History suggests that categorizing businesses as "early/mid/late-cycle" is more art than science, as is sussing out precisely where in the cycle the economy is at any given point. That means Wall Street's opinions about Ingersoll-Rand (NYSE: IR ) may yet prove a little too dour.
In the most recent quarter, the company reported overall revenue growth of 10% and organic growth of 9% -- a fine result, compared to other broadly defined peers like Danaher (NYSE: DHR ) or Eaton (NYSE: ETN ) . This Fool was less pleased that operating performance didn't improve as much; operating income growth matched that of revenue, and the operating margin was the same as last year's.
The construction segment was once again strong for Ingersoll, continuing to benefit from improved demand for road construction and utility equipment. The compact vehicle group showed strength as well, but climate, industrial tech, and security performed relatively poorer as rising raw-material prices squeezed their margins.
Ingersoll certainly has some later-cycle exposure, but it's not particularly overweight there. Businesses like construction should continue to do well for a little while yet, but if we are in fact in the later days of the cycle, companies like United Technologies (NYSE: UTX ) , Manitowoc (NYSE: MTW ) , and General Electric (NYSE: GE ) might be poised for relatively better performance.
The trouble with investing upon that notion is that it's always different this time around. Maybe our economy will pause before reaccelerating. Maybe it will drop off sharply. Or maybe Ingersoll-Rand will expand faster overseas, neutralizing some or all of those concerns. That's a lot of maybes, and I'm inclined to take a more simplistic approach: Ingersoll is still a good company trading below fair value. That said, the market's "bad hair season" has pushed many other stocks below fair value, too, so make sure to shop around a bit.
For more industrial-strength Foolishness:
- Foolish Forecast: Ingersoll-Rand on Hand
- How High Can Manitowoc Reach?
- United Technologies Still in Sweet Spot
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).