Still Have Your Running Shoes On?

Nearly two full years after issuing my first plea for investors to run (as fast as their feet could take them) from stocks exposed to the residential construction markets, I'm checking back in to make sure Fools still have their running shoes on.

CEMEX (NYSE: CX  ) gave investors a fresh round of reasons to remain clear of the stock this week, reporting a loss of $86 million for the third quarter. The company's revenue slipped another 10% from already-impaired levels a year ago, and the absence of appreciable signs of recovery in the company's critical U.S. market led to another reduction in full-year guidance for EBITDA from $2.65 billion to $2.4 billion.

Highlighting the potential pitfalls of investing in this sector at present, the highly dynamic interpretations of the construction industry outlook by analysts yielded expectations for CEMEX ranging from a loss of $80 million, to a profit of $61 million. If those who supposedly know the company best are this confounded, how is an average investor to make heads of tails of the company's real profitability prospects?

Uninspiring signals from the U.S. construction market are consistently corroborated through every available window. Wallboard manufacturer USG (NYSE: USG  ) lost a crisp $100 million bill in its latest earnings spin-cycle. Steelmaker Nucor (NYSE: NUE  ) reported troublingly weak demand for rebar and other construction-related products continuing a long-standing set of observations.

Die-hard fans of CEMEX are undoubtedly preparing to counter this bearish assessment by referencing the lone piece of positive news in the company's earnings release. CEMEX scored a set of adjustments to its financing agreement to help buy some more time from its creditors. Meanwhile, even the $300 million repaid on its debt during the third quarter failed to overcome the impact of currency-related revaluation of that remaining debt.

Just as I can always anticipate the stampede of perturbed feedback when I share my deep reservations concerning dry bulker DryShips (Nasdaq: DRYS  ) , CEMEX also seems to enjoy a loyal investor base that is undeterred by the company's myriad challenges. And just as with DryShips, there is certainly a chance that CEMEX will achieve a remarkable resurgence either through an earlier-than-expected recovery in its industry, or a strategic adaptation of its operating structure.

My only reminder to Fools is that successful stock picking involves identifying companies with the best prospects for growth and profitability within their respective sectors. In the case of CEMEX, not to mention the above-referenced dry bulker, I simply perceive a sea of better opportunities vying for Foolish attention. For a stock that will stand to gain once construction activity eventually improves, but possesses a range of healthy revenue streams in the meantime, try taking a close look at Brookfield Infrastructure Partners (NYSE: BIP  ) .

In the race to prove itself a better stock to hold, which do you predict will emerge victorious between CEMEX and Brookfield Infrastructure Partners? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, and add your pick to your Motley Fool CAPS portfolio today.

Brookfield Infrastructure Partners and USG are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. CEMEX and Nucor are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Brookfield Infrastructure Partners is a Motley Fool Global Gains selection, a Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick, and The Fool owns shares of it. 

Fool contributor Christopher Barker can be found blogging actively and acting Foolishly within the CAPS community under the username TMFSinchiruna. He tweets. He owns shares of Nucor. 

Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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