With a sudden -2.2% drop to $71.5, Southern Company has Wall Street wondering if its shares will keep moving past its target price of $73.5. With an average rating of buy, and analysts assigning target prices from 64.0 to 82.0 dollars per share, investors will be betting heavily on the Utilities—Independent Power Producers stock's next move.
The market seems to share this rosy outlook, since Southern Company has a short interest of only 1.1%. This represents the percentage of the share float that is being shorted, and each short position stands for an investor's expectation that the price of the stock will go down 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 Southern Company is to look at the percentage of institutions that are invested in the stock. In this case, 65.3% 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 Southern Company because of an analyst consensus of some upside potential, a buy rating, a very low short interest, and an average 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 SO:
It has trailing 12 month earnings per share (EPS) of $2.74 per share
Southern Company has a trailing 12 month Price to Earnings (P/E) ratio of 26.1 while the S&P 500 average is 15.97
The company has a Price to Book (P/B) ratio of 2.49 in contrast to the S&P 500's average ratio of 2.95
Southern Company is a Utilities company, and the sector average P/E and P/B ratios are 17.53 and 1.71 respectively