One of the standouts of today's afternoon trading session has been Williams Companies, which logged a -2.1% drop and underperformed the S&P 500 by -1.0%. The Oil & Gas Transportation and Processing stock is now trading at $33.56 per share and is -10.52% below its average target price of $37.5. Analysts have set target prices ranging from $31.0 to 42.0 dollars per share, and have given the stock an average rating of buy.
The market seems to share this optimistic view, since Williams Companies has a short interest of only 2.2% (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.
Short selling involves borrowing shares and then selling them at current market prices. In the successful version of the strategy, the shares are purchased at a lower price at some time in the future. The investor then returns the shares to the lender, and keeps the profit made on the sell/buy transaction.
Another way to gauge the sentiment on Williams Companies is to look at the percentage of institutions that are invested in the stock. In this case, 87.5% 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.
Overall, there is mixed market sentiment towards Williams Companies because of an analyst consensus of some upside potential, a buy rating, an average amount of shares sold short, and a significant number of institutional investors. Investors should not base their decisions on market sentiment only, they should also be aware of a stock's fundamentals before committing.
At a glance, here are some essential statistics you may want to know about WMB:
It has trailing 12 month earnings per share (EPS) of $2.23 per share
Williams Companies has a trailing 12 month Price to Earnings (P/E) ratio of 15.0 while the S&P 500 average is 15.97
The company has a Price to Book (P/B) ratio of 3.51 in contrast to the S&P 500's average ratio of 2.95
Williams Companies is a Utilities company, and the sector average P/E and P/B ratios are 22.89 and 1.03 respectively