Chemicals

We foresee better relative prospects for the balance of 2024. With the exception of certain specialty chemical niches, inventory de-stocking has largely run its course. This point is critical because de-stocking exerted far greater influence on sector volume trends than did underlying demand fluctuations. Consequently, equilibrated supply chains should pave the way for a rebound in y–y volume growth, even if economic growth were to remain sluggish.

Meanwhile, an eventual Fed pivot could do wonders for the sector’s largest end-use market, building and construction. Such a pivot would of course support trading multiples too, although with a powerful stock surge in the final two months of 2023, the capital markets had already priced in much (or perhaps “too much”) of this future rate relief.

As a result, 2024E valuation metrics appear uninspiring, yet that is often the case at this point of the cycle with earnings estimates for commodity chemical companies having been slashed, cut, pared, and then trimmed some more. While we don’t expect a turn of the calendar page to cure all ills – operating rates are low and pricing prospects are mixed for example – we do think it makes sense to put a few more chips in the middle, especially as it relates to chemical stocks that are inexpensive on the basis of normalized earnings.

Top Picks

FMC Corporation

FMC-US

Coverage

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LYB-US

Buy
Buy
Buy
LyondellBasell Industries

LIN-US

Buy
Buy
Buy
Linde Plc

IFF-US

Hold
Hold
Hold
Int'l Flavors & Fragrances Inc.

EMN-US

Hold
Hold
Hold
Eastman Chemical

RPM-US

Hold
Hold
Hold
RPM International

WLK-US

Buy
Buy
Buy
Westlake Corporation

OLN-US

Hold
Hold
Hold
Olin Corporation

CE-US

Hold
Hold
Hold
Celanese Corporation

ECL-US

Hold
Hold
Hold
Ecolab

PPG-US

Buy
Buy
Buy
PPG Industries

HUN-US

Hold
Hold
Hold
Huntsman Corporation

FMC-US

Buy
Buy
Buy
FMC Corporation

APD-US

Buy
Buy
Buy
Air Products & Chemicals, Inc.

DOW-US

Hold
Hold
Hold
Dow Inc.

CTVA-US

Buy
Buy
Buy
Corteva Inc

SHW-US

Hold
Hold
Hold
Sherwin-Williams Company

FUL-US

H.B. Fuller Company