Infrastructure Stocks About to Rise?

Mad Money’s Jim Cramer discussed two high-quality infrastructure stocks: Fluor (FLR) and Jacobs Engineering (JEC). He analyzed them from both the technical and fundamental perspective on the segment called “Off the Charts.” Both stocks have greatly underperformed the market benchmarks in the last quarter, with both of them falling nearly 20% over the past 13 weeks. Furthermore, both stocks have fallen over the last twelve months as well compared to the nearly 30% gains in the S&P 500. These two stocks were supposed to be major beneficiaries of the Obama Administrations’ infrastructure stimulus plan, but thus far clearly the market has not reflected that.

Cramer sites a technician who believes that Fluor has strong support and is finished declining. On the other hand, Jacobs Engineering is seeing significantly higher volume on the declines than on the gains, a signal that perhaps there is more downside in store. For an example, look at the huge volume following last week’s earnings announcement from JEC. Based on the charts, the clear choice is Fluor.

At Ockham, we focus our analysis on fundamentals and we currently see both of these stocks as Undervalued. Cramer argues that Fluor is the better buy of the two because it is more dependent on building projects than on maintenance projects which are JEC’s bread and butter. That means, if you believe that the stimulus projects are coming down the pike then the growth aspect is more appealing for Fluor. A new contract with China National Offshore (CEO) demonstrates Fluor’s international exposure, which is far more attractive than Jacobs, especially in a weak dollar scenario. In addition, Cramer reasons that while both stocks missed Wall Street’s estimates last quarter, Fluor’s miss was less dramatic.

Although we have both stocks rated positively, we actually have to lean towards Jacobs Engineering as the more attractive valuation right now. Cramer cites the historical price-earnings multiple of FLR as 18x, and at a current price-to-cash earnings of 9x it is very attractive. However, he does not mention that JEC is even further out of favor with the market compared to this historical standard. Jacobs normally trades at a price-to-cash earnings multiple of 20x, but is currently right with FLR at 9x. Jacobs’ revenue has fallen off by a greater percentage than Fluor during the recession, but historically speaking the growth is more attractive for JEC. That could mean that Cramer is underestimating the boost JEC will receive as the federal stimulus does start to work into the operations of these firms. In closing, we think both are attractively priced right now, but by our methodology we have to give the slight edge to Jacobs.

Infrastructure Stocks About to Rise?

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Ockham Research is an independent equity research provider based in Atlanta, Georgia. Security analysis at Ockham Research is based upon the principle known as Ockham's Razor, named for the 14th- century Franciscan friar, William of Ockham. The principle states that a useful theory should utilize as few elements as possible, because efficiency is valuable. In this spirit, our goal is to make the investing environment as simple and understandable as possible, yet no simpler than is necessary.

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