Shares of General Mills fell to $86.35 during today's afternoon trading session -- a decrease of -1.4% that still sees the stock 9.85% above its average analyst target price of $78.61. So there may be further downside for the Packaged Foods stock, which analysts rate as hold on average. Current target prices range from $63 to 90 dollars per share.
The market sentiment on the stock is decidedly optimistic, since General Mills has a short interest of only 2.5%. This is the percentage of the share float that is being shorted. Each short position represents an investor's expectation that the price of the stock will decrease in the future.
When a stock is sold short, it means an investor has borrowed shares of the stock from their broker, and then sold them at the going market price. The investor hopes for the price to decline, so that they might buy those shares back at a lower price in the future. Once they do, they can return the borrowed shares to their broker, and keep the profit they made on the transaction.
One way to get an idea of the market sentiment on a stock is to check its rate of institutional ownership. In the case of General Mills, institutional investors own 78.1% of the shares, which indicates they have a very high stake in the company. What does this really tell us?
Institutional investors such as hedge funds, investment firms, and wealth managers devote significant resources to identifying good investments. If they have decided to invest in GIS, it probably means they believe it is a solid investment choice.
But it could also mean they are buying up shares in an effort to acquire the company or to get seats on the board of directors. Also bear in mind that institutions are fallible (just maybe not quite as fallible as the average retail investor), so they may simply be wrong when they think they've found a good stock.
To sum up, General Mills is probably the subject of mixed market sentiment because of an analyst consensus of little upside potential, a hold rating, an average amount of shares sold short, and an average number of institutional investors. At Market Inference, we believe that any investment decision should be preceded by an in-depth analysis of the company's fundamental values and a comparison with similar stocks.
Here's a snapshot of some important facts to keep in mind about GIS:
The stock has trailing 12 month earnings per share (Eps) of $4.75
General Mills has a trailing 12 month Price to Earnings (P/E) ratio of 18.2 compared to the S&P 500 average of 15.97
The company has a Price to Book (P/B) ratio of 4.9 in contrast to the S&P 500's average ratio of 2.95
General Mills is a Consumer Defensive company, and the sector average P/E and P/B ratios are 24.21 and 4.09 respectively