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Industrials ended mixed on Monday, mirroring small downward movements in the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average, down 0.6% and 0.4%, respectively. Within the sector, high-priced growth stocks are down sharply, demonstrating waning confidence over near-term economic performance. Transportation and logistics suppliers, however, saw modest but broad-based gains.
Investors are reacting to the weak U.S. jobs report, released on Friday, as well as anticipating a ruling on Wednesday from Germany's Constitutional Court over whether that country will be able to contribute to a bailout fund for struggling euro members. Propping up stock prices is the prospect that the Federal Reserve may announce new monetary stimulus when its meeting concludes on Thursday. In a speech last month, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke opened the door for a possible third round of quantitative easing in the event of poor or deteriorating economic news, and many investors believe that Friday's stagnant job numbers will clear that hurdle.
Two of the worst performers Monday were luxury electric-car manufacturer Tesla Motors (Nasdaq: TSLA ) , down 6.75%, and three-dimensional printer manufacturer 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD ) , down 4.15%. Both companies are richly valued, with 3D Systems sporting a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 35. TeslaMotors -- which CEO Elon Musk doesn't expect to be profitable at all until next year at the earliest, and so doesn't have a P/E ratio -- trades for about 50 times the industry average on a sales or book-value basis.
The high expectations baked into these valuations will be much harder to meet in an economic environment with weak and eroding demand. Today's slipping numbers may be a sign that pessimistic investors are moving out of the growth-story stocks and seeking safety elsewhere. Longer-term investors may also have simply seen last week's rally as a reasonable selling point. Despite today's declines, 3D Systems is up 170% for the year. While Tesla's performance has been tepid through 2012, the company has returned more than 40% since its IPO two years ago.
The sector's big winners were almost entirely in logistics and transportation. Most were deeply discounted, established transport businesses like sector leaders United Continental Holdings (NYSE: UAL ) , up 1.83%, and Navios Maritime (NYSE: NM ) , up 1.62%. United Continental, the American passenger air carrier, trades for only 3.5 times forward earnings, with global bulk shipper Navios Maritime trading at 3.8 times forward earnings.
Expeditors International of Washington (Nasdaq: EXPD ) was also up 1.48%. The company is pricier, selling for 19.1 times forward earnings, but as Expeditors International facilitates air and ocean freight by reserving space on other carriers, it is asset-light and typically merits a richer valuation than the carriers themselves.
While the gains across the transportation and logistics space were too modest to signify heightened expectations for international trade, it does appear that concerns over slowing growth in China and the potential for calamity in Europe may already be priced into the sector. Investors should keep an eye out this week for news on euro-area solvency and Federal Reserve actions that will affect demand for industrials. Likewise, the upcoming presidential election will surely affect the volatility and outlook in the manufacturing sector, but investors like you can profit regardless of the candidate selected. To learn more about opportunities The Motley Fool has identified for either election scenario, read our free report, "These Stocks Could Skyrocket After the 2012 Presidential Election." It's available for a limited time, so download your copy today.