Hershey's Stock Soaring – Will the Growth Trend Persist?

Rocketing to a price of $186.63 during today's afternoon trading session, shares of Hershey are still -9.57% below their average target price of $206.37. Could there be more upside potential for the stock? Analysts are giving HSY an average rating of hold and target prices ranging from $170.0 to $239.0 dollars per share.

The market sentiment on the stock is decidedly optimistic, since Hershey has a short interest of only 3.1%. 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.

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 Hershey, institutional investors own 82.2% of the shares. This would indicate a positive sentiment towards the stock among institutions. 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 HSY, 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 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.

Overall, there is mixed market sentiment on Hershey because its an analyst consensus of some upside potential, a hold rating, an average amount of shares sold short, and a significant number of institutional investors. Warren Buffett famously said that in the short term, markets are voting mechanisms, but in the long term, they are weighing mechanisms. This means that long term investors should be aware of a stock's fundamentals before committing.

Buffett was one of the fist investors to focus on free cash flow as a yardstick for a company's health. Here are HSY's recent cash flows:

Date Reported Cash Flow from Operations ($ k) Capital expenditures ($ k) Free Cash Flow ($ k) YoY Growth (%)
2023 2,323,190 771,109 1,552,081 -14.17
2022 2,327,837 519,481 1,808,356 13.95
2021 2,082,884 495,877 1,587,007 26.15
2020 1,699,657 441,626 1,258,031 -12.98
2019 1,763,873 318,192 1,445,681 13.71
2018 1,599,993 328,601 1,271,392
The above analysis is intended for educational purposes only and was performed on the basis of publicly available data. It is not to be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any security. Any buy, sell, or other recommendations mentioned in the article are direct quotations of consensus recommendations from the analysts covering the stock, and do not represent the opinions of Market Inference or its writers. Past performance, accounting data, and inferences about market position and corporate valuation are not reliable indicators of future price movements. Market Inference does not provide financial advice. Investors should conduct their own review and analysis of any company of interest before making an investment decision.