Consistently making money in the stock market can be hard enough on its own without investors making it even harder on themselves.
Take the case of paper-company stocks, for instance. It is very difficult to consistently make money in these equities unless you are very agile with your buys and sells -- something that flies in the face of the longer-term buy-and-hold philosophy that we generally believe in at The Motley Fool.
All that said, could Brazil's Aracruz Celulose
Third-quarter results highlight both the opportunities and challenges with this pulp player. Pulp production rose 18% for the quarter, though pulp sales declined by 2%. Revenue and EBITDA rose 9% and 7%, respectively, but net income more than doubled, primarily because of a much more favorable tax rate. Further, while operating cash flow climbed nearly 27% from the year-ago level (through nine months), free cash flow was up about 20% as the company continues to invest in capital projects.
There's a larger macroeconomic concern as well. Demand for pulp largely tracks economic activity, and Aracruz is highly exposed to both North America and Europe (about 80% of sales). Yet the company continues to face increasing competition and pressure from Asian operators -- particularly in China. To wit, the average price of pulp on a per-ton basis dipped slightly on a sequential basis (though still up 13% year-over-year), while production costs also slightly increased.
As long as these changes continue to be on the magnitude of "slightly," Aracruz and its dividend should be fine, especially since current prices are well ahead of the cost of production. Nevertheless, investors thinking that this stock is easy money might want to think again. I do believe that Aracruz is a well-run and highly competitive pulp and paper maker, but the history of the markets has shown that paper profits don't come easily from paper stocks.
For more insight without the paper cuts:
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).