2014 Was a Happy Year for Transport Stocks

Wolfe Research
January 05, 2015
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Monthly Transport Trader. Our Transport Trader report is a monthly review of transport stock performance. We show transport performance vs. the S&P 500 and other sectors, sub-sector performance (e.g. rail vs. truck), comparable stock performance (e.g. FDX vs. UPS), and individual stock performance vs. the market and peer group.

Transports Give a Little Back in December, with Some Signs of Mean Reversion. Our WR Transport index fell 0.7% in Dec. and slightly underperformed the S&P 500 for the first time in 4 months. TL stocks continued to outperform as the clearest winners from lower fuel (i.e. stronger consumer and net fuel savings), while LTL and Express stocks lagged the most. Asset-light stocks (UACLRRTS and FWRD) outperformed last month after lagging earlier in the year, but LSTR was the worst transport stock in Dec. after strong gains earlier in the year.

But Transports Still Strongly Outperformed in 2014. Our Transport index was up 20% in ‘14, outperforming the S&P by more than 800bp and trailing only Utility and Health Care sector performance for the year. TL and LTL stocks were by far the best (8 of the top 9 stocks in our coverage were trucking stocks), followed by the Rails, Express carriers, Freight Forwarders and lastly the Truck OEM’s. Our best performing transport stocks were CVTIKNX and SAIA, while our worst stocks were UTIW,RRTS and NAV.

Some Interesting Stats of the Year. Rail stocks outperformed the S&P 500 for the 14th straight year, led by UNP which has now overtaken UPS as the largest transport company (by market cap). FDX outperformed UPS for the 3rd straight year while Freight Forwarders underperformed the market for the 4th straight year. Trucking stocks outperformed for the 2nd straight year, and TL was the best performing transport sub-sector for the first time since ‘08.

A Look Ahead with Our Top Transport Stock Ideas for 2015: Rail and Truck capacity remain very tight, so pricing should be very strong this year and we believe Transport stocks can continue to outperform to begin the year. We believe TL remains best positioned entering the year, and our favorite TL stock is SWFT. While crude-by-rail has become a risk, we still expect CP to show the best EPS growth among the Rails this year, while FDX should benefit from lower costs and stronger Express vols in a lower fuel environment. WAB remains our favorite multi-year growth story, and our best special situations idea is UTIW as a potential turnaround or take-out story.

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