Sunday, May 3

Week 200 - Agronomy Companies on the Barron’s 500 List

Situation: I know, you’re already bored. But we really have to talk about commodity-related stocks occasionally because those are the high-risk, high-reward, high-cost stocks that anchor the world economy. Their prices usually reflect a megacycle that lasts for decades, starting with supply shortages (relative to demand) and ending with overproduction that persistently exceeds demand for a time (e.g. today’s oil & gas markets). The pricing of such stocks correlates with global demand, not with the typical 5-7 yr economic cycle of individual countries or regions. Some commodities are so adept at reflecting the global economic cycle as to earn special respect, like “Doctor Copper”. You’ll want to own two or three of these “non-correlated” stocks that dampen the ups and downs of the economic cycle. In particular, consider production agriculture companies because those have special advantages: 1) Their profits are driven more by the weather cycle than the economic cycle; 2) ten million people per year enter the middle class in Asia and Africa who can finally afford to consume the 60 grams/day of protein that is required for good health and a long life.

Livestock has been the best-performing commodity sector over the past year. Let’s think about what goes into livestock production: grain, hay, and soybeans are the most important inputs. (Four pounds of feed is needed to make one pound of Grade A meat.) Production of those crops requires certain inputs: tractors and combines (see Week 197), irrigation equipment (see Week 129), and this week’s topic about the tools of an agronomist (seeds, fertilizer, insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides). Agronomists work “on call” for individual farmers (or a farmer's cooperative) to address issues of plant genetics & physiology, soil science, and meteorology. Think of them as general practitioners overseeing the crop. Increasingly, this role is played by “seed analysts” from one of the major seed production companies (Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer or Dupont). Seed analysts also look for farmers who will allow part of their fields to be used for plant research.

This week’s Table has all of the large, publicly-held agronomy companies in the United States and Canada. Stocks in these companies are not suitable for inclusion in a retirement portfolio. But several are suitable for a portfolio of non-correlated assets, i.e., those where prices don’t follow the economic cycle. The pricing of agronomy companies is mainly driven by weather cycles, and the worldwide growth rate for workers who are paid enough to provide their families with an adequate protein intake.

Bottom Line: You need to have a few investments that don’t track the S&P 500 Index, so-called "non-correlated assets." Inflation-protected Savings Bonds epitomize this concept, and you should have a Rainy-Day Fund that is mainly invested in those or Treasury Bills (see Week 162). But there are other, more rewarding non-correlated investments. Most are commodity-related and come with a lot more risk. We like large companies that focus on the needs of farmers and ranchers. This week's Table has 8 of those.

Risk Rating: 7

Full Disclosure: I own stock in MON, CF, and DD.

NOTE: Data are current as of the Sunday of publication; red highlights denote underperformance vs. our key benchmark (VBINX).

Post questions and comments in the box below or send email to:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for visiting our blog! Leave comments and feedback here: