Will Qualcomm Stock Return To Pre-Inflation Shock Highs Of $189?

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QCOM: Qualcomm logo
QCOM
Qualcomm

Qualcomm stock (NASDAQ:QCOM) currently trades at $153 per share, roughly 20% below its pre-inflation shock high of $189, seen in December 2021, and has the potential for meaningful gains. QCOM saw its stock trading at around $128 in late June 2022, just before the Fed started increasing interest rates, and is now about 20% ahead of that level, underperforming the broader markets, considering that the S&P 500 rose almost 33% over this period. The tough performance in Qualcomm stock over the recent past can be attributed to a slowdown in the smartphone and tablet market, amid cooling consumer spending and weaker demand for computing and mobile devices post Covid-19. However, things have been improving of late. Qualcomm reported a better-than-expected set of Q1 FY’24 results (for the quarter ended December). While revenue for the quarter stood at $9.94 billion, an increase of 5% year-over-year, earnings stood at $2.48 per share. Qualcomm’s revenue from handsets rose 16% year-over-year to $6.69 billion while automotive sales jumped 31% to $598 million. Qualcomm also announced in September that it had extended an agreement with Apple to supply modem chips to the iPhone maker until 2026. Apple was expected to use an internally developed 5G modem starting in 2024 but is facing some setbacks with its development.

Returning to the pre-inflation shock level means that Qualcomm stock will have to gain 24% from here. However, we do not believe that will materialize anytime soon and estimate Qualcomm valuation to be around $146 per share, roughly in line with the current market price. Our detailed analysis of Qualcomm upside post-inflation shock captures trends in the company’s stock during the turbulent market conditions seen over last year. It compares these trends to the stock’s performance during the 2008 recession.

QCOM stock has seen little change, moving slightly from levels of $150 in early January 2021 to around $150 now, vs. an increase of about 35% for the S&P 500 over this roughly 3-year period. Overall, the performance of QCOM stock with respect to the index has been lackluster. Returns for the stock were 20% in 2021, -40% in 2022, and 32% in 2023. In comparison, returns for the S&P 500 have been 27% in 2021, -19% in 2022, and 24% in 2023 – indicating that QCOM underperformed the S&P in 2021 and 2022. In fact, consistently beating the S&P 500 – in good times and bad – has been difficult over recent years for individual stocks; for heavyweights in the Information Technology sector including MSFT, AAPL, and NVDA, and even for the megacap stars GOOG, TSLA, and AMZN.

In contrast, the Trefis High Quality (HQ) Portfolio, with a collection of 30 stocks, has outperformed the S&P 500 each year over the same period. Why is that? As a group, HQ Portfolio stocks provided better returns with less risk versus the benchmark index; less of a roller-coaster ride as evident in HQ Portfolio performance metrics. Given the current uncertain macroeconomic environment with high oil prices and elevated interest rates, could QCOM face a similar situation as it did in 2021 and 2022 and underperform the S&P over the next 12 months – or will it see a strong jump?

2022 Inflation Shock

Timeline of Inflation Shock So Far:

  • 2020 – early 2021: Increase in money supply to cushion the impact of lockdowns led to high demand for goods; producers unable to match up.
  • Early 2021: Shipping snarls and worker shortages from the coronavirus pandemic continue to hurt supply.
  • April 2021: Inflation rates cross 4% and increase rapidly.
  • Early 2022: Energy and food prices spike due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Fed begins its rate hike process.
  • June 2022: Inflation levels peak at 9% – the highest level in 40 years. The S&P 500 index declined more than 20% from peak levels.
  • July – September 2022: Fed hikes interest rates aggressively – resulting in an initial recovery in the S&P 500 followed by another sharp decline
  • October 2022 – July 2023: Fed continues rate hike process; improving market sentiments help S&P500 recoup some of its losses
  • Since August 2023: Fed keeps interest rates unchanged to quell fears of a recession, although another rate hike could remain in the cards.

In contrast, here’s how QCOM stock and the broader market performed during the 2007/2008 crisis.

Timeline of 2007-08 Crisis

  • 10/1/2007: Approximate pre-crisis peak in S&P 500 index
  • 9/1/2008 – 10/1/2008: Accelerated market decline corresponding to Lehman bankruptcy filing (9/15/08)
  • 3/1/2009: Approximate bottoming out of S&P 500 index
  • 12/31/2009: Initial recovery to levels before accelerated decline (around 9/1/2008)

Qualcomm and S&P 500 Performance During 2007-08 Crisis

Qualcomm stock declined from $44 in September 2007 (pre-crisis peak) to around $33 in March 2009 (as the markets bottomed out), implying the stock lost over 20% of its pre-crisis value. It recovered from the 2008 crisis to levels of around $46 in early 2010, rising nearly 38% between March 2009 and January 2010. The S&P 500 Index saw a decline of 51%, falling from levels of 1,540 in September 2007 to 757 in March 2009. It then rallied 48% between March 2009 and January 2010 to reach levels of 1,124.

Qualcomm Fundamentals Over Recent Years

Qualcomm’s revenue rose from $24 billion in FY’19 to $35.8 billion in FY’23, driven by surging chipset sales through the Covid-19 pandemic although growth rates have moderated of late due to cooling demand for digital devices following the easing of the pandemic and the remote working trend. Qualcomm’s operating margin rose from 20.5% in 2019 to 21.7% in 2023. Its EPS stood at $6.42 in FY’23.

Does Qualcomm Have A Sufficient Cash Cushion To Meet Its Obligations Through The Ongoing Inflation Shock?

QCOM’s total debt has remained roughly flat at about $16 billion over the last four years. The company garnered $11.3 billion in cash flows from operations in 2023. Given its liquidity (cash and marketable securities) position of close to $12 billion as of the last quarter, Qualcomm appears to be in a comfortable position to meet its near-term obligations.

Conclusion

While Qualcomm stock could benefit from easing inflation and the Fed’s recent indication that it could cut interest rates over the next year, the company could be weighed down by a mixed smartphone market.

 Returns Feb 2024
MTD [1]
Since start
of 2023 [1]
2017-24
Total [2]
 QCOM Return 2% 37% 132%
 S&P 500 Return 4% 31% 125%
 Trefis Reinforced Value Portfolio 3% 42% 628%
Relevant Articles
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  4. Will Qualcomm Stock Return To Pre-Inflation Shock Highs Of Over $180?
  5. Will Qualcomm Stock Recover To Highs Seen Prior To Inflation Shock?
  6. Can Qualcomm Count On Automotive Sector To Drive Its Next Wave Of Growth?

[1] Returns as of 2/11/2024
[2] Cumulative total returns since the end of 2016

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