President Donald Trump has long made infrastructure a major talking point, and recent comments indicate the issue is advancing.
In February, Trump said he would ask Congress to approve a $1 trillion infrastructure spending plan.
If the plan goes through, investors may want to consider buying stocks that could benefit from higher infrastructure spending.
As a result, investors should look for stocks in the industrial and materials industries.
The following three stocks all manufacture products that would almost certainly see higher demand if Trump’s trillion-dollar infrastructure plan becomes reality.
Infrastructure Stock #1: Caterpillar (CAT)
Caterpillar makes the top spot on the list, because it is a natural beneficiary of increased infrastructure spending.
It is among the largest industrial manufacturers in the U.S., with a market capitalization of $55 billion. It has a long history of stable earnings.
Caterpillar is a Dividend Achiever, which is a group of 265 stocks with 10+ years of consecutive dividend increases.
You can see the full Dividend Achievers List here.
Caterpillar makes heavy machinery, such as construction and mining equipment. This type of machinery would be necessary to repair the nation’s roads and bridges, on such a massive scale.
The company could use a boost—Caterpillar suffered a severe downturn over the past two years, due to the decline in commodity and precious metals prices. This depressed demand from the energy, industrial, and mining industries, which make up a significant portion of Caterpillar’s customer base.
Caterpillar reported a net loss of $67 million in 2016, which erased a $2.5 billion profit the year before.
Sales declined 18% in 2016, due to the strong U.S. dollar, and weak demand, particularly in the emerging markets. Falling commodity prices resulted in a 30% sales decline in Africa & the Middle East, and a 19% sales decline in Latin America.
There are a few reasons to be optimistic.
First, is that demand from China continues to rise. Sales to the Asia-Pacific region rose 10% in the fourth quarter, due largely to infrastructure and residential investment in China.
The same fundamental forces could be at work in the U.S. in 2017, which could drive a recovery for Caterpillar.
In addition, Caterpillar is helping boost its bottom line by cost-cutting. Restructuring costs swung the company to a loss last year, but pave the way for a more efficient future. Caterpillar shaved more than $2 billion off its cost structure last year.
Because of this, Caterpillar expects earnings-per-share of $2.30 in 2017. There could be potential for further upside from this forecast, if Trump’s infrastructure plan is approved.
In the meantime, investors are paid well to wait for the recovery. Caterpillar pays a 3.3% dividend yield, which is well above the 2% average yield of the S&P 500 Index.
Infrastructure Stock #2: Nucor (NUE)
The U.S. steel industry was hit hard by the Great Recession, and has missed out on the economic recovery in the years since.
Cheap exports from China continue to pressure the U.S. steel industry. There is some hope that using domestic steel would be a component of Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” principle.
If this is the case, Nucor could benefit.
Nucor is a steel manufacturer, and is also North America’s largest recycler. Instead of using blast furnaces, Nucor utilizes mini-mills. This method of production boosts efficiency and helps keep the company competitive.
Last year was another challenging one for Nucor. Total sales declined 1% for the year, to $16.21 billion, including an 8% sales drop in the fourth quarter.
However, the company earned a net profit of $900 million for the year. Profits were driven by cost savings. For example, Nucor’s average scrap and scrap substitute cost per ton declined 16% last year. Overall, Nucor’s operating costs fell by $1.3 billion for the year.
Nucor also gets consideration because of its excellent dividend track record. Despite operating in a highly cyclical industry that has fallen on hard times for many years, Nucor continues to increase its dividend annually.
The company recently announced its 176th consecutive quarterly dividend payment. Moreover, Nucor has increased its dividend for 44 years in a row.
Nucor is a Dividend Aristocrat, a group of companies in the S&P 500 that have raised dividends for 25+ years.
You can see the entire list of Dividend Aristocrats here.
Admittedly, Nucor’s dividend increases have been tiny of late. For example, last year it raised its dividend by just 0.6%.
However, Nucor’s consistent dividend payments and regular increases, demonstrate a commitment to shareholders. Nucor has a 2.7% dividend yield.
Infrastructure Stock #3: Vulcan Materials (VMC)
Lastly, Vulcan Materials would benefit from higher infrastructure spending. The company states that its business is “built on essentials”. It is the nation's largest producer of construction aggregates—primarily crushed stone, sand, and gravel.
It is a major producer of other construction materials, such as asphalt and ready-mix concrete.
Vulcan’s products are used across the country. Its coast-to-coast operations include 344 construction aggregate production sites, and another 100 asphalt and concrete production facilities.
These are exactly the kinds of materials that would be needed for a large-scale infrastructure project. Trump’s proposed infrastructure plan would require huge amounts of stone, gravel, asphalt, and concrete.
Vulcan’s materials are all used to build and repair infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and to construct both residential and nonresidential buildings.
Renewed growth in domestic construction projects is already helping Vulcan. For example, Vulcan’s adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBIDTA) rose 16% last year, thanks to higher materials shipments and improved pricing.
Total sales increased 5% to $3.59 billion. Gross profit rose 17% to $1 billion, driven by higher sales and pricing, as well as cost cuts.
For 2017, Vulcan expects aggregates shipments to increase 5%-8% from 2016. Average selling prices are expected to grow 5%-7%. A major infrastructure re-build would only boost the company’s momentum.
Vulcan is a relatively low dividend yield stock. Its current dividend yield is less than 1%.
The stock makes up for this with a high level of dividend growth. For example, in February Vulcan increased its dividend by 25%. With such a high rate of dividend growth, the yield could increase rapidly over time.
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