Stock markets flipped the page last week on a miserable third quarter of 2022, in which the S&P 500 fell 9% in September alone, bringing year-to-date losses for 2022 to 25%.
Metals stocks in particular are joining the rally today, with shares of aluminum producers Alcoa (AA 5.31%) and Century Aluminum (CENX 3.59%) gaining 10% and 17%, respectively. Nuclear fuel miner Uranium Energy (UEC 4.45%) isn't looking too shabby, either, booking a respectable 6.7% gain as of 12:25 p.m. ET on Monday.
After Russia announced the illegal annexation of four more Ukrainian regions over the weekend, it is inviting a new round of sanctions from the West. Individual businessmen and Russian officials are the primary targets, but CNBC reports that shell companies formed to evade previous sanctions are also being included.
On a related note, the London Metal Exchange (LME) is reportedly preparing to ban trading in Russian aluminum, curtailing global supplies of the metal at the same time as Bloomberg reports that demand for it in China is starting to revive.
At the same time, OilPrice.com reports that Washington -- while not yet banning the Russian supplies of the metal -- is working to ease its dependence on Russian uranium, and looking to support U.S.-based suppliers and enrichers of the alternative fuel source.
Shares of Century Aluminum actually fell steeply on Friday despite the rumor of the aluminum trading ban. This could be partly because investment bank Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) has discounted the prospect of Russian metals being banned. But part of the reason for the stock's decline could also be a downgrade by Wolfe Research on Friday, which warned of low aluminum prices and high production costs due to surging energy costs. That briefly moved Century lower, and Alcoa along with it. But now both stocks have come roaring back in the wake of Russia's annexations.
I'd say Uranium Energy's prospects have improved, but until Congress takes some definitive action to bolster domestic production or ban Russian imports, the talk will remain talk, and have no long-term effect upon uranium demand in the U.S. Given Uranium Energy's near-20-year history of consistent unprofitability, it's going to take more than just talk to get me to invest.
The aluminum stocks are a different matter. I actually see a lot of value in Alcoa stock already. It is priced at barely 6 times earnings, with a balance sheet nearly free of net debt and strong free cash flow (and a modest dividend payout to boot). And that's regardless of whether the LME decides to boost Alcoa's prospects even further with a Russian aluminum ban. Century Aluminum, meanwhile, costs a bit more at 8 times earnings, carries a bigger net-debt load (more than $400 million), and pays no dividend.
Of the three metals stocks that are rocketing today, my money would be on Alcoa having the strongest legs in this rally.