Is It Time to Sell Metal Stocks for Infrastructure?

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The industrials have seen a solid uptick since just before the U.S. presidential election took place, but is the rally over? One analyst believes that the U.S. Steel industry may by overbought and has decided to downgrade a few key players as a result.

Most of this downgrade is owed to the heightened supply side concerns in the United States. At the same time, Credit Suisse strategists are forecasting sharp declines in bulk material prices in the second half of 2017, weak demand trends in the second half of 2016 and concerns that infrastructure stimulus are unlikely to materially benefit U.S. producers.

Credit Suisse analyst Curt Woodworth was behind the firm’s Steel Outlook for 2017, downgrading the sector view to Market Weight from Overweight. Specifically he highlighted these companies:

  • United States Steel Corp. (NYSE: X) was downgraded to Neutral from Outperform with a $30 price target (versus a $35.20 prior close).
  • Steel Dynamics Inc. (NASDAQ: STLD) was downgraded to Neutral from Outperform with a $33 price target (versus a $37.07 close).
  • AK Steel Holding Corp. (NYSE: AKS) was downgraded to Neutral from Outperform with a $9.50 price target (versus an $11.02 close).
  • Commercial Metals Co. (NYSE: CMC) was also downgraded to a Neutral rating with a $19 target.

Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. (NYSE: CLF) already had an existing call from Credit Suisse with an Underperform rating and a $6 price target.

Credit Suisse detailed in its report:

While demand side fundamentals have sharply improved since late October driven by restocking in the supply chain, trend line data points have been generally weak over the past several quarters despite trade case support. We are concerned the Trump boost to equity valuations is overdone, as our analysis suggests limited benefits from infrastructure spending growth and the fact that the heavy lifting on U.S. steel trade policy has been largely finalized following changes to injury laws and successful trade case outcomes in 1H-16.

In the firm’s view, U.S. steel equities will continue in historical correlation to the sheet market and are likely to retain the multiple expansion benefit driven by the Trump election. However, Credit Suisse believes U.S. steel prices are near a peak and the exit rate 2017 EBITDA is likely to be materially lower relative to the first quarter of 2017. The firm would expect the equities to pull back as spreads and bulk material markets normalize in this time.

Shares of U.S. Steel were last seen down 6% at $33.10 on Thursday, with a consensus analyst price target of $30.80 and a 52-week trading range of $6.15 to $39.14.

Steel Dynamics shares were trading down 3% at $35.90, with a consensus price target of $38.80 and a 52-week range of $15.32 to $40.17.

AK Steel was down over 8% to $10.07, in a 52-week range of $1.64 to $11.39. The consensus price target is $9.79.

Shares of Commercial Metals were down 3% to $20.16, with a 52-week range of $12.44 to $24.64 and a consensus analyst target of $20.50.

Cliffs Natural Resources shares were last seen down 2% at $9.60. The consensus price target is $7.50. The 52-week range is $1.22 to $10.90.