One of the standouts of today's evening trading session has been Altria, which logged a -2.8% drop and underperformed the S&P 500 by -3.0%. The Tobacco stock is now trading at $41.36 per share and is -11.07% below its average target price of $46.51. Analysts have set target prices ranging from $37.0 to 70.0 dollars per share, and have given the stock an average rating of hold.
It seems the market sentiment regarding Altria is mostly optimistic, since it has a short interest of only 0.9%. This is the percentage of the share float that is being shorted by investors who are hoping the stock's price 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.
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 Altria, institutional investors own 59.5% 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 MO, 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, Altria is probably the subject of mixed market sentiment because of an analyst consensus of some upside potential, a hold rating, a very low short interest, 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 MO:
The stock has trailing 12 month earnings per share (EPS) of $4.9
Altria has a trailing 12 month Price to Earnings (P/E) ratio of 8.4 compared to the S&P 500 average of 15.97
Altria is a Consumer Defensive company, and the sector average P/E and P/B ratios are 21.21 and 4.12 respectively