Key Takeaways From Alcoa's Earnings Report

Boeing, PPG Industries, and Cognex are set to do well, if Alcoa's report is a useful guide. The same can't be said for GE.

Jan 13, 2014 at 10:58AM

The symbolic start to the earnings season kicked off with a disappointing set of earnings from aluminum and alumina producer Alcoa (NYSE:AA). The company always provides useful end market guidance for the industrial sector, and this time around it produced a mix of good and bad news.

Alcoa gives its market outlook
The first notable aspect of its outlook is that Alcoa is relatively less dependent on China this year. This is a due to a combination of three factors. First, China's industrial growth appears to be moderating. Second, North American growth is picking up. And third, European growth is somewhat stabilizing as the region starts to come up against some weak comparables from previous years.

Alcoa
Source: Company Presentations.

Aerospace and automotive
These two sectors were the powerhouse of the industrial sector last year. According to Alcoa's management, growth will remain strong this year as well. The International Air Traffic Association (IATA) recently gave its aerospace industry outlook for 2014, and the forecast is for a strong increase in North American airline profitability. This is good news for Boeing (NYSE:BA) and Airbus. Moreover, along with the IATA, Alcoa made some bullish noises about future regional and business jet demand. This is a good sign for the global economy, because demand for these types of jets tends to be more cyclical. With passenger load factors (airplane capacity utilization) forecast to grow, Airbus and Boeing can expect orders to remain strong in 2014.

Unlike 2013, automotive growth is expected to be positive in each region for 2014 (though there are some warning signs in North America). On the recent conference call, Alcoa's CEO Klaus Klienfeld outlined that U.S. automotive production levels were now at almost pre-recession levels, but car inventories were 14% higher than last year. Consequently, automakers have pushed up incentives by 8%. This is a slightly worrying indicator, but with ongoing gains in employment in the U.S. and greater availability of credit it's unlikely to prove a lasting effect.

Meanwhile, growth in the automobile sector in China remains strong.

Alcoa
Source: China Association of Automobile Manufacturers

Two companies set to do well, and one that could disappoint
Paintings and coatings company PPG Industries (NYSE:PPG) and seeing machines company Cognex (NASDAQ:CGNX) both look set to do well, if Alcoa's report is a useful guide. PPG's industrial coatings business has heavy exposure to the aerospace and automotive sectors, and the company looks set to continue to benefit from favorable end markets in 2014. In fact, PPG even did well with European automotive manufacturers in 2013, because its management believes its clients were those doing relatively well in a down market. Given that European car production is expected to be better overall this year, PPG should do well. In addition, Alcoa expects the North American commercial building and construction market to improve by 3% to 4%, and this is good news for PPG's paintings division.  

One of Cognex's aims for 2014 is to expand its sales outside its core automotive sector and into areas such as pharmaceuticals, consumer products, and the food and beverage industry. The company specializes in seeing machine systems that monitor automated processes. Given that China's automotive sector is expected to remain strong and areas like beverage can packaging are forecast to grow at 8% to 12%, opportunities for Cognex to expand its industry reach should remain significant in 2014.

There was disappointing news for General Electric (NYSE:GE) shareholders in Allcoa's report, however. Allcoa's management forecast a 8% to 12% decline in industrial gas turbines. Quoting from the conference call, Alcoa's management said:

In Europe, gas fired power generation is squeezed between low priced coal and subsidized renewals. In the U.S., gas prices have increased and this has allowed coal to claw back some of the share gains. Gas now stands in terms of energy production share here in the U.S. at 27.8 versus 30.4 in 2012

Indeed, GE reported that it only took 27 heavy duty gas turbine orders in its third quarter versus a year ago, while delivering 22 versus 35 last year. In addition, if gas turbines are being utilized relatively less, then GE's service orders to the industry should also decrease. Gas turbine revenue is a large part of GE's power & water division, which has generated nearly 29% of GE's industrial profits so far in 2013.

The bottom line
In conclusion, it was a mixed outlook with the main disappointment coming from the industrial gas turbine outlook. However, Europe looks set to improve, and North American industrial growth prospects look solid. China is subject to uncertainty this year, but Alcoa continues to give a positive reading on the country. Aerospace and automotive demand remains strong, and prospects look good for U.S. commercial construction.

What else looks good for 2014?
There's a huge difference between a good stock, and a stock that can make you rich. The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has selected his No. 1 stock for 2014, and it's one of those stocks that could make you rich. You can find out which stock it is in the special free report: "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2014." Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.

Lee Samaha owns shares of PPG Industries. The Motley Fool recommends Cognex. The Motley Fool owns shares of General Electric Company. 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.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of fool.com.

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to www.fool.com/beginners, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at www.fool.com/podcasts.

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.


Compare Brokers