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Investment

Cramer explains why analysts missed the rally in Boeing's soaring stock

Since the beginning of 2017, Jim Cramer has watched the stock of Boeing soar far above the rest of the Dow Jones Industrial average.

“The aircraft maker is up more than 50 percent year to date, leaving the second-place performer, Apple, up 39 percent, not shabby, but in the dust,” the “Mad Money” host said. “But while I still like Boeing very much, and you know that, all this begs the question: how the heck did so many analysts miss this one? Why didn’t these highly paid professionals — the analysts, money managers — see this one coming?”

To put Boeing’s run in context, Cramer looked back to 2015, when shares of the aerospace giant began to trade sideways as investors worried about global growth, particularly in China.

Shares continued to stagnate through 2016, when Boeing underwent a change in leadership. Adding fuel to the fire, the company’s first quarterly report under its new CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, missed analyst estimates for the first time in years.

Boeing’s breakout came just before the 2016 election. The aircraft manufacturer reported a massive earnings beat in October, thanks in part to operational improvements that put the company on a path to profitability. Wall Street embraced the report despite the fact that Boeing’s revenues declined by 7.5 percent.

Since then, Boeing topped the Street’s estimates quarter after quarter, also helped by the rally in defense, transportation and industrial stocks in the wake of President Donald Trump’s victory.

“However, the real story has to do with cost savings,” Cramer said. “That’s how the company managed to give us phenomenal earnings despite occasionally lackluster sales.”

For Boeing, the cost cuts have come in the form of layoffs — over 2,000 workers have been laid off this year alone — and automation, as the company seeks to lower production costs.

“In short, the machines are taking over and it’s good for business, even if it stinks for all the people who’ve lost their jobs,” the “Mad Money” host said.

Boeing’s latest earnings report stayed true to its recent trajectory. Revenues were down over 8 percent year over year, but costs fell by more than 17 percent, and earnings per share exceeded analyst estimates.

Shares of Boeing flew 10 percent in response as analysts scrambled to raise their price targets and estimates for the aircraft maker, and, in five cases, to upgrade its stock rating.

“Now, the estimate bumps make sense. After all, Boeing boosted its own earnings outlook by roughly 6.5 percent,” Cramer said. “But why the heck did so many firms have sell ratings on the stock? Even before Boeing reported in late July it was the best performer in the Dow for 2017. It’s not like this has been some kind of stealth jet rally.”

Analysts at Buckingham Research Group, for one, had downgraded the stock in February from “neutral” to “underperform,” saying Boeing’s shares were priced perfectly and would soon sink due to a series of negative catalysts including downward estimate revisions from other firms.

“Couldn’t have been more wrong,” Cramer quipped.

Morgan Stanley analysts followed suit in March, taking Boeing down from “overweight” to “equal weight” due to a less favorable risk-reward setup. Cramer said they may have been too hasty.

“All this, I think, can be explained with one concept. … It’s UPOD. It’s under-promise and over-deliver,” the “Mad Money” host said. “Maybe more of these sell-side guys should realize that the company is being conservative. That’s the way they are. As long as they keep underestimating Boeing, you’re going to continue to get the chances for the stock to go higher.”

Yet its run has not gone unnoticed by investors. In the past few months, Boeing’s stock has gone from being inexpensive to being fairly pricey at 22 times next year’s earnings estimates.

But with its strong earnings momentum and favorable tailwinds, Cramer would not be surprised if even those estimates were too low for the manufacturing giant.

“Boeing managed to blow away the numbers late last month because the analysts still aren’t giving the CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, the credit he deserves,” he said. “And while more of them have gotten religion, there’s still a lot of holds on the darned thing, and I believe Boeing is being underestimated, meaning the stock, after marking some time here and going down a little, I think it could have more room to run.”

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Cramer explains why analysts missed the rally in Boeing's soaring stock

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