Prices for hard commodities are always subject to unexpected fluctuations that typically result from disruptions to the delicate supply-demand balance.
So far in 2013, iron ore has been one example of how the relationship between supply and demand can affect an industry and the companies operating within it. For instance, the so-called miracle of Chinese economic growth that has been one of the most enduring features of the global economy in the new millennium saw the world’s most populous nation consuming ever-larger amounts of iron ore to feed enormous investments in housing and infrastructure projects.
Major mining companies in the industry, such as BHP Billiton (BHP) , shifted their operations accordingly, even selling off assets in other less lucrative metals in order to make more iron ore. But then Chinese growth started to slow, relatively speaking, in late summer, sparking fears that the ride was coming to an end. Financial institutions from Deutsche Bank AG (DB) to Goldman Sachs (GS) all of a sudden were predicting that iron ore prices would drop dramatically as a result of oversupply.
The coal industry, by comparison, is in even worse shape, especially in the US and Canada, where the view of the commodity as a major, and unnecessary, environmental menace has become a very mainstream one. Coal-related stocks, of course, have suffered as a result of this scenario, and there does not seem to be a very promising outlook for the immediate future.
The following companies, mostly coal miners, have been selected from the Industrial Metals and Minerals industry, based on a number of criteria:
-a relatively low price-to-cash ratio of less than 3, indicating that the company may not have enough cash on hand to make the changes necessary to adapt to an industry downturn.
-a negative Return-on-Equity rate, indicating that investor cash is not being spent to the best effect.
-a relatively high debt-to-equity ratio, over 0.5, indicating that the bills for these companies could constitute a significant source of pressure in the event of a further misfortunes for coal
Alpha Natural Resources Inc. (ANR)
Market-Cap: $1.3 billion
P/C Ratio: 2.51
ROE: -9.60 percent
Debt/Equity Ratio: 0.72
The Bristol, Virginia-based company operates over 100 mines and 25 production facilities throughout the US, in Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Wyoming, and Kentucky. While the stock has rebounded, adding about 10 percent in the current quarter, shares have lost almost half their price in 2013, down over 40 percent.
Arch Coal Inc. (ACI)
Market-Cap: $852.6 million
P/C Ratio: 0.96
Debt/Equity Ratio: 1.88
The St. Louis, Missouri-based miner operates over 30 mines in the US that the company boasts represent over 5 billion tons of proven reserves of coal, and is often cited as one of the better coal stocks to own. That said, the company has seen its share price drop nearly 45 percent year-to-date, despite a 10 percent rally over the course of the present quarter.
Thompson Creek Metals Company Inc. ($TC)
Market-Cap: $605.7 million
P/C Ratio: 1.5
ROE: -36.70 percent
Debt/Equity Ratio: 0.78
The Denver, Colorado-based company mines gold, copper and molybdenum throughout the US and Canada, and provides an instructive contrast to the coal companies on this list. While Thompson has seen shares amost 20 percent lower in 2013, the stock has rallied by about as much during the present quarter.
MFC Industrial Ltd. (MIL)
Market-Cap: $523.56 million
P/C Ratio: 1.58
ROE: 27.80 percent
Debt/Equity Ratio: 0.52
The Vancouver, Canada-based company makes its business primarily from the storage and transporation of commodities and materials, including but not limited to coal. MFC is the exception on this list, with a positive return-on-equity. THe stock has not moved significantly throughout the year, but is up over 3 percent during the current quarter.
James River Coal Co. (JRCC)
Market-Cap: $71.34 million
P/C Ratio: 0.75
ROE: -32 percent
Debt/Equity Ratio: 1.66
The Richmond, Virginia-based companies mines coal in Kentucky, Indiana, and West Virginia, and claims over 300 million tons of coal reserves to its credit. Shares have had a rough year like all the other coal miners on this list, down 36 percent in 2013, despite a 12 percent jump on the quarter.