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September 01, 2020 1:29pm
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Yes, Colgate-Palmolive can clean its way to a fresh all-time high

photo of rows of Colgate toothpaste on grocery store shelves

Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE: CL) shares are trending higher within a range and have new highs in sight. The Q4 results, guidance and analysts' sentiment suggest it will set a new multi-year high soon and an all-time high later this year. Among the reasons are its value, yield, the outlook for distribution growth and earnings, which are coming in hot. 

Analysts favor this stock. Colgate-Palmolive is a Dividend King with six decades of consistent dividend growth and insulation from market volatility to keep them interested. However, a noticeable shift in the consensus sentiment is gaining momentum following the Q4 release and guidance. The shift has the sentiment up to moderate buy from hold, and the price target trending higher. 

The most recent revision tracked by Marketbeat is from Raymond James and includes an upgrade to Outperform and the new high price target. Analyst Olivia Tong thinks the guidance is cautious and expects to see strength and guidance improvement as the year progresses. Raymond James' target is $91, about 1000 basis points above the current action and well above the all-time high. The consensus, which is up compared to last year, last quarter and last month, puts the stock at a two-year high. 

Colgate-Palmolive has relative value supporting its stock price

Colgate-Palmolive is not a cheap stock compared to the broad market or its peers, which may present a hurdle for the price action. Trading at 24X this year's outlook and 22X next year, it is 50% more expensive than the average S&P 500 stock and more than double the cheapest consumer staples names. However, trading at 24X earnings is a value relative to historical norms, which have CL stock in the range of 25x to 30X at the peaks of its cycles. 

Because Colgate-Palmolive is in an upswing driven by results, guidance and analysts sentiment, it may experience an earnings-multiple expansion over the next few quarters to two years. In this scenario, a mere 2X expansion based on the 2024 consensus earnings target is worth $7 or enough to align the market with Raymond James' target. Assuming the company outperforms the consensus figures, it would generate a dual tailwind for the stock price that could easily add another 1000 basis points, putting the market near $100 by the end of the year. 

Colgate-Palmolive has a solid quarter, guiding strong 

Colgate-Palmolive had a solid quarter in Q4 with strong sales growth in all segments and geographies. The 7% top-line gain is supported by a 7% organic sales gain driven by volume and pricing. More importantly, pricing increases did not create significant elasticity and helped to drive margin improvements. The company increased its gross and operating margin on a GAAP and adjusted basis to deliver robust cash flow and earnings. The company's cash flow is up 47% with adjusted EPS of $0.87, $0.86 better than last year, with margin expansion expected to continue in the current fiscal year.

Guidance for 2024 is a little iffy, with the top-line growth expected to slow to the low single-digit range, but it may be overly cautious and is ahead of the analysts' consensus. Earnings are expected to grow at a faster mid-to-high-single-digit pace, and this forecast may also be cautious. 

The technical outlook: Colgate-Palmolive rebound gains momentum

The rebound in Colgate-Palmolive shares that began in 2023 continues after the Q4 release and is gaining momentum. The stock is up another 1% after gaining 2% the day of the report and will likely set a new two-year high soon. The move is supported by indicators, including MACD, which show rising momentum and market strength. However, the stochastic is overbought and raises the risk of a correction. The next target for resistance is just above the current action; if the market can get above it, the rally will likely continue. Critical resistance is near $85 and may lead to consolidation or correction, setting up the next buying opportunity. 

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