Big gains are what every investor hopes to get when they buy a stock and there have been a few major winners so far in 2016. Titan International (NYSE:TWI), CONSOL Energy (NYSE:CNX), and Craft Brew Alliance (NASDAQ:BREW) are three that more than doubled in value, and may show some bright spots for their industries and the economy in the future.
Big beer has a big year
The 119% jump in Craft Brew Alliance's shares so far in 2016 may come as a bit of a surprise in an industry that's very mature and growing relatively slowly. But there have been a few important catalysts for the stock.
The first is solid financial results. Second-quarter revenue was up 6.4% to $62.3 million and gross margin improved 100 basis points from a year ago to 32.9%. But strategically, the news was even better.
Consolidation in the beer industry, led by Anheuser-Busch InBev, has left a few very large brewers, which will likely give them more pricing power in the future. If that happens, Craft Brew Alliance will likely be able to increase prices and expand margins. But it also partnered with AB-InBev on a distribution agreement in the U.S. and in international markets.
With a smaller number of players in the beer industry, it's important to keep distribution lines open, and AB-InBev is a powerful partner to have distributing your products. The hope is that the improving distribution will help improve both revenue and margins long-term.
The energy rebound... sort of
One energy stock that's more than doubled, rising 136% so far this year, is CONSOL Energy, the producer of natural gas, oil, and coal. The company was hit hard in recent years by falling commodity prices and the outright collapse of coal demand, but there have been some positive signs for it lately.
A big improvement so far in 2016 for CONSOL Energy has been that it made money on natural gas and oil, a change from a year ago. In the first and second quarters, the margins on each Mcfe of natural gas were $0.32 and $0.23 respectively, up from a loss of $0.08 per Mcfe in the second quarter of 2015. Sale prices were actually down, but so were production costs from depreciation and amortization to transportation. Reducing its fundamental cost of producing energy puts the company in a better position, especially if energy prices rise, and starting from a positive margin is a good place to be.
The bigger relief may have been that it inked an agreement to sell the Miller Creek and Fola mining complexes, including associated closing and reclamation liabilities. As coal plants shut down across the country, some companies are getting bogged down by the cost of meeting their legal obligations to return land to its required state. Just getting that liability off the balance sheet can be good for energy companies today.
Big tires stage a turnaround
Another stock where investors are speculating on a turnaround is Titan International. It's shares are up 160% so far this year, and jumped 39% in August alone after it reporting earnings.
What's interesting is that revenue was down 12% in the second quarter, and net loss was $3.8 million. Investors are really counting on a recovery in demand, which management says is going to happen in the back half of 2016 and in 2017. If that does happen, cost reductions it has made in production will help leverage the bottom line. The gains those shares have made so far have been almost purely speculative.
Big tire demand can be very cyclical; the hope is that the trough has bottomed and an upswing is coming. But the current share price isn't reflective of past results, and there's always the risk that the speculators are wrong.