Weekly Issue: Booking a Tasty Gain in this Guilty Pleasure Stock

Weekly Issue: Booking a Tasty Gain in this Guilty Pleasure Stock

Key points inside this issue

  • Earnings continue to roll in as trade tensions remain and economic data is in conflict.
  • We are selling half the position in Habit Restaurant (HABT) shares on the Tematica Investing Select List, booking a hefty win in the process, and boosting our price target on the remaining shares to $16 from $12.
  • Our price target on Costco Wholesale (COST) shares remains $230
  • Our price target on United Parcel Service (UPS) shares remains $130.


We are now more than one-third of the way through the September quarter, and firmly into the month of August, a time that is traditionally one of the slowest times of the year. Corporate earnings for the June quarter continue to come in and the United States has reimposed sanctions on Iran with additional measures potentially later this year as the Trump administration looks to pressure the Tehran regime to negotiate or step aside.

In response to President Trump instructing U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer to consider raising proposed tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods to 25% from 10%, the Chinese government on Friday shared a list of 5,207 U.S. products (meat, coffee, nuts, alcoholic drinks, minerals, chemicals, leather products, wood products, machinery, furniture and auto parts) on which it would impose tariffs between 5% to 25% if the U.S. followed through on proposed tariffs.

The stock market’s performance this week suggests it is shrugging off some of these geopolitical concerns, however, the longer they play out the more likely we are to see them have an impact to earnings expectations. The word “tariff” was mentioned 290 times in S&P 500 conference calls in the first quarter. So far this quarter that number is up to 609, and we have yet to finish the current season. We take this to mean that while many are hopeful when it comes to trade, companies are factoring potential pain into their planning. This could set the stage for a stronger finish to the year if the president is able to deliver on trade. We’ll continue to watch the developments and position the our holdings in the Tematica Select list accordingly.

As we move through the dog days of summer, I’ll continue to chew through the data and heed the messages from all the thematic signals that are around us each and every week.


Taking some profits in Habit after a smoking run

Even ahead of last week’s better than expected June quarter results, our shares of Habit Restaurant (HABT) have been rocking and rolling as they climbed just shy of 60% since we added them to the Tematica Investing Select List in early May.

Helping pop the shares over the last few days, Wall Street analysts boosted their forecasts for Habit following strong top and bottom line June quarter results that were driven by several pricing factors and better-than-expected volume, and an outlook that was ahead of expectations. On the pricing front, there were two items worth mentioning. First was the 3.9% increase taken in mid-May to offset California labor pressures, followed by the premium pricing associated with third-party delivery with the likes of DoorDash. As Habit rolls out third-party delivery in other locations and with other partners, such as Seamless with whom it is currently in testing, we are likely to see further pricing benefits that should drop to the bottom line.

Underlying this, our core thesis for the company, which centers on Habit’s geographic expansion outside of its core California market, remains intact. During the June quarter, it opened seven new company-operated restaurants, three of which were drive-thrus. While there were no new East Coast locations during the quarter, Habit remains committed to opening a total of 30 new locations in 2018 with 20% of them on the East Coast — one of which will be right near Tematica in Northern Virginia! Franchisees will add an additional seven to nine locations in 2018, with recently opened ones including Seattle and the second location in China.

In response, we are going to do two things. First, I am boosting our price target for HABT shares to $16, which offers modest upside from the current share price. As we do this, we will prudently book some of those hefty profits to be had given the move in the shares over the last three months, which has them in overbought territory. We will do this by selling half the HABT position on the Tematica Investing Select List, and keep the other half intact to capture the incremental upside. I’ll also continue to monitor the company to gauge its progress relative to revised expectations to determine if another beat is in the cards.

  • We are selling half the position in Habit Restaurant (HABT) shares on the Tematica Investing Select List, booking a hefty win in the process, and boosting our price target on the remaining shares to $16 from $12.

Costco shares get another boost

I recently boosted our price target on Costco Wholesale (COST) shares to $230 from $220. Over the last few weeks the shares have climbed, bringing their return on the Tematica Investing Select List to more than 40%. Yesterday a similar move was had at Telsey Advisory Group (TAG), which raised its COST price target to $230 from $220. The similarities don’t end there as TAG also sees Costco to be a share gainer that should see double-digit growth in earnings per share this year. I’ve said it before, and odds are I’ll say it again, I love it when the herd comes around to our way of thinking.

Later this week, we should receive Costco’s July same-store sales metrics, which should confirm continued wallet share gains but also update us as to the number of open warehouse locations. As a reminder, more open warehouses drive the high margin membership fee income that is a key driver of Costco’s EPS.

  • Our price target on Costco Wholesale (COST) shares remains $230


UPS keeps on trucking

Quarter to date, our shares of United Parcel Service (UPS) have soared 13%, bringing the return for us to more than 18%. In my view, the company is clearly benefiting from the improving economy and consumer spending, particularly that associated with our Digital LifeStyle investing theme. As we head into the thick of Back to School spending, let’s remember that UPS is well positioned to benefit not only from Amazon’s (AMZN) Prime Day 2018 but also march toward the year-end holiday spending bonanza that spans from Halloween through New Year’s. Over the last several years, we’ve seen digital shopping win a growing piece of consumer wallets and I see no reason why that won’t continue yet again this year.

  • Our price target on United Parcel Service (UPS) shares remains $130.


About the Author

Chris Versace, Chief Investment Officer
I'm the Chief Investment Officer of Tematica Research and editor of Tematica Investing newsletter. All of that capitalizes on my near 20 years in the investment industry, nearly all of it breaking down industries and recommending stocks. In that time, I've been ranked an All Star Analyst by Zacks Investment Research and my efforts in analyzing industries, companies and equities have been recognized by both Institutional Investor and Thomson Reuters’ StarMine Monitor. In my travels, I've covered cyclicals, tech and more, which gives me a different vantage point, one that uses not only an ecosystem or food chain perspective, but one that also examines demographics, economics, psychographics and more when formulating my investment views. The question I most often get is "Are you related to…."

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