Why These 4 Miners Deserve A Closer Look

Includes: AKS, AU, NUE, URHN
by: Vineet Dutta

Metal miners have had a tough past 12 months all over the board with mining giants such as copper major Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE:FCX), gold major Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM), steel focused ArcelorMittal (NYSE:MT), and aluminum focused Alcoa (NYSE:AA), all down between 10%-30% compared to gains of over 10% for the S&P 500. The reasons have been various including a declining price of gold, oversupply in the steel markets, worrying macroeconomic conditions in Europe, and disappointing acquisition announcements. Despite the pessimism, the fundamental picture may be changing as the global macroeconomic conditions continue to improve and the end demand picture continues to be strong. I first take a closer look into gold and then follow that up by a look into steel.

After trading at $1800/oz in early-fall, the precious metal has slumped and is now trading at just above the $1600 level. Gold miners have followed suit and have seen the value of their shares plummet amongst the downfall. Even though some weak hands have been shaken out of their long positions, there are positive signs out there. In a story in a UK paper, Smith and Williamson Global Gold and Resources fund co-manager Ani Markova cited restrained supply, demand from emerging markets and central bank policy as supportive factors for gold prices. Markova noted that data suggests that the growing Chinese middle class is channeling its wealth into gold and that Indian gold demand could rise this year as it is a traditional wedding gift and more people are expected to get married in 2013.

On the central banks, Markova said: "This is an environment in which we see a lot of printing going on. We think the U.S. Fed will continue to print until it sees unemployment fall to 6.5%." A separate money manager noted that "a lot of gold mining companies have underestimated getting gold out from under the ground and how much they will make for selling gold. I think for investors at the moment gold equities look like good value." Some factors that may mitigate some of the gains include stronger-than-expected U.S. economic performance and successful talks to avert a "fiscal cliff" of spending cuts and tax hikes. Without further ado, here are two gold stocks that look attractive:

AngloGold Ashanti (NYSE:AU) is a global gold mining company and the world's third-largest gold producer. With headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti has 20 operations on four continents and one of the gold industry's most successful exploration teams, which work across both the established and new gold producing regions of the world. This includes land positions in Colombia, Guinea and Australia, among others.

Just today, AngloGold Ashanti announced full-year earnings of $924 million, the second-highest on record, despite a difficult year in which an unprotected strike and safety stoppages caused major disruption to its South African operations. Production in 2013 is anticipated to grow to between 4.1Moz and 4.4Moz at an improved total cash cost of $815/oz to $845/oz. More focused investment in the business has helped AngloGold Ashanti forecast stable capital expenditure of about $2.1 billion for 2013, while corporate costs are expected to decline by about 18% to $240 million. Analysts have slapped a price target of just about $45 a share for the stock compared to a current share price of just under $27 a share.

Uranium Hunter (OTCPK:URHN), through its wholly owned subsidiary Cuyuni Mining, is focused on buildling a fully-integrated uranium gold, precious metals and gemstone production company that incorporates exploration, development, acquisition, mining, ore processing and sales. The company targets historically proven and highly prospective properties in South America and Africa, which can come to production quickly.

The company has had three significant announcements recently that have put the focus on URHN. First, the company announced the signing of an agreement with First Swiss International Group to act as lead funder on a $20 million private placement and as its investment consultant and adviser in connection with Uranium Hunter's mining business. Next, the Uranium Hunter announced that it reached an agreement with local land owners, village chief, elders and the Paramount Chief and Cameroon Ministry of Mines to acquire a further two concessions in the Kette region of Cameroon. Further, pit sampling on of five 10mx10m area pits on land returned an average of 2.4 ("g/t") and URHN said that it is optimistic with proper equipment production potentially will be quite high. Lastly, the company announced that it signed a Letter Of Intent with St. Watson Mining Company Sierra Leone to joint venture with it on its gold concessions in Sierra Leone. It is estimated that the concession will produce in excess of 20,000 ounces per year of gold. With the price of gold currently trading around $1,600/oz, the joint venture has the potential to reach or exceed $32 million in gross revenues. The company has analyst coverage and one of the analysts said that Uranium Hunter's strong focus in Cameroon and Guyana, will place it is a choice location for mining deals.

Before I finish with Uranium Hunter, I want to add that it is a micro-cap stock and micro-cap stocks are among the most risky stocks. Many micro-cap companies tend to be new and have no proven track record. Some of these companies have no assets or operations. Others have products and services that are still in development or have yet to be tested in the market.

As I wrap up with gold, I now take a look into steel. In contrast to gold producers, steel producers suffered a lot in the 2009 economic recession as demand for end products dropped and steel companies were left with under utilized facilities and overcapacity. The steel industry has, however, steadily recovered from the impact of the global economic downturn as world crude steel production was a record 1,548 Mt in 2012, outperforming the record set in 2011 by 1.2%. For 2013, Zacks expects the sector will benefit from the strong momentum in the automotive markets as well as the other key markets. China's recent attempt to bolster its economy by approving 60 infrastructure projects worth more than $150 billion will also help bolster the steel sector. Here are two steel stocks to consider:

Nucor (NYSE:NUE) and affiliates are manufacturers of steel products, with operating facilities primarily in the U.S. and Canada. Products produced include: carbon and alloy steel -- in bars, beams, sheet and plate; steel piling; steel joists and joist girders; steel deck; fabricated concrete reinforcing steel; cold finished steel; steel fasteners; metal building systems; steel grating and expanded metal; and wire and wire mesh. Nucor, through The David J. Joseph Company, also brokers ferrous and nonferrous metals, pig iron and HBI/DRI; supplies ferro-alloys; and processes ferrous and nonferrous scrap. Nucor is North America's largest recycler.

Nucor announced Q4 earnings that blew out analyst estimates as the company reported EPS of 45 cents a share versus the analyst estimate of 31 cents a share, continuing a string of strong financial performance. This improved performance was due to better-than-expected operating profits, primarily at its sheet, plate and beam mills, and a larger than expected LIFO credit. The outlook was disappointing, although a bit expected with such strong Q4 results, as Nucor said that it expects to see first-quarter 2013 earnings below its results in the fourth-quarter of 2012. Further evidence of the company's financial and operating strength lies in the fact that it just paid its 160th consecutive cash dividend and is currently yielding 3%.

AK Steel (NYSE:AKS) produces flat-rolled carbon, stainless and electrical steels, primarily for automotive, infrastructure and manufacturing, construction and electrical power generation and distribution markets. The company operates two subsidiaries: AK Tube and AK Coal Resources. AK Tube produces carbon and stainless electric resistance welded tubular steel products for truck, automotive and other markets. AK Coal Resources controls and is developing metallurgical coal reserves in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. AK Steel also owns 49.9% of Magnetation, a joint venture with headquarters in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, which produces iron ore concentrate from previously-mined ore reserves.

At the end of January, AK Steel reported lackluster Q4 and FY12 results but the outlook was optimistic. "Sluggish economic conditions impacted global demand and selling prices for steel products during the fourth quarter and the full-year of 2012," said James L. Wainscott, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of AK Steel. "That said, AK Steel remains well-positioned to take advantage of market opportunities with its high quality, valued-added steels as the economy continues to slowly recover. Taking everything into account, we expect a significantly better first quarter and full-year 2013." Analysts are confident in the company and place a target of $5.40 on the stock compared with a recent price of $4.20 for the shares.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.