On Tuesday, as shown by the chart below, shares of the major airlines, US Airways Group, Inc. (NYSE:LCC), United Continental Holdings Inc (NYSE:UAL), Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE:DAL), and Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE:LUV) all traded sharply lower despite a more than eighty-point gain during the trading session by the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE:DAL) Leads The Way
The industry wide sell-off was led by Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE:DAL) after the company reported disappointing results and cut its outlook. Delta said it expects a rise of 4 to 4.5 percent in first quarter revenue as compared to the same period a year ago. Previously, Delta had forecast a 4.5 to 5 percent rise in revenue. The negative reaction in the stock is, in my opinion, due mostly to the fact that Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE:DAL) shares have been moving sharply higher of late. Over the past six months, as shown by the chart below, even after the recent decline, Delta shares are still up close to 50%. Judging by the sector wide decline during the trading session, traders and investors seem to be betting that the Delta results are not a company specific event, but rather a sign of industry wide problems.
Buy US Airways Group, Inc. (NYSE:LCC)
Traders and investors alike should take advantage of the Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE:DAL) led decline and buy US Airways Group, Inc. (NYSE:LCC), my favorite airline stock. The move higher in airline shares to multi-year highs has not been solely based on an improvement in operating results, but rather an improvement in the outlook for the industry. The combined impact the Delta- Northwest , United-Continental, and most recently US Airways Group, Inc. (NYSE:LCC)- AMR mergers have changed the industry. Investors have been betting that with significantly fewer players, the airline companies will have better pricing power and, in the end, be able to earn sustainable profits. Even Jim Cramer is buying into the idea that the airlines might actually be a good place to invest. This is notable because Cramer had long vowed never to recommend an airline stock. In addition to benefiting from the changing dynamics within the industry, US Airways has the added advantage of benefiting directly from the recently approved merger. The combined value of US Airways Group, Inc. (NYSE:LCC) and AMR has been said to be worth close to $11 billion. Current US Airways shareholders will own 28% of the company, meaning that US Airways should be worth just more than $3 billion. Currently, US Airways is worth just $2.6 billion. Over time, I expect the value of US Airways to move up approaching the $3 billion mark.