It's not been a particularly great year for stocks, including blue chips. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 0.59%) is still down roughly 11% since the end of 2021 despite its recent bout of bullishness. This, of course, means some of the Dow's constituents are faring even worse.
As the old cliché explains, though, past performance is no guarantee of future results. Gains may be in the offing, and for a trio of Dow components, these gains could be sizable and long-lived and could start taking shape very soon. Here's a closer look.
There's no denying aircraft maker The Boeing Company (BA 0.83%) has been put through the wringer since late 2018.
First, two crashes of its then-new -- and highly touted -- 737 MAX jet ultimately exposed software design problems. Then, just when it looked like the company might be able to push past the matter, the COVID-19 pandemic crimped air travel in a big way. Without a steady flow of passengers, airlines neither need nor can afford to replace aging planes with new ones. From Boeing stock's 2019 peak to this May's low (let's not even count the early 2020 plunge linked to the worldwide spread of the coronavirus), shares lost more than 70% of their value; they're not up much from that low right now.
Demand for air travel, however, is recovering much more quickly and robustly than first feared a couple of years ago. The International Air Transport Association reports that July's international travel was only about one-fourth below 2019's levels and well up from the traffic in 2020 and 2021. The association ultimately expects a full recovery by 2024 but also anticipates the airline industry itself will return to profitability by next year. In this same vein, the United States Transportation Security Administration says domestic air travel linked to the long Labor Day weekend actually eclipsed 2019's Labor Day levels.
Connect the dots. Airlines are going to need new planes sooner than they thought.
There are lingering near-term challenges to be sure. The aircraft industry is facing its own supply chain problems, crimping this company's capacity to build as many airplanes as it would like to at least for the next several months, if not longer.
Think bigger picture though, and recognize that stocks are often forward-minded with their prices. Boeing still has unfilled orders for more than 5,000 aircraft and is still expecting worldwide deliveries of more than 41,000 commercial passenger jets between now and 2041 (and rival Airbus foresees similar demand growth). Boeing has also received a total of 416 aircraft orders, well up from 2020's tally of 184, en route to pre-pandemic counts. These data points and developing headlines have the potential to start nudging BA shares higher sooner than later, in anticipation of a more prolonged rally in the more distant future.
With nothing more than a passing glance, things look bleak for the construction industry. The National Association of Home Builders' confidence index fell for an eighth consecutive month in August, reaching levels not seen since May of 2020, when the COVID-19 contagion spread across the world. A combination of rising interest rates and sky-high prices are taking a toll on home buying. At the same time, fresh economic weakness is prompting institutions to rethink their building plans. The Dodge Momentum Index of nonresidential building intent fell last month, led lower by the 5.6% decline in the institutional sliver of the business, which reflects investments in things like schools, hospitals, and other public-service structures.
It all bodes poorly for construction equipment maker Caterpillar (CAT 1.76%), explaining the stock's 10% tumble from its April high and the 20% sell-off since the middle of last year.
There's a timing element to this headwind, however, that discouraged investors should consider. In step with the broad economy, the construction business is reliably cyclical. In other words, start looking for turnarounds when things look and feel they're bleakest (like now). Warren Buffett arguably says it best by suggesting you should "be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful." Very few people are thinking about buying at the bottom, although that's exactly when they should be doing so.
To this end, things are looking up not too far down the road. Construction industry analyst Ed Zarenski recently predicted that "after a two-year slowdown in backlog growth in 2021 and 2022, growth resumes in 2023 and 2024." Zarenski goes on to say, "Nonresidential Buildings leads in 2023, Nonbuilding leads in 2024." Related stocks like Caterpillar's could start to rally pre-emptively in anticipation of that rebound.
Then there's the other noteworthy nuance: Caterpillar isn't just a construction equipment company. It also makes the dump trucks, bulldozers, and backhoes used in the mining industry, and demand on this front has been plenty firm in the wake of soaring commodity prices. Last quarter's minerals mining equipment business was up 16% year over year, while sales of energy-related equipment grew 15%. These segments alone can account for about half of the company's business, making Caterpiller much less subject to a construction slowdown than the stock's recent lull suggests.
Finally, add Microsoft (MSFT -1.68%) to your list of Dow Jones stocks set to soar soon and for a while.
It's not a name that needs much of an introduction. Microsoft, of course, makes the popular Windows operating system as well as office productivity software. The company is also in the cloud computing business, offering a cloud-management platform called Azure which -- according to research outfit Canalys -- outpaced Amazon's cloud computing business growth last quarter. Microsoft is also the name behind the Xbox video-gaming console, is the parent of LinkedIn, and provides a bunch of digital business services many people don't even realize. Most of its offerings are something the world would struggle to live without.
This reality isn't well reflected in the stock's recent performance. Shares have lost more than 20% of their value just since November and remain within sight of the new 52-week low hit in June. Recent layoffs are as much of a red flag as a reason to celebrate, suggesting the company isn't completely confident in its ability to fund the expense of these employees and still turn a profit that satisfies shareholders.
Largely lost in all the noise, however, is that this is Microsoft. It's behind the operating system installed on three-fourths of the world's personal computers, according to Global Stats, while its Office productivity suite is still the go-to choice for most corporations as well as consumers. Meanwhile, Canalys says the company's Azure accounts for one-fourth of the world's cloud computing revenue, a share that's still growing.
This reach is a key reason this year's top line is expected to grow more than 11% despite a wobbly economy before accelerating to a growth pace of nearly 14% next year. Earnings are projected to grow just as much during that two-year stretch. That should be more than enough to convince the market the stock's recent weakness isn't merited.