2022; The year of kingpin commodity stocks. Four stocks to watch and why
Australian Market Strategist
Summary: Markets have shifted, favouring what’s more important to economic growth i.e. commodities, are pivoting out of what will come under further duress as rates rise (tech). Kingpin commodities are in vogue and we see higher prices this year, and record results are ahead in oil, lithium, copper, as well as gold, and silver. We cover four commodity stocks to look at and why.
In our Quarterly Outlook last year, we sounded the alarm; higher commodity prices were ahead for; oil, coal, lithium, copper, grains, (wheat), and meat. Then the Ukraine war struck, adding to ailing supply concerns, causing de-globalization, pushing commodity prices to fresh records. This also revved up the push to be more carbon neutral, ushering in more ‘green-inflation’, .i.e. higher prices in green metals (from rising demand and inelastic supply). Playing devil’s advocate, even if the war in Ukraine ended tomorrow, we think a community super cycle is still near, which will fuel even higher prices, creating more profits for investors, at a time when commodity companies are already boasting the highest cash flows (and free cash flows) in the market.
So what is also behind the forthcoming commodity super cycle?
Rising demand for; infrastructure (roads/rail, dams, housing, buildings, China building an undersea tunnel that’s twice the length of the tunnel between England and France, China building 5G stations/data centres etch), demand for food, heating/cooling, the push to carbon neutrality, and investors are also demanding ‘real’ assets. So demand is hot, while commodity supply is anaemic; from weather constraints (hotter summers/ colder winters), regulation issues (from ethical/ESG constraints) preventing banks and companies from lending to miners/ drillers, to community protests halting mines from operating (i.e. Rio’s Serbian mine).
How is this affecting performance?
Commodities are having their best year since 2000. The Bloomberg Commodity Index, tracking 23 commodity futures prices (from energy, to materials, and agriculture) is now in record high territory, after rising 53% this year, and will likely hit higher levels in 2022 for reasons above. The technical indicator also support this too.
At a stock level, commodity stocks have become the best performers, in the US and Australia this year. Oil and gas, and crop nutrient companies are strongly outperforming markets. Oil companies like Occidental Petroleum (OXY) trade 104% higher this year, Halliburton (HAL) is up 60%. While Fertiliser companies like Mosaic (MOS) have gained 73%, CF Industries (CFF) is up 43%; all sharply outperforming the US benchmark S&P500 which is underwater, down 12% year to date.
Five other catalysts to invest in commodities?
Consideration 1 - wage inflation and supply issues - Some of the largest companies in the world, Amazon, Tesla, IBM, BHP, Rio etc are flagging wage inflation and supply issues will linger throughout this year. Some companies like Tesla and IBM, will be passing costs onto consumers, while also experience slimmer margins. IBM and many other companies have stated this.
Consideration 2 – overall earnings is slowing, but not in commodities - US quarterly earnings results showed earnings stalled in the first quarter 2022, with earnings growth coming in about 70% below the historical average amid wage inflation and supply chain issues. Overall earnings growth in Q1 is just 2.6% (out of the 275 S&P500 companies who reported results so far), and this is below the 10% average for earnings growth. The strongest earnings growth has come from the Energy sector with 245% average earnings growth in Q1, and the Materials (mining) sector with 37% earnings growth.
Consideration 3- higher interest rates to come -The Fed alluded to doing what it can to ‘fight inflation’ last year (November 2021). Since, then inflation surged to 40 year high (8.5% year on year in March). Inflation surpassed the Fed’s forecasts, and inflation is set to continue, and thus The Fed will hike rates aggressive to combat this. This week the Fed is expected to make a 0.5% rate hike (its biggest hike since 2000). The Taylor rule, the Fed’s model to forecast interest rates, suggests rates should be 9%, not 2.6%, where consensus forecast rates to be at year-end.
Consideration 4- The market favours quality companies- Companies, specifically commodity companies, with strong balance sheets, scale, and strong free cash flows have been favoured this year, and this trend will likely continue as these organisations can sustain rising inflation and rising interest (click here for commodities stock inspiration). The market is already telling us this; favouring those who will likely do well over the next 6, 9, 12 months (commodities)
Consideration 5- G-7 countries to shrink their balances sheets by $410 billion in 2022. Yet Commodity companies have enough cash flows for buy backs. Many commodities companies have ample free cash flows, and are likely to announce buy backs. On top of that, many companies have solid valuations in comparison to their earnings. Even if the war is Ukraine is over tomorrow, cash flows, and free-cashflows, in commodities companies are still aggressively rising, not only due to due to US President Biden’s infrastructure stimulus, but also China’s stimulus. Rising cashflows, and earnings are said to be the key to share price growth, especially in this new market of record inflation and rising rates.
Potential sectors and stocks to watch?
