It’s been an up-and-down first quarter in the market, but the key is to keep our focus on the economy and the fundamentals, which are what ultimately drive stocks. These are the kinds of environments that give us the chance to get into great companies at great prices.
Speaking of great companies, it’s time to update you on The Mosaic Company (NYSE:MOS), which is my pick in the Best Stocks for 2018 contest. As a reminder, it is the world’s leading producer of concentrated phosphate and potash. In simpler words, it is a crop nutrition company whose goal is to help the world’s increasing population grow the food it needs. In fact, MOS is recognized as an innovator in its field.
The stock has had a tough first quarter, down 6.5% and below its 50-day moving average, which had acted as support in the latter part of 2017. It’s now trading near its 200-day moving average, but that level appears to be holding strong.
Strong Demand Points to Strong Upside
In the past, MOS has been an investment in the growth of the world’s middle class and shifting nutritional demands. With the global economy on fire, that means higher demand for protein and the nutrients needed in the agriculture space, where Mosaic is a standout. There is no premium for that reflected in the share price currently, but I suspect that will change as management continues to execute well.
The company has beat the Street in each of the last three quarters. In the fourth quarter, MOS reported a 12% increase in net sales and brought in earnings of 34 cents a share that were up from 26 cents a share last year and bested expectations by 6 cents. And looking ahead, the full-year earnings consensus has continued to surge higher, which is something that’s always encouraging to see.
I continue to model for greater volume and higher prices for both phosphate and potash in 2018 based on demand improvement. In fact, that’s what led to the strong fourth-quarter earnings report. As CEO James O’Rourke said, “We are seeing improving market conditions in both potash and phosphate, which, combined with benefits from our actions across our three business units, puts Mosaic in an excellent position to create value for all of our stakeholders.”
Still, the shares have remained under pressure. Part of this has to do with the fact that agriculture chemical stocks in general got hit on news that The Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON)-Bayer merger might be blocked — polls have found that a large majority of farmers are concerned that it will negatively impact independent farmers and farming communities. However, it has so far cleared huge hurdles with European and Chinese regulators.
Technically, MOS is in a reverse head-and-shoulders formation, which is often very bullish. I’d like to see the 200-day moving average (the red line) continue to hold, and as long as it does there is room for an initial move to $28. Over the next 18 months, I see potential all the way to $35.
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