RTX is nearing its 52-week high – could it go higher?

One of the big recovery stories over the past year has come from the Aerospace industry, which includes commercial airlines. It really comes as no surprise to say that in 2020 and the early part of 2021 the industry was one of the biggest, unquestioned losers in the stock market after commercial travel dried up to practically nothing because of global shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders beginning in February 2020. As vaccinations increased and infection and hospitalization rates started to drop, a lot of economists and analysts pointed at this industry as one to watch, since many were predicting a recovery in travel demand as consumers started to exercise long-pent-up desires to get out, take vacations, and see family and friends.

The last few months saw some of that enthusiasm begin to temper a bit amid new spikes in both infections and hospitalizations, as well as questions about inflationary pressures on sustained economic recovery. That, along with the likelihood of increased interest rates by this March has blunted optimism about the economy in general, and the Aerospace industry specifically; while the industry in general is up about 12% over the last twelve months, as measured by the U.S. Aerospace & Defense iShares ETF (ITA), but down a little over -8% from its most recent peak in the middle of January.

There are two principle commercial airline producers in the world: Boeing and Airbus. Boeing’s problems predate the pandemic; the company spent practically all of 2019 dealing with the negative impact of fatal crashes of its popular 737 MAX jet that killed all passengers on board. Those crashes were attributed to failures in the planes’ sensor system, resulting in the global grounding of the jet all over the world as the company went back to the drawing board. The MAX was formally cleared to return to service by the FDA in December of 2020, clearing the way for travel to pick up again as social and business activity gradually finds its way back, with some optimists predicting travel demand could match pre-pandemic levels sometime in 2023, but more pessimistic analysts suggesting it could take until 2025.

Often, being a contrarian by nature means looking past current pressures and thinking about much longer-term trends. That normally means that industries that have been out of favor, but look like they could be in position to recover, start to naturally look a bit more attractive, especially in the long term. While many of the most well-known, commercial airlines in the Aerospace industry have been hammered by the collapse in consumer and business travel, with modest gains that still haven’t offset the loses they were forced to absorb, there are also bright spots that have managed to buck that broader trend. Raytheon Technologies Corp. (RTX) is an example.

In the commercial airline segment, RTX’s biggest customer isn’t Boeing – it’s Airbus, which before COVID-19 became a global issue was drawing a number of Boeing customers to its business in the wake of the MAX grounding. RTX is also a major player in the government-funded Defense space, which has historically proven to be resilient and even resistant to economic downturns. The pandemic has proven the value of RTX’s Defense business, as 2021’s earnings reports demonstrated that segment backstopped the entire company, putting it in position to recover more quickly than other companies whose businesses are closely tied to Boeing. Strength in their Defense business didn’t completely offset Commercial travel losses in 2020, but they did nonetheless help their balance sheet absorb the hit that prompted management at other companies in this industry to take drastic measures, including eliminating dividend payouts to preserve cash. The company completed a merger in April of 2020 with Raytheon, which increased its defense and intelligence business to nearly 60% of annual revenues. That gives RTX a backstop of revenue and cash flow that has enabled it to exercise patience with its commercial business, and that most other companies in the industry probably don’t have. The market has recognized RTX’s strength this year, pushing its price from a November 2020 low at around $52 to a high in January at around $92.50. With the stock now sitting just a little below that high, the big question now is simple: is the stock also a good value, or has its strength over the last year pushed the stock too high? Let’s find out.

Fundamental and Value Profile

Raytheon Technologies Corp, formerly, United Technologies Corporation is engaged in providing high technology products and services to the building systems and aerospace industries around the world. The Company operates through segments such as Pratt & Whitney and Collins Aerospace Systems. The Pratt & Whitney segment supplies aircraft engines for the commercial, military, business jet and general aviation markets. Pratt & Whitney segment provides fleet management services and aftermarket maintenance, repair and overhaul services. The Collins Aerospace Systems segment provides aerospace products and aftermarket service solutions for aircraft manufacturers, airlines, regional, business and general aviation markets, military, space and undersea operations. RTX has a current market cap of $135.4 billion.

Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings increased by about 46%, while sales were about 3.8% higher. In the last quarter, earnings declined by -14.29% while Revenues were 5.13% higher. RTX’s Net Income versus Revenue over the last year was 6%, and weakened in the last quarter to 4.04%.

Free Cash Flow: RTX’s Free Cash Flow has been strengthening throughout the past twelve months. In the last quarter, free cash flow was a little over $5 billion from about $3.5 billion two quarters ago. A year ago, this number was about $2.6 billion, so the increase is an interesting counterpoint to the negative turn in Net Income. The current free cash flow number translates to a modest Free Cash Flow Yield of 3.7%.

Debt to Equity: RTX has a debt/equity ratio of .42, which is very conservative, and marks a drop from 1.03 in the first quarter of 2020. Their balance sheet shows about $7.8 billion (versus $7.4 billion two quarters ago) in cash and liquid assets against $31.3 billion in long-term debt (versus $45.3 billion at the end of the first quarter of 2020). Servicing their debt is no problem.

Dividend: RTX pays an annual dividend of $2.04 per share, which at its current price translates to a yield of 2.26%. It should be noted that early in 2020, management announced it was reducing the dividend from $2.94  to $1.90 per share, a cost-cutting measure that can be interpreted as positive or negative depending on your general view. Management raised the dividend in 2021, which I take as a sign of increasing strength.

Price/Book Ratio: there are a lot of ways to measure how much a stock should be worth; but I like to work with a combination of Price/Book and Price/Cash Flow analysis. Together, these measurements provide a long-term, fair value target around $104 per share. This suggests that the stock is actually undervalued at its current price by about 14%. It also puts a practical bargain price at around $83 per share.

Technical Profile

Here’s a look at the stock’s latest technical chart.

Current Price Action/Trends and Pivots: The red diagonal line defines the stock’s upward trend from its February 2021 low to its peak, reached last month at around $92.50 per share. It also provides the baseline for the Fibonacci retracement lines on the right side of the chart. The stock bounced strongly off of current support at around $86 to rally to its current price, and is nearing immediate resistance at around $91. A push above $91 should test next resistance at the 52-week high, with additional upside to about $94 if buying momentum can push the stock above that level. A downward reversal and drop below $86 should find next support at around $84, where the 38.2% retracement line waits.

Near-term Keys: RTX’s balance sheet has remained solid throughout the past year, despite the sizable headwinds in its commercial business, and the inevitable impact they carried over the course of the past year and a half, including recent pressures driven by the omicron variant. I think that resilience is largely a reflection of the company’s operations in the Defense space along with aggressive cost-cutting measures it took during the early stages of the pandemic in its commercial business. It is also interesting that, despite the stock’s increase in price over the last several months, the value proposition is still interesting, if not quite compelling. The airline industry does makes for a good reopening story, but remember that this is an economically-sensitive industry, which means that these stocks can continue to be volatile depending on the state of current economic conditions. If you prefer to focus on short-term trading strategies, a drop below $86 could be a good signal to consider shorting the stock or buying put options, using $84 as an practical bearish trade target, while a a break above $91 could be a good signal to buy the stock or work with call options, with quick upside to about $92.50 on a bullish trade, and possibly $94 if buying momentum accelerates.

Best Stocks With Perfect Trade Setups