Although we constantly receive conflicting messaging, we continue to be in the midst of a global economic recovery. That recovery translates to an opportunity for infrastructure stocks as building ramps up. Current expectations are that 2023 will result in 2.8% growth in the construction sector globally, with 3% growth expected next year.
Inflation rates worldwide will outpace growth during that period, and the threat of recession will persist. Nevertheless, normalizing supply chains, a reopened China, and downward trending inflation in the U.S. set the stage for tenuous optimism and growth that suggests plenty of growth opportunities in this space.
I think investors should stick with safer, big-name stocks that can benefit due to scale while providing less downside exposure. Whether this economic recovery continues continues remains to be seen, but these three infrastructure stocks are relatively safe bets, for various reasons.
Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) is among the infrastructure stocks that provide investors with safety and upside due to its placement on a very exclusive list. It is among the 68 firms listed as dividend aristocrats. This group of companies is a part of the 500 largest U.S. firms which have paid an increasing dividend for 25+ years. In short, they’re more stable, and less-likely to suffer losses.
Caterpillar shares are off approximately 7.5% year-to-date. Although that’s not a particularly positive sign, it’s easy to understand. Construction and energy industry customers make up roughly three-quarters of its sales. If those industries slow, equipment prices will fall as demand weakens. In turn, those same firms will invest in cheaper equipment before a turnaround and subsequent ramp-up in business.
Caterpillar has been pretty evenly-priced relative to its earnings over the past ten years, so I don’t think CAT stock will see massive volatility. Over the very long-term, this is a stock that’s grown in line with the economy, and has provided investors with dividend growth as well. I expect this trend to continue, and believe this is a solid long-term holding.
Like Caterpillar, Nucor (NYSE:NUE) is among the infrastructure stocks that finds itself in the dividend aristocrat category. Thus, Nucor is another relatively safe play provided little downside, but plenty of long-term income potential. Now, the stock yields only 1.4%, so there are better shares for investors seeking yield. But there are other reasons to consider this name I think are more important. One of which is the fact that Nucor is among the leading steel providers, so this company will benefit from government-induced spending on infrastructure for years to come.
Additionally, another one of the more convincing arguments in favor of NUE stock is its price-to-earnings ratio, which is well below levels seen over the last decade. In terms of fundamentals, Nucor also boasts impressive profitability metrics across the board. Its high margins and strong returns on capital impress. These are essential factors for investors assessing the company’s. ability to remain relevant over the long-term, and retain its status as a dividend aristocrat.
The company released earnings on April 20, which resulted in a pop. Interestingly, the company posted a revenue decline of 18%, but it didn’t seem to matter, as investors continue to be forward-looking. Corporate guidance provided a rosy outlook for earnings growth in Q2, and the company’s margin expansion has investors upbeat.
Vulcan Materials (VMC)
Last on this list of infrastructure stocks to buy is Vulcan Materials (NYSE:VMC). The company mines and sells aggregates of crushed stone, sand, and gravel used across the construction industry. Vulcan Materials also sells asphalt and ready-mix concrete and is the largest aggregates company in the U.S.
Wall Street analysts believe VMC stock has more than a 15% upside, as does fundamentals site Gurufocus. Vulcan Materials also offers a dividend yield of 1%, although the company’s dividend has been reduced in the past.
Despite macro challenges, Vulcan Materials produced growth for its fourth quarter and full fiscal year 2022. Although sales increased in Q4, management noted unusually cold, wet weather disrupted activity. Despite that headwind, gross profits increased by 11% during the quarter.
The company should see 2023 sales that are slightly stronger than those in 2022. Those expectations suggest that overall demand should rise moderately, which implies overall economic growth and a higher share price for VMC stock.
On the date of publication, Alex Sirois did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.