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Concrete & Aggregates Industry Holds Promise: 4 Stocks to Watch

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A boost in infrastructural and public construction spending should continue to favor the Zacks Building Products - Concrete & Aggregates industry. An improving non-residential construction market and favorable pricing dynamics have also been aiding companies in navigating hard times. Indeed, macroeconomic uncertainties, supply-chain disruptions, weather-related woes and higher labor costs are causes of concern. Nonetheless, prominent companies in the industry, like Vulcan Materials Company (VMC - Free Report) , Martin Marietta Materials, Inc. (MLM - Free Report) , Eagle Materials Inc. (EXP - Free Report) and Summit Materials, Inc. (SUM - Free Report) have been gaining from the positives.

Industry Description

The Zacks Building Products - Concrete & Aggregates industry consists of manufacturers, distributors and sellers of construction materials like aggregates and concrete along with other related items for public infrastructure, residential and non-residential, as well as other end markets. The materials also include gypsum wallboard, recycled paperboard, concrete blocks, ready-mix concrete, and oil and gas proppants. The industry players are also involved in designing, engineering, manufacturing, marketing, and installation of external building products for commercial, residential, and repair and remodel markets in domestic as well as international markets.

3 Trends Shaping the Future of Concrete & Aggregates Industry

Focus on Reviving Infrastructure: On Nov 15, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan infrastructure bill of $550 billion, in addition to the approved funds of $450 billion for five years in August. Total spending may go up to $1.2 trillion if the plan is extended to eight years. This bill comprises new investments in almost every infrastructure sector over the next five-year period, including transportation, energy, broadband and water. Out of the total allotted spending, the infrastructure development law will provide $100 billion toward roads, bridges and other major projects. It will invest $66 billion in freight and passenger rail, including potential upgrades to Amtrak. The project will allocate $11 billion to reducing car crashes and fatalities through a “Safe Streets for All” program. The Biden administration’s endeavor to pump money for rebuilding the nation's roads, bridges and other infrastructure would give construction companies like Vulcan, Martin Marietta and others a solid foundation for growth.

Acquisitions & Focus on Operating Efficiency: The industry participants follow a well-chalked-out acquisition plan to enhance domestic and international portfolios. Moreover, companies are increasingly focusing on reducing controllable costs and maximizing operating efficiency across business lines to generate higher earnings and cash flows. The industry players have also been experiencing a solid pricing environment across their product portfolios, thereby helping to boost margins.

Fluctuation in Input Prices, Weather Woes, Residential Slowdown, & Shortage of Skilled Labors: The industry players are struggling with escalating material expenses, the shortage of skilled laborers and rising wage costs. The companies use electricity, diesel fuel, liquid asphalt and other petroleum-based resources. Hence, supply-related woes and significant fluctuations in the prices of these resources affect operating results. Also, businesses are exposed to weather-related risks that affect production schedules and hence profitability. Excessive rainfall, flooding or severe droughts jeopardize shipments and production. The first and fourth quarters are mostly affected by winter. Again, hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf Coast are most active during these quarters. These impediments may bump up costs and mar the industry participants’ profits. This apart, the recent slowdown in the residential market is causing a downdraft in wallboard, cement and other products of the industry, thereby weighing on companies’ performances. Notably, rising mortgage rates and home prices have been prompting a moderation in housing demand.

Zacks Industry Rank Indicates Bright Prospects

The Zacks Building Products - Concrete & Aggregates industry is a nine-stock group within the broader Zacks Construction sector. The industry currently carries a Zacks Industry Rank #114, which places it in the top 45% of more than 250 Zacks industries.

The group’s Zacks Industry Rank, which is basically the average of the Zacks Rank of all the member stocks, indicates impressive near-term prospects. Our research shows that the top 50% of the Zacks-ranked industries outperform the bottom 50% by a factor of more than 2 to 1.

The industry’s positioning in the top 50% of the Zacks-ranked industries is a result of a positive earnings outlook for the constituent companies in aggregate. Looking at the aggregate earnings estimate revisions, it appears that analysts are gradually gaining confidence in this group’s bottom-line growth potential. Since March 2023, the industry’s earnings estimates for 2023 and 2024 have increased 2.9% and 3.6% to $1.78 and $2.04 per share, respectively.

