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Cognex: Seeing Value in Robotic Vision

A robotic "vision" company is rallying.

Without sight, the modern industrial robot is just so much flailing metal. With it, it’s increasingly a difference-maker for rapidly automating manufacturers and distributors, notes Igor Greenwald, editor of Investing Daily’s Breakthrough Tech Profits.

Success depends crucially on machine vision, a tricky technology marrying the sensors serving as robotic eyes to the software algorithms and artificial intelligence applications essential to processing those signals. How well a machine “sees” is ultimately a function of its proficiency at pattern recognition.

We’ve been recommending the leading machine vision developer for the last six months, and in that time Cognex (CGNX) has returned 52%. It rallied 10% on big volume in response to another quarter of surprisingly strong results and hugely upgraded guidance.

Even a blind robot could tell you that this is a favorable trading pattern amid a technology-led bull market. Stocks with upward momentum like CGNX have historically produced excess market returns; it’s one of the few pricing anomalies that has survived the advent of algorithmic trading.

Even machines have a hard time fully exploiting momentum strategies, it seems. And as for humans, some are still stuck on price-earnings ratio, despite excellent odds that Cognex investors don’t care that much about next year’s earnings. (The company is solidly profitable and debt-free, by the way.)

No, what investors care about is that revenue has quadrupled since 2009 and continues to grow strongly even as Cognex reaps a huge gross margin (78% in Q2). What investors care about is what this company might achieve in the next few years; the stock is trading off those high but hazy expectations.

Sure, Cognex is expensive; but lucrative high-growth stocks are seldom cheap. And they’re far less likely to cause problems than many equities that are cheap for a reason.

Of course, market sentiment could shift, or Cognex could lose luster. I’m not smart enough to guess when that might happen. I’m only smart enough to know that reversion to the mean and valuation are terrible reasons to stay out of a stock that’s working this well. Buy Cognex below the increased limit of $110.

Igor Greenwald is editor of Investing Daily’s Breakthrough Tech Profits.

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