Stock Market News: Aurora Gets Burned; IBM Gets Over the Blues

Dan Caplinger, The Motley Fool

Thursday marked another move forward for earnings season, as a rising number of companies will report their latest results over the next couple of weeks. Yet as we've seen throughout much of this week, major stock market indexes didn't have huge responses to earnings or other news, merely easing modestly lower. As of 11:15 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI) was down 51 points to 27,169. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC) fell 2 points to 2,982, and the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX: ^IXIC) dropped 27 points to 8,158.

Part of the tug of war that market participants are seeing stems from the fact that there are a lot of positives and negatives showing up in companies' fundamental businesses. For Aurora Cannabis (NYSE: ACB), the potential of the marijuana industry is undeniable, but shareholders are concerned about whether the cannabis cultivator will emerge as a winner in the budding field. Meanwhile, IBM (NYSE: IBM) has been under pressure for years, but even though Big Blue's revenue has continued to decline, investors were pleased today with another aspect of IBM's most recent earnings report that they believe points to a potential long-term turnaround.

Is Aurora spending too much cash?

Shares of Aurora Cannabis were down 6% after the Canadian marijuana company received comments from analysts at BofA Merrill Lynch. Even with some upbeat statements about Aurora's having earned a leadership role in the industry, the analysts expressed some concerns about how it's gotten there and whether it's sustainable.

Greenhouse with low lighting and rows of cannabis plants.

Image source: Aurora Cannabis.

BofA Merrill downgraded Aurora stock from buy to neutral, cutting its price target by $2 per share to $8. The analysts praised Aurora's success in building up a huge cannabis operation that has international scope, and the way that the company has controlled costs in an effort to boost the bottom line is also a testament to the its management. Yet the concern that BofA Merrill has is that even despite its best efforts, Aurora's strategy has involved using up significant amounts of cash, and that's putting pressure on liquidity and could require the company to get further financing.

Of particular concern is a convertible debenture that's set to come due in early 2020. With past debt offerings, Aurora had taken advantage of features that allowed it to redeem the debentures using shares rather than cash. However, this debenture has a conversion price of $13.05 per share, which is well above where Aurora stock currently trades. Repaying that $230 million could cost Aurora valuable cash, and if the company has to replace it with additional share offerings, then the resulting dilution could put further pressure on the marijuana stock.

Big Blue gets a break

Shares of IBM were higher by 4% following the tech giant's release of second-quarter earnings late Wednesday. Not all of the news out of Big Blue was positive, but investors seemed pleased with the progress that the long-struggling tech pioneer has made in turning around its business.

IBM's revenue was down more than 4% compared to the year-earlier period, with the strong dollar being responsible for more than half of that decline. However, IBM also posted a 3% rise in adjusted earnings per share over the same time frame, with margin improvement helping the company make more from less.

More importantly, IBM investors see better times ahead. Stronger growth in its cloud and cognitive software and global business services divisions showed the emphasis that the company is putting on its more profitable businesses, while slumps in systems and global technology sales were largely expected and have lower profit margins than the other segments.

The success of IBM's turnaround will largely hinge on whether its recently closed acquisition of Red Hat results in as much growth as the company hopes. If Red Hat can't live up to expectations under IBM's corporate umbrella, then the tech giant could find itself once again suffering another case of the blues.

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Dan Caplinger has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool is short shares of IBM and has the following options: short January 2020 $200 puts on IBM, short September 2019 $145 calls on IBM, and long January 2020 $200 calls on IBM. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.