Before we present a few stocks that you may want to consider for your portfolio, let’s take a look at the industry’s recent stock-market performance and valuation picture.

Industry Lags Sector, Outperforms S&P 500

The Zacks Building Products - Concrete & Aggregates industry has lagged the broader Zacks Construction sector but outperformed the Zacks S&P 500 composite over the past year.

Stocks in this industry have collectively gained 3.3% versus the broader sector’s rise of 7.1% over the past year. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 has slipped 4.3% in the same period.

One-Year Price Performance

Industry's Current Valuation

On the basis of the forward 12-month price to earnings, which is a commonly used multiple for valuing Building Products - Concrete & Aggregates stocks, the industry is currently trading at 17.6X versus the S&P 500’s 18.5X and the sector’s 15.3X.

Over the past five years, the industry has traded as high as 24.5X, as low as 13.5X and at a median of 18.3X, as the chart below shows.

Industry’s P/E Ratio (Forward 12-Month) Versus S&P 500

4 Concrete & Aggregates Stocks to Keep a Close Eye On

Below, we have discussed four stocks from the Zacks Concrete & Aggregates universe that have solid earnings growth potential. The chosen companies currently carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) or 3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Eagle Materials Inc.: This Dallas, TX-based company produces and supplies heavy construction materials, light building materials, and materials used for oil and natural gas extraction in the United States. Improved cement, concrete and aggregates sales volume, as well as a solid contribution from the recently acquired business, is aiding the company’s growth. Higher pricing is adding to the positives. The company remains well-positioned courtesy of its broad geographic footprint, population-growth trends, shortages of residential units, and higher state-level infrastructure spending owing to a multi-year federal highway bill.

Eagle Materials currently carries a Zacks Rank #2 and has gained 15.8% in the past year. Earnings for fiscal 2024 are expected to grow 3.4%. Also, fiscal 2024 earnings estimates have increased to $12.59 per share from $12.27, over the past 60 days. This despicts analysts’ optimism over the company’s prospects. It carries an impressive VGM Score of A.

Price and Consensus: EXP

Vulcan Materials Company: This Birmingham, AL-based company produces and supplies construction aggregates, asphalt mix as well as ready-mixed concrete. The company’s focus on four strategic initiatives — Commercial Excellence, Operational Excellence, Strategic Sourcing, and Logistics Innovation — should enhance price performance as well as operating efficiencies. Vulcan Materials has been generating higher earnings on the back of prudent cost-control efforts and increased pricing in aggregates. Its focus on a systematic inorganic strategy for expansion is adding to the positives. Overall, improving private non-residential construction, solid infrastructure investment and favorable pricing dynamics have been driving growth.

Vulcan currently carries a Zacks Rank #3. The company’s shares have dropped 2.7% over the past year. That said, earnings for 2023 are expected to grow 15.7%.

Price and Consensus: VMC

Martin Marietta Materials: Based in Raleigh, NC, Martin Marietta produces and supplies construction aggregates as well as other heavy building materials — mainly cement — in the United States. Expanded infrastructure investment, along with recovering private non-residential markets, heavy industrial projects of scale, large-scale energy projects and domestic manufacturing, are expected to support near-term shipment levels. Also, the Lehigh West Region and Tiller buyouts should enhance its reach in new geographies for consistent industry-leading growth.

Martin Marietta currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 and has slipped 1.7% in the past year. That said, 2023 earnings estimates have increased to $14.82 per share from $14.72, over the past 60 days. Also, earnings for 2023 are expected to rise 22.8%.

Price and Consensus: MLM

Summit Materials: Based in Denver, CO, this is a construction material company. Summit Materials has been witnessing solid pricing growth across all lines of business and expects the trend to continue in 2023. The company has also been optimizing its portfolio as it intends to shift toward a more materials-led portfolio. Meanwhile, the company remains optimistic as it believes public markets are poised to experience robust and durable growth driven by well-funded state budgets as well as infrastructure funding. A solid state Department of Transportation budget flow will aid the company, which has been receiving more contracts associated to highways and related works.

Summit Materials has lost 3% over the past year. This Zacks Rank #3 company’s earnings estimates for 2023 are expected to grow 11%. It carries an impressive VGM Score of B.

Price and Consensus: SUM

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