Oppenheimer Sees Transports Continuing to Lead the Way Higher (FDX, UPS, NSC, CSX, JBHT, SWFT, XTN)

There is a big difference between a market rally and a bull market. Bear market rallies often happen when the stock market is so oversold that short sellers or deep value investors feel they have to be buyers. True bull market rallies depend on leadership from sectors. One sector that has helped lead the charge and confirming a bull market rally to a new high for the Dow Jones Industrial Average is the transportation sector. In a report out today, Oppenheimer initiates coverage of the two top air transport names. Plus we also take a look at other leaders in the sector.

The analysts at Oppenheimer initiate coverage of FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX), a global leader in parcel and freight services, with an Outperform rating and a price target of $124. FedEx closed yesterday at $107.91. The Thomson/First Call consensus target is $113. In their report, the analysts point out that investors appear to be discounting FedEx’s potential to deliver revenue growth while achieving restructuring profitability goals. They anticipate significant appreciation potential as FedEx demonstrates progress over the coming years.

The team at Oppenheimer also initiates FedEx largest competitor, United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSE: UPS), at Outperform. The analysts point out that UPS entered 2013 with a record of consistent operational and financial execution, and a gradual economic recovery should bolster the U.S. domestic package segment. UPS closed yesterday at $82.93. The Oppenheimer price target is $95, and the Wall St. estimate is at $91.

Air transport stocks are not the only transport names nearing 52-week highs and helping to boost the market rally. Strong performance by the railroad stocks are pushing the average as well. Coal transportation leader Norfolk Southern Corp. (NYSE: NSC) trades at a reasonable 14 times earnings and sports a tidy 2% dividend. The consensus target for the stock is $76.

Jacksonville, Fla.-based CSX Corp. (NYSE: CSX) also offers investors good value despite the strong rally. Closing yesterday at $23.58, CSX trades at a modest 13.19 times earnings and pays a 2.40% dividend. The consensus estimate is $26.

Another segment of the transports that is critical to moving inventory around the United States is the trucking industry. In fact, The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 2.9% to 125.2 in January, the highest on record. The trucking industry represents a very important component of the U.S. economy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the trucking industry adds about 5% to the gross domestic product each year.

Trucking leader J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. (NASDAQ: JBHT) is another name bumping up against 52-week highs. Providing service in the United States, Canada and Mexico, J.B. Hunt closed yesterday at $70.20. The consensus target is $70.50.

Investors may also want to consider Swift Transportation Co. (NYSE: SWFT). Moving everything from retail merchandise to perishable and nonperishable food, this Phoenix-based industry leader closed at $13.93 yesterday. The consensus target is $16.50.

In a diverse and well-rounded portfolio, individuals need to consider owning transportation stocks. One way to achieve diversity is to add a transportation exchange traded fund (ETF) like the SPDR S&P Transportation (NYSEMKT: XTN). Buying an ETF allows investors to own a basket of transportation stocks in all segments of the transport industry.

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