Why Are Investors Piling Into These Stocks Today?

The bull market for crude oil is alive and well, as WTI futures have now rallied above the $44 per barrel mark. Perhaps taking a cue from crude, the S&P 500 and Dow Jones are also well in the green. Among the stocks leading the advance are Bloomin’ Brands Inc (NASDAQ:BLMN), Penske Automotive Group, Inc. (NYSE:PAG), Ocean Rig UDW Inc (NASDAQ:ORIG), Sonic Automotive Inc (NYSE:SAH), and Ethan Allen Interiors Inc. (NYSE:ETH). Let’s take a closer look at why investors are piling into each company’s shares and analyze how hedge funds are positioned in the five stocks.

We believe that imitating hedge funds and other large institutional investors can be helpful in identifying stocks capable of outperforming the broader market. Through extensive research that covered the portfolios of several hundred large investors between 1999 and 2012, we determined that following the small-cap stocks that large money managers are collectively bullish on can generate monthly returns nearly 1.0 percentage point above the market (see the details here).

Bloomin’ Brands Surges Despite Earnings Miss

Bloomin’ Brands Inc (NASDAQ:BLMN) shares have surged by 8.75% despite the fact that the company reported a soft first quarter. For the January-to-March period, Bloomin’ Brands earned $0.47 per share on sales of $1.16 billion, missing the consensus estimates by $0.03 per share and $10 million, respectively. Sales dropped by 3.3% year-over-year, as Bloomin’s U.S division saw comparable-store sales for company-owned restaurants decline by 1.5% year-over-year. Perhaps fueling today’s rally is the steady guidance that was offered. Management reaffirmed its full year guidance, including positive combined U.S comparable-store sales and adjusted diluted EPS growth of a minimum of 10%. Management expects better results in the back half of the year. Bloomin’ Brands Inc (NASDAQ:BLMN) was in 22 elite hedge funds’ portfolios at the end of December, out of the investment vehicles that Insider Monkey tracks. Those 22 funds held 14.1% of Bloomin’ Brands’ float.

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Earnings Drive Penske’s Stock Higher

Penske Automotive Group, Inc. (NYSE:PAG) reported first quarter earnings of $0.90 per share on sales of $4.82 billion, slightly beating estimates of $0.88 per share in earnings on $4.79 billion in revenue. Sales rose by 7.6% year-over-year, while same-store retail revenue rose by 2.5% year-over-year. EBITDA inched up by 4.7% year-over-year to $157.6 million. Chairman Roger S. Penske discussed the record results in a press release:

“The resiliency of the U.S. and U.K. automotive markets and a solid performance from our truck dealership operations drove Penske Automotive to another quarter of record results. We believe the diversification provided by our business model continues to reward our shareholders. Further, I am particularly pleased with the 50-basis-point improvement of selling, general and administrative expenses as a percent of gross profit and gross profit flow-through of greater than 30% in the quarter.”

Jim Simons‘ Renaissance Technologies established a new position of 245,300 shares in Penske Automotive Group, Inc. (NYSE:PAG) in the fourth quarter. Shares are 8% higher in afternoon trading.

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On the next page we examine the latest happenings concerning Ocean Rig UDW Inc, Sonic Automotive Inc, and Ethan Allen Interiors Inc.