Wall Street had a bad day on Wednesday, and initial signs from Thursday morning suggested that further declines might be in store. The ongoing churning in the stock market is having a negative impact on investor sentiment, and short-term traders in particular are losing their nerve and looking for gains on the downside. As of 7:30 a.m. ET, futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 0.82%) were down 339 points to 31,101. S&P 500 (^GSPC 0.59%) futures dropped 44 points to 3,879, while Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC 0.55%) futures were lower by 140 points to 11,795.
Amid that tough market environment, it might be surprising to see a stock racing to all-time highs. However, that was the case for Chile's Sociedad Química y Minera (SQM 7.48%) on Wednesday, and the stock rose further on Thursday morning after the company reported extremely strong financial performance. Given the company's impact on a key high-growth sector of the industrial economy, it's not surprising to see this materials provider doing so well. You'll find the details on the Chilean resources company's latest results below.
Stellar results from Sociedad Química y Minera
Shares of Sociedad Química y Minera were up more than 4% on Thursday morning. The supplier of lithium and key chemicals for use in fertilizers and other applications reported extremely strong financial results for the first quarter of 2022.
The numbers from the Chilean company were remarkable. Revenue jumped nearly fourfold to $2.02 billion from year-ago levels. Gross margin more than doubled from 25.9% a year ago to 57.7% during the quarter. Best of all, earnings of $2.79 per share were up tenfold year over year, with net income working out to $796 million -- more than the company's sales in the first quarter of 2021.
CEO Ricardo Ramos called out the rises in lithium prices in boosting the company's numbers. However, Ramos noted that higher prices prevailed in all of its business lines.
Nevertheless, Sociedad Química y Minera heralded its long-term operational and commercial strategy for helping to transform it into a leader in the lithium industry. The Chilean producer has tripled its production levels in the past three years, and it's doing so while dramatically reducing how much brine it has to extract. Moreover, it's working in-country to deliver the high-quality lithium products that EV battery producers can use in their components.
Natural resources are where the gains are
Indeed, Sociedad Quimica y Minera wasn't the only stock in the natural resources area to hit new highs on Wednesday. Oil and gas producer Pioneer Natural Resources (NYSE: PXD) touched record levels, although the stock fell back and closed down 2% on the day.
Interestingly, though, other lithium producers haven't come close to returning to their record levels. Piedmont Lithium and Lithium Americas are both down 30% to 40% from their all-time highs. Even Livent and Albemarle remain more than 15% below their respective records.
With signs that consumers are starting to pull back on spending due to inflationary pressures, the natural resources industry is where investors are turning to try to find potential winners. That could prove problematic if those consumer trends start to play into demand for electric vehicles and other products, as these suppliers could see demand from manufacturers start to fall. For now, though, that doesn't appear to be happening, and the resulting strength is what's keeping these stocks among the better performers in the broader market.