3 Stocks For The Coming Infrastructure Boom

About the only point of agreement between the two Presidential candidates last year was the need for a massive infrastructure plan to repair America’s crumbling roads and bridges. Then-candidate Trump used a $1 trillion infrastructure plan as a cornerstone of his plan to “make America great again.”

Investors responded by going all-in on infrastructure stocks, pushing the iShares Global Infrastructure ETF (Nasdaq: IGF) up 14.5% in the year through October 2016. 

Against the push to replace the Affordable Care Act and reform the tax code, infrastructure spending seems to have been put on the backburner in 2017. President-elect Trump told The New York Times in December that infrastructure would not be a “core” part of the first few years of his administration. A policy statement released in June was light on specifics and we haven’t heard much since.

As it turns out, investors may not need an infrastructure plan to see a boom in infrastructure spending over the next year. In fact, recent events could mean years of rebuilding and increased revenue at infrastructure and related companies.

#-ad_banner-#‚ÄčA Year Of Unprecedented Natural Disasters
On August 11, I warned investors about the potential for a blowout hurricane season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had recently upgraded its forecast for the season and I saw five stocks that could be set to surge. Since that time, all of them have seen gains of between 3.6% and 23%.

Hurricane Harvey made landfall as the strongest storm in more than a decade and Hurricane Irma strafed Florida. The President has declared a federal emergency in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria left the entire island without power and we still have more than a month left in the storm season.

Besides a historic number of named storms and unprecedented damage, we’ve also seen two devastating earthquakes hit Mexico in less than a month. 

Moody’s analytics is estimating the cost to rebuild after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma between $150 billion to $200 billion. That includes over $10 billion in damage to state roads and bridges alone. Estimates of the infrastructure damage in Mexico are still being calculated but it will certainly be in the billions.

While the hurricane season officially runs through November, it may be time to start thinking about stocks for the coming rebuilding boom.

The Three Companies That Could Rebuild North America
Surprisingly, shares of companies with the most to benefit from large-scale infrastructure spending have not surged yet. Many of these stocks jumped after the election only to be beaten down in the first half of the year as hopes of an infrastructure spending deal faded. 

Companies providing construction materials including concrete and aggregates could see demand boom as the rebuilding begins on roads, bridges and buildings. Environmental services and cleaning companies could also see a surprise upside on the hazards brought by massive flooding in Texas and Florida.

Martin Marietta Materials (NYSE: MLM) saw weather conditions in key states in the Southeastern United States drag second quarter results lower but is primed to see a rebound on delayed projects and rebuilding from the recent disasters. 

The $12.5 billion company is the second-largest producer of construction aggregates in the United States with six key markets, including Texas and Florida, accounting for 60% of sales. Besides its aggregates business, the company also operates in asphalt, ready-mix concrete, and road paving.

Shares are down 11% in 2017 and trade for 28 times trailing earnings, a discount of 38% to its five-year average of 47 times. Despite the weak second quarter results, management maintained its full-year profit guidance and the stock could see a surprise upside over the next few quarters.

US Ecology (Nasdaq: ECOL) operates hazardous waste landfills and environmental clean-up services across the country. It may not seem like your typical infrastructure play but the company’s solutions will be badly needed after historic flooding spread hazardous and chemical waste throughout much of Houston.

Shares are just 6.7% higher this year after one of the company’s treatment plants was damaged in a winter storm, causing a $3 million hit to EBITDA in the second quarter. Management expects insurance to cover the expense in the second half of the year and has returned to normal operations. 

Sales in its event-driven environmental solutions grew 24% in the second quarter and could be ready to grow even faster. The base treatment and disposal business is also seeing growth on a pick-up in U.S. industrial production.

Cemex (NYSE: CX) is the largest ready-mix concrete producer and one of the largest construction aggregates producers in the world. Mexico and the United States account for 50% of sales with the rest diversified across Latin America, Europe and Asia. The company’s cement plants on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border give it cost advantages in production and delivery versus its U.S. peers.

Cemex sells nearly 60% of its cement in the Mexican retail market, where concrete residential construction accounts for the lion’s share of total demand. The company has also negotiated 40% of the contracted volume for Mexico City’s new airport with an additional 30% still under negotiation.

Economic growth in key markets has helped Cemex pay down debt and improve its balance sheet. The company has grown sales by an annualized 8.5% over the last three years and generated $1.8 billion in free cash flow last year, more than 13% of its market capitalization.

Risks To Consider: The infrastructure space is highly cyclical and will depend on general economic growth as well as catalysts from natural disaster rebuilding.

Action To Take: The need for increased infrastructure spending is still one of the few bipartisan issues in Washington. After Congress deals with time-sensitive budget issues and works through tax reform, an infrastructure plan could still emerge and further boost the sector. Consider a position in one of these best-of-breed names in construction materials and environmental services ahead of the massive effort needed to rebuild after a historic year of natural disasters.

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