One of the standouts of today's afternoon trading session has been Waste Management, which logged a -1.2% drop and underperformed the S&P 500 by -1.0%. The Environmental Services stock is now trading at $162.84 per share and is -7.8% below its average target price of $176.61. Analysts have set target prices ranging from $162.0 to 200.0 dollars per share, and have given the stock an average rating of buy.
The market seems to share this optimistic view, since Waste Management has a short interest of only 1.1% (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.
Another way to gauge the sentiment on Waste Management is to look at the percentage of institutions that are invested in the stock. In this case, 83.4% of the shares are held by pension, mutual, and hedge funds, which shows that these institutions probably have strong confidence in the stock.
If institutions are invested in a particular stock, it shows in most cases that they have performed quality research and concluded that it is a good investment. In some cases, however, increases in institutional ownership could be a sign of a takeover attempt or proxy fight, which can actually injure share prices. Also, institutions are not infallible, and can certainly make miscalculations -- often with spectacular results.
To sum up, Waste Management is probably the subject of mixed market sentiment because of an analyst consensus of some upside potential, a buy rating, a very low short interest, and a significant 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 WM:
The stock has trailing 12 month earnings per share (EPS) of $5.45
Waste Management has a trailing 12 month Price to Earnings (P/E) ratio of 29.9 compared to the S&P 500 average of 15.97
The company has a Price to Book (P/B) ratio of 9.75 in contrast to the S&P 500's average ratio of 2.95
Waste Management is a Utilities company, and the sector average P/E and P/B ratios are 22.89 and 1.03 respectively