It’s Finally Time to Take a Pause on Visa Stock

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Visa (NYSE:V) stock has exhibited a behavior not seen in a long time, it has stayed in place. The payments processor has consistently moved higher for the last few years as consumers across the world increasingly moved to card-based transactions. However, the lack of movement leaves V stock investors wondering what to do.

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Market trends have left it seemingly immune from secular downturns. Still, it has also stopped responding positively. Considering the stock’s history, as long as V stock remains in its current position, traders should probably do the same.

Payment Trends, Dominance at Home Drive Visa

Visa stock has performed well over the last few years. The company benefits as society increasingly turns from cash in favor of electronic payments. Within the U.S., most of those are made on Visa cards as the firm gains market share over processors such as Mastercard (NYSE:MA), American Express (NYSE:AXP) and Discover Financial (NYSE:DFS).

Visa processed 53.1% of U.S. card transactions in 2018. Despite the competition, this percentage has continued to grow. Moreover, it operates on all six continents and lags only China UnionPay in worldwide transactions.

At a forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 24.4, few consider this a cheap stock. However, with the record of profit growth it continues to accumulate, I find it hard to argue with the valuation. Over the previous five years, earnings grew by an average of 21.47% per year. Profit growth will slow somewhat in the future but remain robust. Wall Street forecasts earnings increases of 14.3% this year and 16.4% in the next.

Clearly, Visa remains a strong stock. While I do not think cash will completely disappear, more people will conduct more transactions via card. Moreover, with numerous countries in the world mostly using physical cash, Visa has the potential to maintain double-digit growth for years to come.

V Stock Has Become Range-Bound

The near-term problem for V stock is its lack of traction. On July 19, I urged investors not to buy Visa stock as valuations fully reflected growth potential. Other investors seem to see what I saw. Since that day, the V stock price is just under $180 per share, representing almost no change from mid-July levels.

Hence, the question for investors is what will move V stock? Will it fall over a market downturn, or will a comparatively cheap valuation finally motivate buyers?

Despite the ten-plus-year length of the economic expansion, it shows no signs of recession. This is significant because it takes turmoil in the market to take V stock into correction territory. It fell briefly into a bear market in the fall 2018 stock selloff. However, before that, it had not seen a significant selloff since 2010. This makes me wonder if this plateau is the closest thing we will see to a correction.

For now, valuation looks like a more likely catalyst. When I warned investors to not buy in July, the forward P/E ratio stood above 29. With that forward multiple now at 24.4, the plateau has improved the buy case for V stock. Still, its 52-week high stands at $187.05 per share. That is only around 4% lower than the current price.

If it can move to the $190 per share level and stay there, V stock will likely keep moving higher. However, if we experience a downturn in the market, investors may have a chance to buy in at a lower price. For now, all investors can do is wait.

The Bottom Line on Visa Stock

Since V stock shows little movement, investors should probably do the same. Due in large part to e-commerce, traders across the world have turned more often to using credit cards. This plays in Visa’s favor as a slight majority of U.S. card transactions take place on Visa’s payment network. This will also continue to make V stock a long-term winner.

However, with a slightly elevated P/E ratio, Visa stock currently prices in its present and future growth. With V stock staying in place, traders have no clue as to the direction of Visa in the short term. The lack of movement effectively lowers the P/E ratio due to profit growth.

Moreover, V stock has no recent history of falling significantly without a market downturn.

Until Visa can break out of its current trading range, traders have little reason to buy.

As of this writing, Will Healy did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned stocks. You can follow Will on Twitter at @HealyWriting.