‘Fear’ of a President Warren Is Hurting For-Profit Education Stocks, Analysts Say

(Bloomberg) -- For-profit education stocks may continue to be volatile as the sector prices in the rising poll figures for Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who’s been an outspoken critic of the industry.

The Russell 3000 Education Services Index (RGUSDES) shed roughly 13% in September, led in part by double-digit losses at Career Education Corp., Strategic Education Inc. and Adtalem Global Education Inc.

The stocks have been on a downward slide as Senator Warren took aim at the industry with a letter to private equity firms demanding to know details about their holdings in the sector. Yet, should she win the Democratic party’s nomination, shares could see a lift, according to Barrington Research.

‘Fear’ of a President Warren Is Hurting For-Profit Education Stocks, Analysts Say

“I suspect that if Warren is chosen as the Democratic nominee, the path to Trump’s re-election becomes easier,”analyst Alexander Paris said. As Warren, a staunch critic of big banks and corporations, chips away at Joe Biden’s lead, Paris said a Warren-Trump race would likely come down to capitalism versus socialism.

“I think with every uptick in Elizabeth Warren’s polling, it increases the chances of President Trump being re-elected. So therefore, stocks should go up, not down. But investors at large don’t necessarily share my optimism,” he said over the phone.

Earlier in September, Warren and Representative Mark Pocan wrote a letter to six private equity firms, asking for information about the firms’ management of colleges and universities in an attempt to increase pressure on the sector.

Under the Obama administration, scrutiny and regulation of the industry was a key goal, catalyzed by complaints that it was misleading students and saddling them with debts they couldn’t repay. But since then, the Trump administration has repealed many Obama-era provisions, which sent shares in several for-profit colleges soaring earlier this year.

Picking back up the cause, Warren’s letter to PE firms, including Apollo Global Management and KKR & Co., used a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research to show that “when a for-profit college is purchased by a private equity firm, ‘student outcomes deteriorate ... and reliance on federal aid and guaranteed loans increases.’”

BMO Capital Markets analyst Jeffrey Silber wrote that while the sector is “vastly different” with a number of “bad actors” removed since the Obama administration, “it appears investors do not care.” Using regression analysis, Silber compared recent education stock performances to prediction markets data, which showed “a high inverse correlation as the odds of [Warren] winning the Democratic nomination increase.”

“The stocks will be volatile until investment sentiment turns,” Barrington’s Paris said

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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