Commodities & Metals

How the Prospect of a Biden Presidency Has Jolted Lithium Stocks

One of the major themes of President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign was addressing the global climate emergency. He has promised to restore the U.S. commitment to the Paris agreement and plans to invest what his transition website calls the “engines of sustainable job creation.”

One of those engines is the U.S. auto industry, including the industry’s supply chain. Another is innovation in clean energy technologies like battery storage with a plan to “rapidly commercialize them, ensuring that those new technologies are made in America.”

Share prices for electric vehicles (EVs) have risen dramatically so far this year, with China-based carmakers getting a boost from Biden’s election. Another sector seeing a turn higher Monday was lithium miners. The stocks in these firms had risen gradually between about May and mid-September, when a couple of stocks soared and a couple of others posted solid gains as well. Here’s a look at where they stand right now.

Albemarle Corp. (NYSE: ALB) is the country’s largest supplier of lithium. The shares have added about 65% for the year to date, including a jump of nine percentage points in the final two days of last week and a gain of another five points Monday morning. The stock’s 52-week high of $120.80 was posted Monday morning, a level nearly double the consensus share price. Albemarle shares trade at about 28 times expected 2021 earnings. For the year to date, shares are up about 82%.

Recent analyst changes include a ratings increase from Neutral to Buy at Citigroup with a price target of $132 and a reiteration of an Outperform rating at BMO Capital Markets with an increase in the price target from $115 to $120.

Livent Corp. (NYSE: LTHM) was spun out of FMC in October 2018. It continues to trade below its IPO price of $16.25 a share, but it has posted a gain of 74% since late September. For the year to date, Livent shares have doubled, and they currently trade about 13% below their 52-week high of $15.50. The consensus price target on the stock is $10.20. At a current price of around $13.50, shares trade at a multiple of about 65 times expected 2021 earnings.

Citigroup raised its rating on Livent from Neutral to Buy with a price target of $16.50. BMO Capital Markets reiterated its Market Perform rating and lifted its price target from $8.50 to $9.00.

Piedmont Lithium Ltd. (NASDAQ: PLL) is an Australia-based firm that began trading in the United States in January 2018. The share price fell more than 7% on Friday but had recovered some of that in early trading Monday. Shares trade about 56% below the 52-week high of $54.50 and more than 90% below the consensus price target of $45.50. Shares trade at a multiple of around 45 times to an expected loss of $0.53 per share in 2021. For the year to date, Piedmont shares have gained about 188%. In late September, Piedmont signed a five-year deal to supply lithium to Tesla.

The most recent rating on the stock came in late September, when Roth Capital raised the shares from Positive to Buy and lifted its price target from $20 to $41.

Lithium Americas Corp. (NYSE: LAC) is a Canada-based lithium miner that came public in July of 2018. The stock’s 52-week high is $16.97, and shares traded at around $10.80 Monday morning, implying a potential upside to the stock of 36% to the 52-week high. The stock already trades above the consensus price target of $10.83 and at a multiple of around 26 times to an expected 2021 loss per share of $0.40. For the year to date, Lithium Americas shares are up about 240%.

In late October, Roth Capital downgraded the stock from Buy to Neutral and lowered its price target from $15.00 to $13.50. National Bank Financial maintained an Outperform rating and lifted its price target from $10.00 to $12.50.

The Global X Lithium & Battery Technology ETF (NYSEARCA: LIT) has climbed steadily since March of this year, when shares were going for around $21.70. For the year to date, the shares have added more than 85%, and they traded Monday at around $50.55, just 2.6% below the 52-week high.

The fund’s top holdings are China-based EV maker BYD Auto (10.79%), Albemarle (9.49%) and Tesla (7.04%). Tesla and Albemarle are the only U.S.-traded stocks among the fund’s top 10 holdings.

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