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Will Ford Stock Perform Well in a Potential Market Crash?

Motley Fool - Fri Dec 8, 2023

There's one certainty in the stock market: Prices will go up and down, exhibiting bullish and bearish sentiment. This mimics humans and their emotional makeups.

While rising asset prices are fun to experience, a market crash can be devastating for your portfolio -- and your psychology. That's why it's a good idea to try and find businesses that could still perform well in this type of unfavorable environment.

Does Ford(NYSE: F) stock fit this description? Let's take a closer look at the auto manufacturer.

Expectations matter

A market crash can happen for a variety of reasons.

But I think the most obvious one is that investors expect difficult times ahead for the economy. This means rising unemployment, softer consumer spending, corporate layoffs, or slowing revenue and earnings growth. Investors probably fear that a recession is on the horizon, so they sell off riskier assets to move to cash or Treasuries, for example, which are viewed as safer holdings.

This mentality shift is what we saw in 2022, when the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 19% and 33%, respectively. The U.S. wasn't in an official recession last year, but rising interest rates provided much better returns on lower-risk assets, the shift in investor sentiment resulted in lower stock prices.

But was Ford able to hold up in 2022's disappointing market environment? Not exactly. The Detroit automaker saw its shares plummet 44% last year, a worse performance than the broader indexes.

Should a potential market crash be on the horizon, investors should probably stay away from owning Ford stock.

What about the fundamentals?

Of course, we know that stock prices are different from a company's underlying fundamentals. Even what are otherwise outstanding businesses can still experience meaningful share-price declines. Just look at all the FAANG stocks and how they performed in 2022.

A compelling argument can be made that Ford simply isn't a quality business.

First off, as is the case with any car manufacturer, this is a cyclical company. Ford depends on low interest rates to make buying a new car more affordable for consumers. A stronger economic backdrop is needed for consistent revenue and earnings growth. The issue, though, is that this is completely outside of the company's control.

Ford isn't a recession-proof enterprise. And these types of businesses certainly don't have the odds stacked in their favor during a market crash.

Plus, the nature of the auto industry means that Ford will always have a huge debt burden and sizable capital expenditures on an ongoing basis. Research and development for cars, building new factories, paying a massive unionized workforce, and spending on marketing efforts are all incredibly expensive. And the fact that the industry is intensely competitive gives Ford no ability to let up in these areas (unless it's fine with losing market share to rivals).

Companies like O'Reilly Automotive and AutoZone, on the other hand, have proven to be recession-resilient. Demand for the tools and supplies they sell remains robust in tough economic times. That's because consumers still need functioning vehicles in their day-to-day lives. So it's no surprise that both companies' shares were up nearly 20% in 2022, a totally different performance than that of Ford or the indexes.

Even this year, when the broader market has bounced back nicely and rewarded investors, Ford just has not participated in the rally. As of this writing, the stock is down 8% so far in 2023.

The takeaway is that Ford shares don't seem to do well in good or bad times. And this is discouraging for anyone considering adding the business to their portfolio.

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Neil Patel and his clients have no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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