.
Here’s a look at the stock’s latest technical chart.
- Current Price Action/Trends and Pivots: The red diagonal line traces the stock’s upward trend over the past year and which reached its high in mid-August at around $42. It also informs the Fibonacci retracement lines shown on the right-hand side of the chart. The stock’s retracement from its 52-week high has put the stock almost on top of the support level shown by the 38.2% retracement level. It isn’t a given the stock will reverse and move higher off of that support level, but it does look like a good level to start looking for a move back to the upside.
- Near-term Keys: The $30 range shown by the 50% retracement level also coincides with previous pivot levels; if the stock breaks below its current support level, a drop to that level could offer an even better value opportunity if you’re willing to work with a long-term perspective. If you prefer to work with short-term trading methods, you’ll need to wait to see the stock actually start to move higher off of its current support level and breaks above the $34 level to think about buying the stock or working with call options, while a break below $32 could offer an interesting opportunity to short the stock or start buying put options.