Why Harley-Davidson Stock Slumped Today

Shares of motorcycle company Harley-Davidson (HOG -6.68%) slumped on Thursday after the company reported financial results for the third quarter of 2023. Q3 sales dropped, profits pulled back even more, and the outlook didn’t instill confidence. As of 2:50 p.m. ET, Harley-Davidson stock was down 7% but it had been down almost 12% earlier in the session.

Consumer discretionary problems

For Q3, Harley-Davidson’s revenue fell by a modest 6% year over year. But the more alarming thing is what management said about consumer discretionary spending. Many people finance a motorcycle purchase but higher interest rates are causing people to pull back. As management said, “It’s just a limit of affordability within their month-to-month budget.”

Harley-Davidson’s management did what it could to reassure shareholders. It kicked off its press release by saying, “We have been able to achieve a result that preserves profitability at an industry leading level.” And to its credit, the company’s Q3 operating margin was 13.5%. That’s down from its operating margin of 20.6% in the prior-year period, but it’s still quite good.

That said, with the consumer stretched thin, investors aren’t feeling good about a Harley-Davidson investment right now.

What’s next for Harley-Davidson stock?

Harley-Davidson operates in three segments: the motor company, financial services, and a controlling interest in LiveWire. But the bulk of the business is still the motor company. Guidance implies that sales for the motor company will be basically flat compared to the prior-year period. And the market might find this guidance too optimistic given its results in Q3.

Harley-Davidson is still earning a profit, paying a dividend, and returning capital to shareholders by repurchasing shares. But with revenue challenged due to higher interest rates and with its profit margin contracting, this stock could struggle to beat the market until macroeconomic conditions improve.

Jon Quast has 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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