Global lithium prices are likely to set new records this year. The Lithium Price Index (a measure of the lithium prices) is at its highest level in history, supporting lithium stocks share price growth. We believe the lithium price is likely to set higher prices this year, given the supply deficit, and rising demand from electric vehicle companies who are phasing out internal combustion engines (ICE or IC engines). Morgan Stanley is also of the same view too. Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley is bearish on the lithium price in 2023, seeing a return to surplus lithium next week. We think the lithium price could set higher levels not just this year, but over the longer term given the lack of supply, and higher the International Energy Agency (IEA) wants to ban fuel consumption engine sales by 2050.
Stock to watch? Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile (SQM)
SQM is one of the world’s leading lithium companies, while diversified in plant fertilizers too. 41% of its profit is from lithium. While it produces fertilizers and plant nutrients including potassium, and as well as other agricultural sector products where 57% of profits are from. Both lithium and fertilizers are growth markets. The lithium carbonate price is tipped to grow at 17% CAGR till 2026. Fertilizers are also tipped to see strong CAGR’s for the world to grow crops, and also sustain higher growth rates due to the behavioral shift toward eating vegan/vegetarian product. For more on fertilizers, click here.
- Key Metrics: SQM is listed in US. Market cap is $21 billion. P/E is 11.78 times earnings. Current yield is 0.5%.
- Outlook? SQM is likely to hit higher levels this year, supported by expectations for the lithium price to double, and for fertilizer/agricultural nutrient prices to continue to rise amid rising demand and limited supply (Russia has a ban on phosphorus and potash and China has limited exports of phosphate). The market (known as consensus) expects SQM’s revenue and gross profits will hit a record this year as a result. Revenue growth of 111% is expected, profit growth of 50% is expected, and earnings (EBITDA) growth of 51% is expected.
- The technical indicators: Are bullish, on a weekly and monthly level, suggesting SQM’s share price could set new highs to the delight on long term shareholders and new investors.
- Key risks: Supply chain issues and higher wages could be a headwind for the short term.
Copper is not only needed in housing construction, but also in essential in the green transformation (for its used in electric cars). We think copper is the sleeping beauty commodity and will likely set higher prices in 2022, as restrictions ease in China and as global demand picks up, in this tight market.
Did you know the average electric vehicle needs;
- 83 kilograms of Copper
- 10 kilograms of lithium
- 45 kilograms of nickel
- 20 kilograms of manganese
- 14 kilograms of cobalt
- 70 kilograms of Graphite
- 250 kilograms of Aluminium
That’s a lot of industrials metals. BHP is an example of a company that makes revenue from many of these key elements, and more.
Stock to watch? BHP.
BHP, the world’s largest miner, can’t be ignored. The diversified business makes 58.1% from iron ore and the steel ingredient (iron ore) is in a continued long-term bullish rebound from its low, supported by expectations China will increase iron ore buying (to execute its infrastructure project boost so that China can achieve its 5.5% GPD target). 26.5% of BHP’s revenue is from Copper - and we think Copper is due for a run up, ahead of China’s lockdowns ending (the technical indicators also support this too). Plus don’t forget BHP also makes 8.7% of revenue from Coal and 6.7% from petroleum, (both are in uptrends) but these businesses are being sold off with so BHP can focus on being a greener companies. The funds from the sales of BHP’s coal and petrol assets will likely be returned to shareholder, via share buy backs - which again, supports share price growth. And lastly, BHP keep also makes money from industrial metals, essential to electric vehicles, nickel, alumimum, and manganese (yet BHP has not broken down how much it earns from these).
- BHP’s Key Metrics: BHP is listed on the ASX, and in US. In Australia its market cap is A$256.7 billion. It’s the world’s biggest mining company and Australia’s largest company stock. P/E is 7.8 times earnings. BHP’s dividend yield is 13.5%.
- BHP (BHP), and its peers Rio (RIO), and Vale (VALE) the world’s biggest mining companies, reported quarterly iron ore shipments fell amid COVID staff shortages and outages. BHP also flagged supply chain issues but we still see upside in BHP and it maintained full-year guidance. While Rio (RIO) said the current inflation environment was unlike anything the global economy had witnessed in almost half a century. On a like for like basis, Vale’s full year revenue growth is expected to slow, along with its profits growth, while BHP’s revenue and profit growth is expected to rise this year; consensus is for 64% gross profit growth in 2022, 11% revenue growth, with headline revenue and earnings (EBITDA) to hit record highs. Meanwhile, the market thinks Rio’s revenue will slide in 2022. Bernstein, Barrenjoey, Macquarie, BMO and Shaw and Partnerss have BHP as a BUY, and only AlphaValue has BHP as Sell.
- Saxo has a good relationship with BHP executives who tell us they have a very strong relationships with China, where 65.3% of revenue from. 7.6% of revenue comes from Japan, which is their second biggest consumer.
- The technical indicators: As below, BHP is likely to continue its long term rebound, supported by the fundamentals drive.
