On a recent Friday morning, I flew into the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport for a family gathering. As I approached the Hertz rental car facility, I made a note of the number of names listed on the Hertz #1 Gold Service board. I did this not only to locate my vehicle, but to get a quick snapshot of the travel economy.
Based on what I saw, the travel economy is in trouble. Of the eight panels, only one listed names of Gold Service customers expected by Hertz that day. These boards fill up and empty depending on many factors, but in general, the more names on the board, the better it is for Hertz. I recall that when I flew into DFW in pre-recession 2007, all eight panels were filled with the names of customers.
To a number of advisors, the density of names on Hertz rental card panels represents a signifier of how the travel economy, and Hertz in particular, are doing. In fact, the same day I picked up my car, Hertz Global Holdings Inc. (HTZ) lowered its guidance for the year, pointing to weaker-than-expected demand from business travelers at its namesake brand’s key U.S. airport car rental division. Anyone who intends to invest in Hertz stock (and by extension, any travel industry stock) would be well advised to pay attention to such unconventional metrics.
REP. magazine asked a number of advisors to share some of the unconventional metrics they combine with more traditional sources of information to shape their financial outlook and take the temperature of the economy. Most advisors were happy to talk and take credit for their own unique indicators. Others were frustrated by over-zealous compliance departments who probably view things like Hertz customer announcement boards as taboo “forward-looking” pronouncements. At any rate, these advisors were happy to share as long as I withheld their names.
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