Spruced Up by the Housing Resurgence

 | Mar 04, 2013 | 10:00 AM EST  | Comments
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Apple (AAPL), you say?  How about the company now known as BlackBerry (BBRY)? What of Michael Kors (KORS) or Coach (COH)? You could spend days digging into the research and opinions about the current crop of winners and losers in the tech and retail sectors.

But there are some sectors and industries that, sadly, are neglected by investors. Folks ignore these areas not because they are laggards, but simply because they are -- let's call it what it is -- rather dull. But let's reframe that: Why is it more exciting to own a tech name that's going nowhere, rather than a cement maker with better potential for price appreciation?

When I ran a weekend scan of subsectors that had performed well in recent sessions, one that jumped out at me was cement and construction-materials makers. Pretty exciting, isn't it? Bet you can't wait to see the cement industry's latest announcements from a well-attended press conference somewhere in Silicon Valley.

Oh, wait. Never mind.

Nonetheless, check out the chart and fundamentals for Mexico's Cemex (CX), which trades on American depositary shares. The cement maker has market capitalization north of $34 billion, and it moves more than 14 million ADRs a day, on average. Despite that eye-popping level of liquidity, this is a volatile name, with a beta of 2.02. Due to currency risk, it's not uncommon to see high share volatility for companies based outside the U.S.

The global economic slowdown hit Cemex, and it reported shortfalls in 2010, 2011 and 2012 -- though the extent of the losses decreased with each passing year. For this year, the company is expected to report an even smaller loss of $0.04 per ADR, and analysts expect 2014 earnings of $0.25, given Wall Street's confidence in the housing recovery.

Cemex is a somewhat low-priced stock, having closed Friday at $11, less than 2% below its January multiyear high of $11.20. Is it buyable? In all candor, it would not be my favorite pick for an individual name. The high beta could make it hard for many investors to hold, and the stock could be subject to sharp downdrafts if we see bad housing data.

However, another stock in my scan was a mid-cap that also hailed from the cement and building materials sub-sector. Eagle Materials (EXP), which makes drywall and other materials used in the construction industry, is in a retreat from last month's multiyear high. The stock closed Friday at $66.34, 4.9% above its 50-day line and 38.4% above its 200-day. It got a boost last week after the company reported sharply higher top and bottom lines for the December quarter.

For many investors, these levels could be a bit frothy, and you may wish to wait for a pullback. The company is expected to earn $1.65 per share this fiscal year (ending March), which would be a 200% gain vs. 2012. Next year, that's seen rising another 72%, to $2.83 per share.

Eagle Materials also has a high beta, 1.73. While mid-caps can be well-situated for solid price gains, keep in mind that this is another stock that has potential for sharp price swings.

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