Three chemical trades

The  Diversified  Chemicals industry is huge and perhaps ready to take off. There are 45 chemical companies within the Zacks Industry Ranks. The huge number of corporate actors in the space makes it much tougher to turn up any aggregate annual earnings revision dial, which makes it all the more impressive that the Diversified Chemical industry is ranked in the top 12% of sectors ( #33 of 265) at Zacks.

In the last few weeks, we counted eight positive analyst earnings revisions, versus just three negative ones. Year-to-date, this Diversified Chemicals industry group returned 11.8% versus 9.7% for the S&P 500. 

What is going on? 

According to Chemical Engineering News, chemical firms releasing Q1-2017 financial results reported strong demand for a broad range of products including seeds, electronic materials and textile dyes. 

Several firms posted Q1 earnings growth that exceeded expectations. For example, both volumes and prices were up at giant Dow Chemical (DOW), as the company reported gains across businesses serving packaging, transportation, infrastructure, consumer care, and electronic materials. 

CEO Andrew N. Liveris linked Dow’s strength in operations to the growing global economy. What’s more, demand growth was strong across the United States, China and Europe. 

Industrial demand gave the German chemical conglomerate BASF (BASFY) room to hike basic chemical prices an average of 8% in Q1. And like Dow, BASF saw volumes increase broadly in basic chemicals, performance products, and functional materials (see “Diversified chemical firms,” below).

 

Strong market conditions for polyurethanes at the U.S. chemical firm, Huntsman Corp. (HUN) gave it an opportunity to raise its prices for methylene diphenyl di-isocyanate. And it sold 10% more performance products than in Q1 2016. Textile chemicals and dyes were big sellers in Asia, Europe and South America.

What is clear is that the current global economy is stronger than most traders think. “Best in breed,” (below) shows three Zacks #1 ranking stocks — BASF, Chemours (CC) and Huntsman — in the sector.