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Tickers in this Article: TXI, CX, CRH, JHX, EXP
Over the last couple of years, the cement industry has been sinking as if it's wearing cement shoes. This is largely because of the severe downturn in infrastructure spending as a result of the economy's freefall. Here we take a look at the wild ride some of the industry's top cement makers have been taking.

IN PICTURES: 10 Biggest Losers In Finance

Texas Industries
Texas Industries (NYSE:TXI) came out with third-quarter earnings at the end of March, which showed decreased revenue as well as a loss. Sales fell to $57.6 million from $81.4 million in the same quarter last year, while the company posted a loss of $27.1 million, or 98 cents a share. Last year's Q3 had Texas Industries earning $10.9 million, or 39 cents a share.

Texas Industries does most of its business in California and Texas where recovery is slow. Earnings estimates show projections for continued losses in 2010 and 2011. Standard & Poor's also responded by downgrading Texas Industries' corporate credit rating.

Cemex
Mexican giant Cemex (NYSE:CX) had positive earnings in its February report. Cemex earned 28 cents a share compared to a loss of 96 cents in the year ago quarter. Revenue was down substantially, to $3.4 billion from $4.1 billion, and $14.5 billion from $20.1 billion for the year.The continuing weakness in the U.S. and Spanish markets were large factors. Estimates for the first quarter and fiscal 2010 have been reduced.

James Hardie Industries
James Hardie Industries (NYSE:JHX) shows a little more immediate promise than either Cemex or Texas Industries. Despite having negative earnings, it is at least showing analyst estimates in the black for this year and next. Whether James Hardie will reach the $1.50 EPS predicted for 2010 or the $1.96 for 2011 will depend on an uneventful economic recovery without any surprise aftershocks.

Eagle Materials

Eagle Materials (NYSE:EXP) has fared slightly better, with positive earnings. It is also a leading manufacturer of gypsum wallboard, and the company's emphasis on low-cost production has helped it along. Its description of itself as a "no-frills" operation, even in a no-frills industry, should position it well for when the economy and the construction industry eventually recover.

CRH
CRH PLC
(NYSE:CRH), the Irish building materials company with a strong global footprint in 31 countries, announced in its early March earnings that profits had been cut in half, with revenues sliced by 17%. Even so, CRH is a leading asphalt producer for the U.S. and it's still profitable. The company also is making headway in slashing costs and projects, and believes that it will save $2.4 billion a year going forward. CRH has also posited that its business outlook is the most uncertain it has been in nearly two decades, and that it's on the lookout to buy assets from indebted rivals. Earnings estimates for this year and next are both positive and promising.

The Bottom Line
Some of these stocks have been mildly bid up more than their earnings might warrant. Texas Industries in particular looks like it will have a long road back, so fundamental investors may want to avoid it. Cemex is a potential turnaround play, yet looks cumbersome and the debt load is a concern. James Hardie and Eagle Materials, in particular, look better right now, but the best of the bunch could be CRH.

CRH's wide global presence coupled with a robust outlook mark this company as stronger than its rivals, and it's positioned to grab business in regions that recover first. Ireland should have a vigorous economy longer term, despite its current banking problems.The potential spillover of sovereign debt problems and trouble with the euro need to be monitored closely. That said, CRH is one to really watch in this group. (To learn more, see Build Your Portfolio With Infrastructure Investments.)

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