The S&P 500 Index has lost nearly 7% since the beginning of the year and there aren’t any major catalysts that could stop the sell-off. Investors had hoped that the fourth-quarter earnings season would serve as a positive catalyst for equities, but their hopes have not materialized just yet. Slightly less than half of S&P 500 companies have already released their earnings reports, while the blended earnings decline for the fourth quarter totals 5.8%. This compares to the decline of 4.7% anticipated before the kick-off of the earnings season. Nonetheless, insiders at several companies have been piling up more shares in recent weeks, which could somewhat suggest that the fundamentals of their companies’ businesses are not so bad as outsiders think. At the end of the day, corporate insiders are the ones who have a better understanding about fundamentals at the business level. With that in mind, the following article will discuss the insider buying witnessed at three companies and will take a look at the recent performance of those companies.
Most investors can’t outperform the stock market by individually picking stocks because stock returns aren’t evenly distributed. A randomly picked stock has only a 35%-to-45% chance (depending on the investment horizon) to outperform the market. There are a few exceptions, one of which is when it comes to purchases made by corporate insiders. Academic research has shown that certain insider purchases historically outperformed the market by an average of seven percentage points per year. This effect is more pronounced in small-cap stocks. Another exception is the small-cap stock picks of hedge funds. Our research has shown that the 15 most popular small-cap stocks among hedge funds outperformed the market by nearly a percentage point per month between 1999 and 2012 (read more details here). The trick is focusing only on the best small-cap stock picks of funds, not their large-cap stock picks which are extensively covered by analysts and followed by almost everybody.
Let’s start off with Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ:STX), which had not seen any insider buying since the end of 2013 until this week. To begin with, Philip G. Brace, President of Cloud Systems and Electronics Solutions, snapped up 5,000 shares on Tuesday at a price of $29.1 per share and lifted his stake to 14,930 shares. Moreover, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Stephen J. Luczo bought 200,000 shares on the same day at prices ranging from $28.28 to $30.79 per share, all of which are held via a trust fund called Stephen J. Luczo Revocable Trust. After the recent purchase, the CEO’s trust fund holds a stake of 1.63 million shares.
The provider of electronic data storage technology and solutions has recently reported its financial results for the fiscal second-quarter, posting earnings per share of $0.82 on revenue of $3.0 billion. This compares with the EPS of $1.35 on revenue of $3.70 billion reported for the same period of the prior year. According to Thomson Reuters data, analysts had anticipated EPS of $0.71 on revenue of $2.94 billion for the quarter. Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ:STX)’s shares are down by 52% over the past 12-month period and seem to be bottoming-out at the moment, thanks to the freshly-released better-than-expected results. As for the reason why the maker of hard disk drives has been struggling in recent quarters, the softening demand for personal computing devices stands behind the company’s weak performance. The freshly-published earnings report and the company’s price-to-earnings multiples might point to a rebound for Seagate in the upcoming quarters. The stock trades at a forward P/E multiple of 7.33, which is substantially below the 15.89 average for the S&P 500. A total of 31 ‘hedgies’ from our database had stakes in Seagate at the end of the third quarter, hoarding nearly 4% of the company’s outstanding common stock. David Harding’s Winton Capital Management reported owning 2.66 million shares of Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ:STX) through its 13F for the third quarter.