Surging United Stock Seems Overdue for Upgrades

UAL stock is pacing for a fifth straight win

Jul 18, 2018 at 9:52 AM
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The shares of United Continental Holdings Inc (NYSE:UAL) are popping today, after the airline's quarterly earnings results were met with positive analyst attention. At last check, UAL stock was up 6.1% to trade at $77.10 -- on track for fifth straight win.

For the second quarter, United reported an adjusted profit of $3.23 per share on revenue of $10.78 billion -- both higher than analysts were expecting. The Chicago-based firm also said its revenue per available seat mile rose 2.8%, and boosted its full-year per-share profit forecast to between $7.25 and $8.75 from $7.00 to $8.50.

In response, Evercore ISI raised its UAL price target to $80 from $76 -- though this still represents expected upside of just 5% to the equity's current perch. This hesitation is seen among other analysts, too, with nine of 15 brokerages maintaining a tepid "hold" recommendation on the stock. Should the shares continue to run higher, a round of upgrades could fuel bigger gains.

A continued round of short covering could also keep the wind at UAL's back. Although short interest is down 12.3% in the most recent reporting period, there are still 11.53 million shares sold short, or four times the stock's average daily trading volume.

Looking closer at the charts, United Continental stock has been gaining ground since trading near $60 back in February, bouncing along a trendline connecting higher lows and its 120-day moving average. Plus, today's gain has the shares within a chip-shot of filling a bear gap from late January, and up 13% on the year.

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