(Bloomberg) -- CenturyLink Inc.’s stock price gained more than 5% for the second straight session on Wednesday.
That feat is hardly worth pointing out for many companies in the S&P 500 Index. Netflix Inc. has pulled it off four times since 2015. But for CenturyLink, a rural telephone company that is one of the largest junk-bond issuers in the U.S., it’s positively eye catching.
The company might be the perfect example of how the recent rotation away from growth stocks into value shares, those with the cheapest valuations, has been anything but discriminate. The shift was so extreme that a Morgan Stanley strategy that’s long the best-performing stocks and short the worst plunged 6.9% Monday, its biggest loss since May 2009.
Sure, CenturyLink has some allure that could account for the run-up. Its indicated dividend yield was a whopping 7.5% as of Wednesday, almost 6 percentage points higher than that of the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust. And following Elliot Management Corp.’s proposal to push AT&T Inc. to divest assets, investors might be trying to front run a potential activist campaign in another telecom giant.
But even a cursory look under the surface shows CenturyLink’s high yield dividend is the result of a collapsing stock price rather than the company’s largess. In fact, the current dividend of 25 cents a share is less than half of what it was at the start of the year.
Moreover, the consensus 12-month target price for the stock is $13.40, implying a 0.7% return over Wednesday’s closing price. Including the dividend, shares have lost 6.2% since the beginning of the year after a string of setbacks including a customer lawsuit alleging fraud. Its shares remain among the 50 most heavily shorted companies in the S&P 500 Index.
All of which is to say buyer beware for those seeking to jump on the value bandwagon.
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