Is Infrastructure Really a Good Reason to Buy GM Shares?

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Many investors look at the same company with a different set of eyes from each other. This is routinely seen when analysts get the same exact news, and one analyst will say “Buy” and the other will say “Neutral” or “Sell.” It’s what makes the market dynamic. Still, what happens when one of the top two North American automakers is given a Buy rating due to exposure to infrastructure?

Morgan Stanley raised General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) to Overweight from Equal Weight and the price target was raised to $48 from $45 on Monday. The prior close was $37.68, and GM’s stock traded up over 2% at $38.50 in Monday’s premarket.

The first thing that investors should take away from the upgrade was that Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas cited the profitability of the GM pickup truck as a part of the overall company. The analyst also was very upbeat about GM’s truck sales franchise for when (or if) Congress decides to pass an upcoming infrastructure spending bill.

While Ford and Fiat Chrysler were given positive marks for their trucking sales, the upgrade was deemed a larger boost for GM shares. And Jonas even referred to the potential earnings from an infrastructure surprise as significant. In fact, Jonas sees the pickups accounting for 65% of 2018 profits alone, and each 5% gain in pickup sales drives up earnings per share by an incremental 10 points.

Jonas even said that the current cycle is viewed to extend further along with it reinvesting its capital base and with what may end up being a long overdue $2.4 trillion infrastructure spending over the coming 10 years.

One more driving force is that the call is opportunistic now that GM shares have sold off so much. Its stock was last seen down 8% for all of 2018 ahead of the call, but GM’s closing price on Friday actually was down almost 20% from its 52-week high put in last fall.

For an analyst to tie in truck buying into higher infrastructure spending, some investors will point out that the U.S. car market is already past a “peak auto” phase after the old fleets from the recession and before were replaced in recent years. That said, more and more infrastructure and construction workers generally means more and more trucks rather than sedans and economy-size cars.

GM shares were trading up about 1.9% at $48.40 Monday afternoon. They have a 52-week trading range of $31.92 to $46.76 and had a prior consensus target price from Thomson Reuters of $47.83.