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The Analysts Shift Trucking Sentiment Back into Forward

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  • Investors have perceived a change in sentiment toward trucking stocks ahead of Q4 results.
  • If the group performs well, the analysts could provide a tailwind.
  • The technical setups are favorable to higher prices, but risks lie ahead with trucking stocks.
  • 5 stocks we like better than J.B. Hunt Transport Services

The sentiment in trucking stocks soured in 2022 due to lingering issues with costs, drivers and a downtick in pricing and demand that have put a cap on revenue and earnings growth targets. Sentiment in this group has shifted for the better, however. Many of the top stocks are forming bottoms and look like they could run higher.

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GXO Logistics is in the Driver's Seat

After a year of upswing and downswing, GXO Logistics (NYSE:GXO) is finally trading back at its IPO level and has the support of the analyst community. This stock has gotten two significant shout-outs since the first of the New Year, including an upgrade and a price target increase.

The upgrade comes from Morgan Stanley, which upped the rating from "equal weight" to "overweight" with a price target of $60. The $60 price target is in line with the current consensus, which is down from last year but firming noticeably in the nearer term.

GXO Logistics reports on Valentine's Day and is one of few logistics/trucking companies expected to post sequential and year-over-year (YOY) gains in revenue. Earnings are expected to be up YOY but may flatten relative to the prior quarter.

XPO Logistics (NYSE:XPO), on the other hand, has still seen downward pressure from analysts. However, it is expected to report on February 8 and may change the sentiment with its results. The company completed a major divestiture in 2022 that will cut top-line results by more than 33% but should widen the margin.

The questions to ask and answer: How is the core business doing? Is there an improvement in profitability? XPO Logistics is rated a "moderate buy," which has been steady over the past year, although the price target is still decreasing.

Analysts Give J.B. Hunt a Little Gas

Intermodal and integrated full-service trucking outfit J.B. Hunt (NASDAQ:JBHT) has also gotten a little gas from the analysts. This stock has seen a single shout-out since the first of the year with a boosted price target from Citigroup.

Citigroup raised the target to $200 compared to the consensus estimate of $196, which implies a 10% upside for investors. This is the first upped target since the last earnings report and may turn into a trend if the results are good enough this time.

This company reports on January 18 and should report YOY increases in the top and bottom-line results. Will it outperform the analyst's expectations for flat sequential results?

Competitor Old Dominion Freight Lines (NASDAQ:ODFL) may be better for investors because it has yet to see a shift in the sentiment and should post sequential declines in revenue and earnings. If industry-wide strength is present, it could become one of the biggest outperformers.

Knight-Swift Has the Most Potential for Upside

Knight-Swift (NYSE:KNX) is a diversified trucker with intermodal, logistics, LTL and trucking operations. It is also the trucking company with the firmest sentiment, price target and price action. It is pegged at a "moderate buy" by 16 analysts that have held the price action steady within a tight range all year.

The takeaway is that the price target is firming after hitting the low end of the range in mid-2022 and offers a little upside at 6%. This company reports on January 25, and it, too, is set up to outperform analyst expectations. The consensus for revenue and earnings is expecting sequential and YOY declines in the face of what appears to be a firming sentiment for the trucking industry.

Should you invest $1,000 in J.B. Hunt Transport Services right now?

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Article by Thomas Hughes, MarketBeat