Why Chipotle Mexican Grill Represents the Economy’s Overall Predicament
Restaurants are one stock market sector that’s worth paying attention to.
If people feel more confident and have more disposable cash, they spend money in restaurants.
Earnings in the group have been all over the map, but this is representative not of weakness in terms of consumer spending within the group, but of the success and weakness of individual chains.
Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (NYSE/CMG) surprised Wall Street by reporting excellent first-quarter earnings results. The company jumped 11.5% on the stock market after the news.
The company’s 2013 first-quarter revenues grew 13.4% to $726.8 million on 48 new restaurant openings. Earnings grew a substantial 22% to $76.6 million and earnings per share grew 24% to $2.45. Comparable store sales grew only one percent.
On the stock market, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. (NASDAQ/CBRL) has been on a tear.
The company’s revenues for the fiscal second quarter of 2013, ended February 1, grew 4.4% to $702.7 million. Comparable store sales increased 3.3%, while earnings grew an impressive 37% to $35.2 million. Cracker Barrel recently increased its quarterly dividend by 25%.
Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE/DRI), which includes Red Lobster and Olive Garden, has been a laggard within the group.
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Inc. (NASDAQ/RRGB) has been doing extremely well on the stock market. The position is not up to its all-time stock market high set in 2005, but it’s working its way back.
And Burger King Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE/BKW), which expects a small decline in its comparable store sales for the first quarter of 2013, recently forecast adjusted earnings growth of about 25%.
On balance, the restaurant group is looking pretty decent. And this means that consumer spending is holding stable or slightly improving. But the ability of these corporations to continue to grow their earnings is the real story. Rising prices do not seem to be materially affecting demand.
The stock market continues to hold up very well during this earnings season. It’s natural for share prices to pull back on good earnings results. What’s been happening to many companies who have reported earnings that beat consensus is that their share prices have continued to move higher.
This is a sign that investor sentiment has continued to be positive and that institutional investors still want to be buyers in this market.
I will be very surprised if the stock market does not take a significant break right after first-quarter earnings season. Its strong start to the year is very significant in my mind, but the blue-chip leadership can’t be its own island.
My takeaway this earnings season so far is that large-cap revenues are coming in a bit light, but the bottom line continues to hold up well. This is the trend we’ve seen in the last three earnings seasons, and it’s the trend that will likely continue into the second quarter.
A two to three-month break for the stock market would be a healthy development.