Sunday, January 27

Month 91 - Food and Agriculture Companies - Winter 2019 Update

Situation: We all have to eat, so food is an essential good. Even in a commodity bear market, the valuations of food and agriculture companies will likely hold up better than the S&P 500 Index ETF (SPY - see Column D in this month’s Table). Which is amazing, given that grains and livestock account for 29% of the Bloomberg Commodity Index. Another way of saying this is that the volumes of food sold are inelastic, much like gasoline. This gives investments in food and agriculture companies a special, almost unique, competitive advantage. 

The most important development in recent years is that the sugar in corn kernels is being processed into ethanol for gasoline. And, to a lesser extent, soybean oil is being processed into diesel fuel (see Week 364). Two US companies are leaders in biofuels production, i.e., Valero (VLO) with a capacity of 1.4 billion gallons per year, and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) with a capacity of 1.6 billion gallons per year. Animal feeds are an important by-product of ethanol production, marketed as dry and wet distiller grains, that capture 40% of the energy in a kernel of corn. 

Mission: Use our Standard Spreadsheet to highlight important metrics for listed companies in the Food and Agriculture sector.

Execution: see Table.

Administration: The 21 companies in the Table meet specific standards for quality, which are: S&P Bond Rating of BBB or better; S&P Stock Rating of B+/M or better; and trading records that extend for 16+ years to allow analysis by the BMW Method

Bottom Line: In the aggregate, common stocks of these companies look to be a good bet (see Line 23 in the Table). Don’t be fooled. Eight of the 21 stocks track the ups and downs of futures markets in raw commodities (see red highlighted companies at the bottom of Column D in the Table). To build a position in any of those stocks you’ll need to employ dollar-cost averaging. And, only the two companies at the top of the Table have clean Balance Sheets (see Columns N-Q in the Table). 

To invest successfully in this sector, you’ll need to do a lot of research on a continuing basis. For example, note that fertilizer companies and seed companies are missing from the Table. Why? Because of the recent wave of mergers and acquisitions. If you had been an investor in now extinct companies like Monsanto, duPont, Dow Chemical, Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, and Agrium, you’ll have gained from the pain but also lost money.

Risk Rating: 8 (where 10-Yr US Treasury Notes = 1, S&P 500 Index = 5, and gold bullion = 10)

Full Disclosure: I dollar-average into TSN, KO, CAT, UNP and WMT, and also own shares of HRL and MKC.

"The 2 and 8 Club" (CR) 2017 Invest Tune All rights reserved.

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