Good Business for Marriott Suggests Positive Economic Outlook for 2015?

Economic Outlook for 2015For a number of quarters now, The Walt Disney Company (DIS) has been telling us that attendance at its domestic parks and resorts and revenues per room are going up. But Disney isn’t the only company seeing an upswing in lodging. Business in this area is increasing overall. Along with airlines, increased business in this space is a telling indicator and a sign that the consumer is spending again. In fact, good business for this one stock could be all you need to form an economic outlook for 2015.

What’s this stock? It’s Marriott International, Inc. (MAR).

Marriott International, Inc.

Marriott has been a significant wealth creator over the last year, and the company’s share price performance is a direct reflection of the turnaround in the lodging industry.

Marriott is in the hotel management business and prefers not to own individual properties. At the end of the third quarter this year, the company managed 702,254 rooms on 4,127 total properties.

Franchise and management fees are the company’s revenues. With long-term contracts, this business is able to minimize risk in what is a cyclical industry. New Marriott hotels actually require little to no investment from the company.

Revenue per available room, otherwise known as “RevPAR,” is one of the industry’s most important statistics. For Marriott and other lodging companies, the numbers in this area show a positive trend.

For the first nine months of 2014, management reported a strong increase in business demand for rooms in the U.S. market. Better yet, the company is reducing discounts and raising prices.

Breaking the trend, Marriott reported stronger demand in the U.K. and central Europe, as well as in Japan, Indonesia, India, and most of China.

In the third quarter of 2014, global RevPAR increased 8.1% to $114.29, with average daily rates growing 4.5% on a constant dollar basis to $148.55. Occupancy grew 2.6% comparatively to 76.9%, with the third quarter representing an acceleration from the first nine months of the year.

The majority of Marriott’s business is located outside of the U.S. market (59%). Third-quarter total sales grew nine percent comparatively to $3.5 billion, while net income grew 20% to $192 million, and earnings per share posted a 25% comparative gain. North American RevPar grew 8.8% to $133.02 comparatively on a 2.5% gain in occupancy to 75.4%.

Business conditions are pretty good for Marriott, and I expect the company to effect another increase to its quarterly dividend next year.

The stock has been on a tear lately, moving consistently higher. This time last year, the stock was around $46.00 a share; now, it’s around $80.00.

Marriott International Inc Chart

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Marriott also reported a solid increase in its non-business revenues, otherwise referred to as transient customers. A comparable gain was noteworthy in the western states, according to the company.

Other lodging companies reported positive numbers in the most recent quarter. This is a good indicator for what’s to come in 2015.

Overall, airline and lodging companies are great barometers on economic activity. For these stocks—and Marriott, in particular—the third quarter was the strongest of the year, which bodes well for the industry in the fourth quarter and next year.