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Investors Are Staying Bullish On Marriot International

Marriot International stock price Marriot International (NASDAQ: MAR) is becoming a mouthwatering value play within a sector that is breaking out above all others, a significant factor during questioning economic times such as today. Shares of Marriot are relatively flat, despite posting their long-awaited second quarter 2023 earnings results, where most market participants had been biting their nails given the highly cyclical nature of Marriot's industry.

One of the main benefits of owning - and potentially holding - Marriot stock is that the company's size acts as a risk-diversification tool, considering that net sales grew over the year, especially in places outside of the United States, taking away the risk of a single country's economy affecting business to a level that was perhaps expected to be seen in today's results.

Understanding where Marriot stands against other giant names in the space, especially competitors like Hilton Worldwide (NYSE: HLT) and Hyatt Hotels (NYSE: H), can begin to lead investors into the right pockets of opportunity within a niche that is poised to push onward as tailwinds start to make their presence known.

There is much for investors to quarrel with today, as analyst ratings may send mixed signals on the face of a contrary sentiment being delivered within quarterly results.

An Unstoppable Force Meets... A Movable Object?

Marriot's stock chart has an exciting story to tell and acts as a critical key for investors to begin capturing the perspective of where the stock may be headed next. During the past year and a half, the stock has been forming a steep and narrow trading channel, pointing confidently upwards. While most of the market has been trading sideways, a symptom of indecision and 'directionless' trading, Marriot seems to be sure how it wants to step.

Marriott Stock chart

The above chart will showcase this bullish pattern alongside a few other significant developments that investors should consider when considering a potential purchase upon new financial data. The thick purple line will represent the infamous 200-day moving average, also seen as a proxy for bull and bear markets; considering that the stock is comfortably moving away from this average by the week, it would be reasonable to assume that bullish momentum is ever increasing.

Another technical factor driving new investors into the stock, apart from the hidden fundamental gems, is that the stock is seemingly resting above its previous all-time high price of $196.40. A lack of rejection or apparent resistance can be taken as broader markets accept the new norm, and Marriot's new place is up up and away.

Analyst earnings expectations for the next two years can be accredited with the newly found momentum, as the average estimated earnings per share (EPS) growth for 2023 lies at 25.3%, while 2024 EPS growth projections currently reflect a rate of 9.2%.

This may drive the stock higher, though the future can always change, especially regarding estimates. Investors can find more solid ground by understanding how the company is performing thus far this year.

Fundamentals and Valuations Make Way

Within Marriot's earnings press release, investors can begin to digest what management is mainly proud of in the highlights. Comparable systemwide revenues grew by an astonishing 13.5% during the year, which is not that fantastic; however, taken together with market expectations that the lodging and tourism industry was sure to slow down, any growth becomes a more decisive win.

Placing the weight of rampant inflation rates in the United States on top of these bearish views on the industry makes the double-digit advance for the company all the more impressive. One segment gave enough cause for investors to raise their eyebrows, a 39.1% international market revenue growth rate. Growth in overseas markets doubled the company's 6.0% growth in the United States market.

Net income grew by 7%, another respectable advance for a company facing a challenging period. However, earnings per share increased by 15.5%, more than double the net income growth rate. The difference between these two line items is driven by one single action by management, though one that says a thousand words regarding insider sentiment.

Marriot management deployed as much as $903 million into repurchasing shares off the open market, an approximate total of 5.2 million shares. By retiring as many shares as they did, management directly drove a wedge between net income and EPS, pushing the latter's growth to be more than double that of the former. 

Furthermore, deploying as much cash as they did, management hints that they believe the stock to be cheap. Comparing Marriot stock to competitors on a forward valuation basis via the forward price-to-earnings ratio can justify this insider purchase. Hilton and Hyatt trade at a 22.8x and 34.6x forward P/E, respectively, which will top Marriot's.

Marriot stock is being sold for a 22.0x forward P/E, making it the cheaper stock on today's terms and based on the next twelve months' earnings. Understanding that analysts expect respectable growth for the coming two years, investors can acquire this growth for relative cheapness today.

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