Commodity prices have been absolutely hammered over the past year, which has had the same effect on the stock prices of commodity producers. While it's impossible to call a bottom in any particular commodity, there are some signs among a couple of key commodities that conditions are starting to improve. That's why we have our eyes on three commodity stocks that could be solid buys right now.
Tyler Crowe: The market for steel has been absolutely atrocious for American producers over the past several years. As China has wound down its infrastructure spending, all of that excess production capacity it built has had to go somewhere. That somewhere has been the export market, and it's been putting immense pressure on steel producers.
It's difficult to say that steel's woes are coming to a close anytime soon. After all, China still produces and consumes 49% and 46% of global steel, respectively. However, one company that is well suited to handle this is Nucor (NUE 0.84%). Thanks to its lower-cost model that focuses greatly on recycling scrap steel and producing steel with electric arc furnaces instead of the traditional coal-fired blast furnaces, it has a significant cost advantage over many of its peers that allows the company to remain profitable while many of its competitors bleed red ink. Also, with a very conservative balance sheet, it has the legs to withstand further weakness in the space and even has the financial flexibility to invest in other lower-cost manufacturing facilities to gain market share.
It may be a ways off from the bottom for shares of Nucor, but with a dividend yield of 3.6% and a payment that has grown as the market for steel has been in precipitous decline since 2011, there is a lot of potential for this company once the steel market gets better.
Matt DiLallo: I love the management team at EOG Resources (EOG 0.17%). They are pretty much the only oil company that refuses to grow production in a low oil price environment, choosing instead to leave the oil in the ground until conditions improve. It's an improvement that the company believes is on the near horizon.
On the company's second-quarter conference call, CEO Bill Thomas said:
Concerning our macro view, we believe current oil prices are not sustainable and the market will rebalance. Low oil prices are slowing supply growth and encouraging demand worldwide. We believe that U.S. oil production will have significant month-over-month declines in the second half of this year. So our assessment is, there is more upside to the forward curve than downside.
It is this assessment, when combined with the company's own conservativeness, that is leading me to believe this could be a really great time to buy EOG Resources' stock. That's because EOG Resources has said that when oil prices do start to meaningfully rally, it will accelerate its production. That's something the company can quickly do because it will have drilled, but not completed, 320 wells by the end of this year. These wells can be quickly completed once the oil price improves, leading to an almost immediate surge in the company's production and cash flow. It's what makes EOG Resources such a compelling stock to buy for a future oil price rally.
Bob Ciura: Although nobody can say with absolute certainty that oil is at a bottom, I think it's time to buy Big Oil stocks -- in particular, the biggest of them all: ExxonMobil Corporation (XOM 0.40%). ExxonMobil is a time-tested company with a long history of rewarding shareholders, even in difficult environments. Crude oil is below $40 per barrel, but that didn't stop ExxonMobil from increasing its dividend by 6% this year. Longer term, ExxonMobil's dividends have increased at a 6% rate for the past 32 years, according to the company.
ExxonMobil's stock is down 21% year to date, but that just means investors are getting a much better deal at an attractive price. The stock is valued at just 15 times forward EPS estimates and 1.6 times book value. And thanks to the falling share price, ExxonMobil's dividend yield has been pushed up to a hefty 4%, a rare level for this stock.
ExxonMobil has had a rough year. Profits are down 49% over the first half of the year, due to the crash in oil and gas prices. But if and when oil recovers, the company should recover as well. In the meantime, ExxonMobil has the scale and flexibility to cut costs to endure the low price environment. Capital expenditures are down by $2.2 billion over the first two quarters, with further cuts in store. Investors with a long-term time horizon should look at the current decline as a great buying opportunity.