- Key risks: The risk to BHP is if inflation and supply chain issues continue longer than expect, it might mean; BHP’s revenue and profit growth could be flat and BHP might not be able to pay another record dividend. We also don’t see geopolitical tension with China affecting BHP over the longer term, as we don’t believe the US, or Australia would want to jeopardize a large source of employment and a big contributor to GPD.
- Key Metrics: Barrick is listed in US. Market cap is $40 billion. P/E is 19 times earnings. Current yield is 1.8%.
- Outlook? Barrick Gold had fared better than its peers amid tight labour markets and higher freight and energy costs, however its recent quarterly results missed expectation as the gold producer copped the pinch from inflation. Barrick sees quarterly costs rising 19-21%. So that contributed to Barrick’s shares pulling back from recent highs. While Q2 is expected to be lackluster, the biggest picture is brighter with Q3 to see a recovery in all margins with the market expecting logistics and wages pressures to subside. Barrick has strong free cash flows that are expected to rise over the next two years. Barrick is a BUY stock for 75% of investment analysts that cover it. On a yearly basis, given gold’s likely push up and likely continued rise, Barrick’s revenue, earnings and gross profit metrics look set to shine in the full year. The market sees stronger profit growth in 2022 and 2023 from a recovery in revenue growth, of just 2.2% and 2% the year after. If Barrick can pull it off, following the fall in revenue growth in 2021, Barrick will likely continue to lead other bullion producers. The market expects profit growth of 49% in 2022 and earnings, and net income growth to rise in the full year, which also supports share price growth.
- The technical indicators: On a monthly basis, given the growth trajectory for Gold, Barrick’s shares are likely to continue their long-term uptrend from September last year. However Barrick’s shares are susceptible for a short term pull back following their weaker than expected results.
- Key risks: The major risk is that cost pressure don’t subside. The miner has a longer labour force, so may have to eat into free cash flows if energy and other input costs and wages pressure don’t subside in Q3.
The gold price is up about 4% this year, which offsets the pull back in broad US stocks (The S&P500). Gold, makes a good addition to a portfolio to offset pullbacks in equities. Gold is likely to set higher levels, as yields rise. Historically we know gold has outperformed equities, every time the US fed rose interest rates (with a cycle of hikes). As our head of commodity strategy pointed out, from December last year, the gold price has mirrored the price rise of oil. This strength tells us about the level of risk in the system. In our recently published Quarterly Outlook we also highlight the reasons why we see gold moving higher and reaching a fresh record high later this year.
Stock to watch? Barrick Gold (GOLD)
Barrick Gold, is an international gold company; with projects in US, Canada, South America, Australia and Africa is arguably one of the most loved by analysts, yet little known gold stocks by retail investors. While many bullion producers stocks are on the nose, Barrick has performed better than most.
- HAL Key Metrics: HAL is listed in US. Market cap is $33 billion. P/E is 19.5 times earnings. Current dividend yield is 1.3%.
- Outlook? HAL is trading at its highest level since 2018, and is likely to hit higher levels this year, supported by its expected revenue, earnings and profit growth. The market expects profits to return to 2018 levels, and record free cash flows next year. Consensus expects revenue growth of 25% in 2022, gross profits are tipped to growth 16%, earnings (EBITDA) growth of 19%. 74% of investment analysts that cover HAL, love it. Following HAL’s recently quarterly results, which beat expectations, the stock was upgraded by Citi, and Bank of America. Susquehanna and Goldman Sachs, see 100% share price growth in a year, along with Griffin Securities, and Cowen. Morgan Stanley is less bullish, seeing 56% upside share price growth in a year to $45.
- The technical indicators: Are bullish, on a weekly and monthly level, suggesting HAL’s share price could set new highs to the delight on long term shareholders and new investors.
- Key risks: Supply chain issues and higher wages could be a headwind for the short term.
We see the oil price hitting new levels and possibly resting its all-time high later this year, given the continued disruptions from Russia, but also as we haven’t even seen covid19 restrictions ease in China. So Global oil will set higher levels since global mobility and travel resumes.
Stock to watch? Halliburton (HAL).
Halliburton is one of the best performers in the US stock market this year (HAL) is up 600%, and the street is very bullish on HAL for the year ahead. Halliburton is the biggest energy contractor (an engineering, construction and a manufacturer/seller of products in the energy sector). The company makes most of its money from America (41.7%), 25% from the Middle East, 17.8% from Europe/Africa, and 15.4% from Latin America. Halliburton was also the first major oilfield-service contractor to halt all work in Russia in response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, so the company booked a $22 million write off from that as a result. But that has not put a dent in its outlook. The company’s entire fracking fleet is spoken for (sold out) and demand for drilling is expected to balloon. Halliburton expects oil drilling budgets to grow 35%, as oil companies are tipped to look for more oil, in riskier, costlier and deeper more time consuming areas than traditionally projects like Deepwater wells.
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