In the early stages of an economic recovery, basic industrial companies generally perform best, as the manufacturing sector comes back to life.
And with the global economy now in exactly such a period, shareholders of DuPont (DD), the country’s third-largest chemical maker, and Dow Chemical (DOW), the biggest, have reason to be happy.
The global rebound means more usage of chemicals. Higher chemical consumption juices profits for the companies, boosting their share prices. Here’s the picture at each firm.
DuPont registered profits of $376 million in the final three months of 2010, topping analysts’ estimates for the eighth straight quarter. Sales of paint pigment, solar materials, plastics, and automobile parts powered the strong performance. In addition, rule changes lowered the company’s tax burden by $152 million.
The tax change also led DuPont to increase its 2011 profit forecast to earnings per share of between $3.45 and $3.75 from its Dec. 9 prediction of between $3.30 and $3.60.
DuPont is broadening itself from an old-style chemical company to production of everything from genetically-modified seeds to stain-resistant carpet to Kevlar bullet-proof vests.
Analysts at Ned Davis Research have a buy rating on the stock, and they point to several technical factors in its favor. For example, DuPont shares outperform the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index 74 percent of the time in April, with an average excess return of 3.59 percent.
Dow’s profit rose almost 200 percent to $511 million in the fourth quarter from $172 million a year earlier, topping analysts’ estimates. Strength in caustic soda and plastics helped spark the gain.
Plastics profits surged 40 percent to $765 million, while profit in basic chemicals such as chlorine and caustic soda leapt 700 percent to $173 million.
Emerging markets led the way for Dow at the beginning of the global economic rebound, but North America and Europe took over late last year. Dow’s U.S. plants are fueled by natural gas, a cheaper alternative to oil at this point.
The company’s outlook remains rosy throughout the world. “We expect equity profits to improve in 2011 to above their pre-recession levels,” writes Standard & Poor’s analyst Richard O’Reilly.
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