Despite an improving economy and modest oil prices, it hasn’t been a great environment for most airline companies. In fact, the US Global JETS ETF ( JETS) which is a solid measure of broad airline sector performance, is down about 8% in the past one year, compared to a roughly 9% gain for the S&P 500 in the same time frame.
This sluggish performance is largely due to the impact of more intense competition, and concerns over too much capacity for current demand levels. And while some airlines have done a little bit to alleviate those concerns, many investors are still skeptical of this corner of the stock market.
But while many airlines have struggled, one has been able to persevere and even thrive in these uncertain times. That airline is Copa Holdings ( CPA) which has actually managed to gain over 43% in the past year, completely destroying the broad trend in the industry.
How Copa is crushing it
CPA is facing plenty of headwinds thanks to its focus on the Latin American market. Worries over the dollar and Zika have made some investors worried about the health of companies like Copa, but these concerns have been unfounded as travel demand remains strong, and has picked up a bit lately if anything.
CPA has actually posted three straight earnings beats, and is now posting an average earnings surprise of just over 37% in the past four quarters. This includes a nearly 120% beat for the past quarter, showing that CPA has been able to thoroughly crush expectations in this lackluster environment.
Furthermore, Copa just posted great traffic numbers for August, posting a 13.2% increase in terms of year-over-year figures. Additionally, Copa improved its load factor—the percentage of seats filled by passengers—to 83.7% for the month, a move higher of nearly 730 basis points.
Clearly, Copa is on the right track and it is seeing great improvement when compared to the year ago comparable figures, a pretty remarkable feat given some of the broader industry headwinds, showing us that CPA is in a class by itself.
Analysts are also embracing this story, as we have seen the consensus estimate surge for CPA over the past two months. The current quarter consensus has gone from $0.87/share to $1.14/share today, while the full year has seen its consensus increase by 17% in the same time frame.
But it isn’t just the near term metrics that are turning around for Copa, as we are seeing a similar trend in the next year consensus estimate too. In fact, this consensus has increased by 24% in the past two months, further underscoring the idea that Copa was just oversold and it is now bouncing back with a vengeance.
No wonder the stock was recently upgraded to a Zacks Rank #1 (strong buy), and why the company is the only #1 ranked stock in the airline sector right now.
Although the broader airline industry might be in a rough spot, it doesn’t mean that you should avoid every company in the sector. Copa Holdings is a great example of this, since the company has very solid fundamentals and its long term future is bright.
Plus, analysts are quickly moving to increase their earnings estimates for the stock so they are definitely starting to recognize the potential in this well-positioned name. So, if you are looking for a top choice in the airline world, don’t be afraid to go beyond American skies and look to Latin America and Copa for a potential winner to close out 2016.
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