UnitedHealth Group Inc.
First, we'll take a look at the recent price movement. The stock is down over 10% this year and most of that has happened in little fits and starts. But last week within just a few days it fell almost 10% to new lows. Over the last year it really hasn't accomplished anything, basically trading flat. Technical traders are noting the prior lows of last January and February as the next likely support, and at the pace the stock is moving it could be there before this article is over.
Now, from a fundamental perspective we know earnings are coming up and the good news is that the stock beats on earnings a whopping 91% of the time. Its competitors only average a beat on earnings 59% of the time, so that's one positive. In fact, since 2001 the company has only missed two earnings reports. Earnings for the last 5 years have shown a healthy double-digit gain.
The stock is currently trading at a forward P/E of about 13.5, which is cheap relative to history and its competitors, and we already mentioned the stock price. So, is this an opportunity to buy UNH on this dip? Well, there's one thing that moves this stock on earnings and that is guidance. Guidance is the heart of this earnings season. Investors know that earnings estimates have been lowered and just showing a beat on earnings is statistically quite likely for UNH and others.
UNH has only lowered guidance once in 20 years - April 2008 - and that day alone it lost 10%. While they don't always offer guidance, when they raise, their stock enjoys healthy gains. It's been over a year since they raised guidance, which could mean that they've been allowing analysts to slowly lower their expectations little by little. If this earnings comes in even close to expected and they raise guidance, it could be just what the stock and sector needs to come off lows.
If the risk of playing one stock is too great, then the Healthcare