(Note: The author of this fundamental analysis is a financial writer and portfolio manager..)
Shares of McDonald's Corp. (MCD ) rose by as much as 5 percent today as many investors salivated over the company's first-quarter results, which beat estimates on both the top and bottom lines. The stock gains helped McDonald's recoup nearly two-thirds of the 16.8 percent decline from its all-time high earlier this year. But beneath the surface, the numbers are far less impressive, driven by several forces including: a favorable exchange rate, a significant cut in expenses, lower taxes, and share buybacks.
Weakness Beneath The Surface
Even with today's gains, shares of McDonald's are nearly 6.75 percent off its highs over the past year, compared to an S&P 500 that is down about the same.
For starters, McDonald's reported a 17 percent increase in earnings per share for the quarter, 5 cents better than estimates. Revenue of $5.138 billion also beat. All this looks comforting on the surface. But McDonald's revenue was still down a whopping 9 percent from the same period a year earlier, a major warning sign for investors seeking organic growth.
In addition, the significant revenue beat was helped by a favorable exchange rate. Without help from currencies, McDonald's revenue would have fallen 15 percent, thus missing analysts' estimates instead of beating them. The favorable exchange rate also boosted earnings. Without that, earnings would have risen only 12 percent, less than estimates.
Other profit drivers were: an 18% decline in operating expenses; a reduction in shares outstanding by 3 percent; and provisions for taxes plunged 14 percent.
Technically, a warning sign is that McDonald's rising shares have been unable to advance above an essential technical resistance area between $165 and $168. It would not be surprising to see shares of McDonald refill the gap created from today's jump higher, resulting in the stock falling back towards $159.
Given McDonald's weak fundamentals, the big question is how long the stock gains will last.
Michael Kramer is the Founder of Mott Capital Management LLC, a registered investment adviser, and the manager of the company's actively managed, long-only Thematic Growth Portfolio. Kramer typically buys and holds stocks for a duration of three to five years. Click here for Kramer's bio and his portfolio's holdings. Information presented is for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. Investments involve risk and unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed. Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial adviser and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed herein. Upon request, the advisor will provide a list of all recommendations made during the past twelve months. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.