Stillwater Mining Earnings: An Early Look

Earnings season is now starting to wind down, with most companies already having reported their quarterly results. But there are still some companies left to report, and Stillwater Mining (NYSE: SWC  ) is about to release its quarterly earnings. The key to making smart investment decisions with stocks releasing their quarterly reports is to anticipate how they'll do before they announce results, leaving you fully prepared to respond quickly to whatever inevitable surprises arise. That way, you'll be less likely to make an uninformed knee-jerk reaction to news that turns out to be exactly the wrong move.

Gold and silver get all the attention in the precious-metals world, yet platinum and palladium are far scarcer, and Stillwater Mining is the only U.S. source for platinum-group metals. Is the company taking full advantage of its enviable situation? Let's take an early look at what's been happening with Stillwater Mining over the past quarter and what we're likely to see in its quarterly report on Wednesday.

Stats on Stillwater Mining

Analyst EPS Estimate

$0.05

Change From Year-Ago EPS

(72%)

Revenue Estimate

$217.7 million

Change From Year-Ago Revenue

(16%)

Earnings Beats in Past 4 Quarters

3

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Will Stillwater Mining be white-hot for white-metal investors?
Analysts have had mixed feelings about Stillwater's earnings lately, raising their estimates for the just-ended quarter by a penny per share but cutting back on full-year 2013 earnings calls. The stock is up nearly 15% since mid-November, although it has pulled back sharply in just the past week.

So far in 2013, platinum-group metals have seen a lot more buying interest than other precious metals, reversing the usual trend of gold and silver getting the lion's share of investor attention. Inflows into bullion ETFs ETFS Physical Platinum (NYSEMKT: PPLT  ) and ETFS Physical Palladium (NYSEMKT: PALL  ) have reflected the increased interest in the white metals, which get used for a variety of industrial applications, most notably automobile pollution-control devices. That has in turn driven analyst interest, with an upgrade for Stillwater having come earlier in the month.

Yet last week, that trend reversed, as platinum and palladium fell sharply along with gold and silver in response to concerns that the Federal Reserve may cut back on their accommodative policies sooner than investors had hoped. In general, the low-rate environment has been great for metals investors, as it has reduced the opportunity cost of having money locked up in bullion, supporting the prices that Stillwater gets on the open market. Although Stillwater held up better than Canadian rival North American Palladium (NYSEMKT: PAL  ) , which plunged 23% as it digested the news, its own 8% drop reflects the nervousness in the metals community about future Fed policy.

In Stillwater's report, be sure to focus on what management says about the miner's strategy with its Altar copper and gold mine. With North American Palladium seeking to divest itself of its Vezza gold operations to become a pure-play platinum-group metal producer, Stillwater's acquisition of the Altar mine aroused substantial discontent. Altar needs to pay off in order to justify Stillwater's decision and keep activist investors at bay, and any news to the contrary in the report could send shares stumbling.

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