Since bottoming out a year ago, metal stocks have been on a nearly unbroken march higher. The NYSE American Steel Index has nearly tripled since last March, copper futures essentially have doubled and the Dow Jones U.S. Aluminum Index has soared by a factor of six.
Copper and steel have reached three-year highs since the beginning of the year, while aluminum remains at about half its three-year high. One reason for the big difference is that both steel and copper are heavily used in construction, and it is construction (in the form of infrastructure) that is now a major focus of the Biden administration.
A White House meeting Wednesday included representatives from Wall Street, major U.S. corporations and private equity firms to discuss how to pay for Biden’s infrastructure plan. During his campaign for the presidency, Biden outlined a $2 trillion, four-year program to upgrade the transportation infrastructure and incorporate more clean energy at the same time.
As with every federal program, analysts and investors have identified several firms that stand to benefit from whatever infrastructure plan emerges, no matter how it’s paid for. Firms like Caterpillar and Deere that make heavy construction equipment are obvious picks, as are some construction companies we looked at earlier.
Here’s an update on an earlier look we took at seven producers of steel, copper and aluminum that are likely to benefit from federal investment in infrastructure.
Copper and gold miner Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (NYSE: FCX) has seen its share price rise from around $6.24 last March to around $36.10 currently. The stock posted a new 52-week high of $39.10 in late February, with a 52-week low of $4.82. Over the past 12 months, shares are up a staggering 466%, and the mean price target is around $36.00.
At the current trading price, the stock trades at about 16 times expected 2021 earnings per share (EPS) and 14 times and 17 times estimated EPS in 2022 and 2023. Freeport suspended its dividend last year.
Goldman Sachs added Freeport to its Conviction Buy list in November, with a price target of $25. The high price target on the stock is $55, implying a potential upside of nearly 53% for the next 12 months.
Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. (NYSE: CLF), the country’s leading producer of iron ore, posted a new 52-week high of $18.77 in mid-January, more than four times its price in March of 2020. Shares currently trade about 337% above the year-ago price. The mean price target of around $20 is about 12% above the current trading price of around $17.70 but the stock’s price-to-earnings multiple is nearly 16 for 2021, 14 for 2022 and 17 for 2023. The company also has suspended its dividend.
Since the beginning of the year, analysts have either maintained or raised ratings to Buy. At the high price target of $22, Cliffs has a potential upside of around 24%.
United States Steel Corp. (NYSE: X) posted a new 52-week high of $24.77 in mid-January, more than four times higher than its 52-week low of $4.61. Over the past 12 months, the share price has improved by nearly 300%. The mean price target on the shares is $20.00, nearly 20% below the current trading price of around $23.90. At the current price, shares trade at about five times expected 2021 earnings, 25 times expected 2022 EPS and 36 times expected 2023 earnings. U.S. Steel’s dividend yield is 0.19%.
Analysts are generally upbeat on U.S. Steel, with eight of 15 ratings either a Buy or Strong Buy. The high price target of $28 implies a potential upside of around 14% to the current price.