One source of growth for the economy continuing to fight back five years after the Great Recession is commercial construction. While nonresidential construction spending is 14% below past cycle highs, many analysts feel that tight lending standards and pent-up need can propel further recovery ahead. The analysts at Jefferies surveyed the firm’s analysts in the industrial, retail, bank, hospital and real estate investment trust (REIT) groups, and while positive on the cycle continuing, the same structural issues that have hampered growth may continue to persist.
While they are not pounding-the-table bullish, they all had stocks to buy that best to play the theme of improving but muted commercial construction spending. We screened the companies for those with the highest profile. All five are rated Buy at Jefferies.
Honeywell International Inc. (NYSE: HON) is the epitome of a diversified technology and manufacturing company, serving customers worldwide with aerospace products and services; control technologies for buildings, homes and industry; turbochargers; and performance materials. Nonresidential markets account for 18% of the company’s expected revenues of $40.4 billion. The Jefferies analysts feel the company’s focus on energy efficiency and wireless connectivity to lower costs of installation and operation should enable it to grow faster than the market.
Honeywell investors are paid a 2% dividend. The Jefferies price target for the stock is $105. The Thomson/First Call consensus estimate is at $106.68. Honeywell closed Wednesday at $91.16.
Huntsman Corp. (NYSE: HUN), together with its subsidiaries, manufactures and sells differentiated organic and inorganic chemical products worldwide. The company operates in five segments: Polyurethanes, Performance Products, Advanced Materials, Textile Effects and Pigments. The Jefferies team feels that resurgent investment in office buildings would be more positive for Huntsman via demand for paints, durable goods and insulating materials.
Huntsman shareholders are paid a 2.2% dividend. The Jefferies price objective for the stock is $34, and the consensus target is $32.33. Shares closed Wednesday at $24.21.
Ingersoll-Rand PLC (NYSE: IR) is a top industrial name that is showing up on the stocks to buy lists at many of the major Wall Street firms we cover. It also makes the Jefferies Franchise list as well. With the housing market continuing to grow, albeit slower this year, the company’s wide range of portfolio products should continue to sell well. Jefferies also sees the stock as a good play on the replacement, upgrade and, ultimately, growth in the commercial and residential air conditioning markets. Trends in these markets have been highly correlated with overall commercial construction and are thus earlier in their cycle.
Ingersoll-Rand investors are paid a 1.7% dividend. Jefferies has a $75 price target, and the consensus target is $68.56. Shares closed Wednesday at $57.74. Trading to the Jefferies target would be more than a 25% gain.
Nucor Corp. (NYSE: NUE) is another stock rated Buy, and it continues a contrarian theme as a steel industry leader that has slowly fought its way back. Improving economic conditions and an increase in commercial construction are changing things fast for the company. Nucor has successfully maintained a low-cost structure with the use of electric furnaces. As a result, Nucor has posted annual profits consistently since posting a loss in 2009.
Nucor investors are paid a very respectable 2.9% dividend. The Jefferies target is set at $66, while the consensus is at $57.88. The stock closed Wednesday at $51.71.
Simon Property Group Inc. (NYSE: SPG) is another industry giant that is a top name to buy at Jefferies. The company announced earlier this year plans to spin off its strip malls and smaller enclosed malls into a new company. That will allow the mall giant to focus on its higher-end enclosed malls and outlets. The move will be a good one for shareholders on multiple fronts, but such transactions do not always play out this well. The Jefferies team feels Simon should also benefit from the fact that its Class A malls are less exposed to the headwinds in the retail sector, which has had a negative impact on store growth in retail and curbed new retail construction somewhat.
Simon shareholders are paid a solid 3.1% distribution. Jefferies has a $201 price target, and the consensus target is at $189.90. Simon closed Wednesday at $171.44.
While the Jefferies team is cautiously optimistic on the rest of this year and 2015, loosening of tight credit or a pick-up in consumer spending could jump-start what has been a slow recovery so far.