Shares of nitrogen fertilizer producer CF Industries (CF 0.85%) are in a tailspin -- down 8.8% as of 1:30 p.m. EST -- and it's not just CF Industries going down, either.
Across the fertilizer industry, shar are taking a tumble today: Mosaic (MOS 1.37%) shares are off by 1.7%. Intrepid Potash (IPI 2.68%) -- down 3.6%. Nutrien (NTR 1.61%) is down 4%, and CVR Partners (UAN 0.14%) is down as well -- 4.5%.
It's the "why" that's not exactly clear.
What we do know is that in Boston, a "Global Chemicals & Agriculture Conference" is under way at Morgan Stanley, running from Nov. 13 to Nov. 14 . So far, what I've seen of the news up there doesn't sound particularly frightening, with Mosaic in particular giving a presentation full of happy talk about a "balanced" market, "tight" fertilizer supplies, and "lower exports" out of China that would also tend to support pricing.
This is, however, just one report out of several companies presenting at Morgan Stanley's shindig. It's entirely possible that once the rest of the news comes out, we may find that some of the other presenters aren't quite as optimistic about the state of the fertilizer market as Mosaic is. (And indeed, Mosaic's share price is the one that seems to be holding up better than the rest today).
Until we do know more, investors are probably best advised to sit tight and postpone panicking just yet. We've already seen a handful of producers report earnings in just the past couple of weeks, and while the news hasn't been 100% great, neither has it been terrible.
Nutrien, for example -- the company that emerged from the merger of Potash and Agrium earlier this year -- reported a pro forma profit on Nov. 5 that exceeded Wall Street's expectations. Both CF Industries and Intrepid Potash reported honest-to-goodness GAAP-profitable quarters, reversing their respective year-ago losses. For that matter, Mosaic reported both pro forma and GAAP earnings that beat estimates.
As long as the numbers continue to look good, I see little profit in selling these stocks just because everyone else has decided to do so.