Why Nike Is a Buy Now

Nike Inc. (NYSE: NKE) has several things going for it. It is a newly added Dow Jones Industrial Average component. We also expect the company to raise its dividend in the next few weeks. Now a Wall Street analyst from Argus is calling Nike a new Buy after upgrading the stock on Tuesday.

Argus is considered a truly independent research firm, so it has no implied conflicts of interest, as you can often imagine that bulge bracket firms on Wall Street have. The firm’s John Staszak has upgraded Nike to Buy from Hold and has assigned an $84 price target. This implies a potential total return of 17% from current levels, if you include the dividend. Again we would point out that this dividend is one of several that should be raised very soon.

John Staszak upgraded Nike based on price increases, global store growth and innovative new footwear all helping the apparel and sports gear maker increase market share. He also expects higher margins based on recent price hikes, followed by lower input costs and a much less negative impact from foreign exchange than had been seen in quarters past.

Nike’s recent earnings results were called strong at a time that many other consumer discretionary companies are reporting disappointing results. The firm is raising its fiscal 2014 earnings estimate from $3.02 to $3.10 per share and raising its fiscal 2015 estimate from $3.50 to $3.60 per share.

Staszak is calling for a higher dividend policy as well. He went on record saying:

Nike plans to maintain a dividend payout range of 25%-35% and currently pays an annualized dividend of $0.84, for a yield of about 1.1%. Our dividend estimates are $0.96 for FY14 and $1.08 for FY15. In September 2012, the board authorized a four-year, $8 billion share repurchase program. The company bought back 8.4 million shares for $526 million in 1Q14, bringing total repurchases to $6.3 billion since the start of the program.

We would point out some other fresh research calls in order to offer some balance on what the opinion flow has been. UBS started Nike as Neutral on Monday, and after earnings last week we saw conflicting calls as Nike was raised to Buy from Neutral at Sterne Agee but downgraded to Hold from Buy at Stifel Nicolaus. J.P. Morgan also raised its price target to $80 from $70.

Nike shares currently trade around $72.20, against a 52-week range of $44.83 to $75.25. The $84 price target from Argus compares to a consensus target of $75.95 from Thomson Reuters, and one analyst out there now has a street high of $90 for Nike.