Some Commodity Stocks Still Look Attractive Despite Downturn

Includes: AA, ABX, CDE, PKX
by: Josh Hutheson

Even though the broader markets have generally been strong, commodities haven't been as lucky. The CRB Commodity Index is now down 20% over the past 2 years and 3% year to date. A disappointing performance as the S&P 500 is up 25% over the past 2 years and 12% year to date. Money managers used to be bulls on commodities but are now reversing course in the other direction. According to a Reuters report out June 7, the bullish money held by hedge funds and other big speculators in U.S. commodities has fallen by its most since late April. The dollar gains have provided some downwards pressure but the bulk of the damage seems to being done by a "whole lot of inventory and visible supply" and a shift in the demand from China. Still, there are some bargains to be had.

One of those bargains is the gold space. Gold prices have dropped more than 20% from their 2012 peak of $1800 an ounce and shares of gold miners have dropped with them. Barrick Gold (NYSE:ABX) has seen its shares drop a bunch under the pressure of lower future earnings potential in combination with project issues on the company level. Despite the clear issues, the company still holds one of the most diversified mining portfolios on the planet. As of December 31, 2012, Barrick's proven and probable mineral reserves were 140.2 million ounces of gold, 1.05 billion ounces of silver contained within gold reserves, and 13.9 billion pounds of copper.

Analysts continue to believe in the company with their price target of $30 on the shares or more than 50% higher than where ABX trades today. The lowest target on the shares is actually higher than what the shares trade for today. The stock now trades for less than book value, a rarity for gold miners with gold miners like Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM), Agnico Eagle Mines (NYSE:AEM), and Yamana Gold (NYSE:AUY) all trading well north of that. On a larger scale, the shares are now trading at what they were trading for in the midst of the 2008-2009 recession. The P/E the company is trading for is now borderline ludicrous with its multiple of 6 based on 2013 estimates.

Coeur Mining (NYSE:CDE) is the largest U.S.-based primary silver producer and a growing gold producer. The Company has four precious metals mines in the Americas generating strong production, sales and cash flow. Coeur produces from its wholly owned operations: the Palmarejo silver-gold mine in Mexico, the San Bartolomé silver mine in Bolivia, the Rochester silver-gold mine in Nevada and the Kensington gold mine in Alaska. Coeur has a non-operating interest in the Endeavor silver-gold mine in Australia.

Silver, in contrast to gold, has a diversified base of industrial uses with relatively inelastic supply and demand characteristics. In other words, it is more stable and a strong economy should be a positive for silver demand. Analysts peg the value of the shares at $21 and as is the case with Barrick Gold, the lowest price on the shares of $15 is still north of the current trading price. The company also thinks the shares are undervalued evidenced by its $12.6 million in share repurchases in the 1st quarter. CDE has close to $70 million left in its 2012 share repurchase program, which should provide some support for the shares.

Posco (NYSE:PKX), long a Warren Buffett favorite, is a South Korean steel maker POSCO, together with its subsidiaries, primarily manufactures and sells integrated steel products in South Korea. It operates through four segments: Steel, Trading, Construction, and Others.

The shares have slumped ever since they reached a high of close to $140 in 2010 and are now trading at half of that. Analysts have a price target of $102 on the shares with the lowest target on the shares being $82, upside of 18%. The company is known to have significant and sustainable competitive advantages through its facilities which are located on ports and have helped the company become one of the lowest cost steel producers in the world. China's shifting demand could play a role in keeping shares down, but the price here may be too cheap to ignore for one of the best listed steel producers.

In addition to the gold, silver, and steel, other metal s and commodities have seen prices fall over the past year or two. Here are two other metals that have seen prices dive but may look appealing:

The price of graphite has dropped 50% off its 2011 and 2012 highs but as do analysts for the previous 3 stocks and metals, some see upside ahead. Brian Sylvester of The Metals Report recently said that the industry has seen the "bottom" of graphite prices and should expect a rise from here or in the third quarter. The growth potential in the end users is what is expected to drive the growth and that point was recently reinforced in a story in a Nevada paper.

For those unfamiliar, the mineral is used in the manufacture of Lithium-ion batteries and is considered critical to U.S. industry sectors like consumer electronics, green technology and alternative energy. Graphite is also used in refractories, which is the steel. National Graphite is an American based graphite development company focused on bringing the Chedic Graphite Mine back into commercial production. The company bought interests in about 700 acres around the mine in mid-2012.

Aluminum prices have been in a rut for more than 5 years now and aluminum producers like Alcoa (NYSE:AA) have seen share prices dive. There is no question that we are experiencing a supply glut as one analyst called it six straight years of surpluses and record inventories in aluminum, suggesting an "intense bearishness toward aluminum." On the other hand, from 2013 to 2017, working-age populations are forecast to grow in India, and in other parts of Asia outside of China, the Middle East and the Americas. That trends works in favor for aluminum in the longer-term as the metal has one of the highest rates of demand growth among the industrial metals.

In the US, the slower macroeconomic conditions compared to the years into the recession are also playing a role in the demand for the metal. The United States' aluminum industry annually produces about $40 billion in products and exports with the top marketing for the industry being transportation, beverage cans and other packaging, and building/construction. While transportation has typically represented the largest market for aluminum in North America over the past two decades, 2009 marked the worst year for auto sales since 1982 and, as such, transportation applications accounted for only 23.7% of all aluminum shipments. If the economy continues to hum along and demand for durable goods that use aluminum increase, Alcoa may stay to gain.

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.