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3 Stocks That Could Soar Under Inflationary Conditions

Markets move in mysterious ways. On one hand, the equity market has sold off on fears that the higher interest rates required to fight inflation will excessively stifle the U.S. economy. Fair enough. But on the other hand, some of the highest-profile stocks in sectors benefiting from inflationary pressures -- companies like copper miner Freeport-McMoran (NYSE: FCX), insecticide and herbicide producer FMC (NYSE: FMC), and oil services company Halliburton (NYSE: HAL) -- have also been sold off aggressively.

Let's try to make some sense of what's going on and shed some light on whether these stocks might be good values now.

Why these inflation plays have been sold off lately

Simply put, the market has sold off stocks like these because the Federal Reserve's plans to keep hiking interest rates have investors convinced that we're headed for a period of lower growth, but also lower inflation. In addition, some of the speculative fervor may have been taken out of the inflation plays and the commodities that support them due to those rate hikes. In other words, some traders elected to buy commodities until the Fed resolved to act aggressively to fight inflation, at which point they shifted out of them.

So how should investors think about Freeport-McMoRan, FMC, and Halliburton? Despite the recent declines in copper, crop, and oil prices, all of these underlying commodities are still trading at relatively high prices. In addition, there's reason to believe this trend could continue to run.

Halliburton

If the market is right that the economy is headed for a slowdown, then oil demand might ease up -- not great news for Halliburton, a global leader in oilfield equipment and services.

However, this cycle is likely to be different from previous cycles in that it comes after a multiyear slump in capital spending by the oil and natural gas exploration and production majors following the 2014 oil price collapse. Moreover, while oil majors are ramping up their expenditures, there's a sense that they are likely to do so cautiously due to their awareness of the ongoing global shift toward clean energy.

Data by YCharts

If the next few years are characterized by steadily growing capital spending, then the price of oil could remain relatively high, leading to multiyear profit expansion at Halliburton.

Freeport-McMoRan

Copper miner Freeport-McMoRan could also buck the trend of a slowing economy because demand for copper will be supported by the shift to electric vehicles and renewable energy. Moreover, the electrification trend is a secular one. Meanwhile, Freeport's management believes that because of the difficulties involved in obtaining mining permits and the increasingly challenging political environments in Chile and Peru (countries responsible for 40% of copper global output), supply of the metal will stay constrained while demand will be supported by favorable trends. (Freeport McMoRan is relatively less exposed to conditions in Chile and Peru than many of its peers.)

In other words, both the demand and the supply of copper are being favorably impacted (in terms of rising prices) by secular growth trends and artificial supply constraints. That's good news for Freeport McMoRan over the long term, and it's the long-term price of copper (rather than week-to-week fluctuations) that will determine the value of the miner's assets.

FMC

The economy may be slowing, but demand for food is unlikely to be significantly impacted. That's good news for herbicide and insecticide manufacturer FMC.

In addition, it's worth noting that key crop prices (soybeans are its biggest end market, accounting for 21% of sales) and fruit and vegetable prices (19% of sales) have come a long way in the last couple of years. However, a combination of low stocks, solid demand, and a loss of supply due to Russia's war in Ukraine suggest that crop prices have further to rise.

Data by YCharts

Finally, it's worth noting that FMC is also experiencing margin pressure due to rising costs for raw materials and chemicals. Still, if its input costs diminish in the future while crop prices remain relatively high, FMC could see margin expansion and rising sales. That combination could lead to substantial earnings growth.

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Lee Samaha has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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