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Tickers in this Article: KOP, HAYN, CLF, SSL, KS, PPG, ASH
After the morning's trading, the Nasdaq has decreased 0.6%, the S&P 500 has been relatively flat and the Dow has increased 0.1%. The basic materials sector is the category of stocks that accounts for companies involved with the discovery, development and processing of raw materials. This sector includes the mining and refining of metals, chemical producers and forestry products. The basic materials sector is sensitive to changes in the business cycle. Because the sector supplies materials for construction, it depends on a strong economy. This sector is also sensitive to supply and demand fluctuations because the price of raw materials, such as gold or other metals, is largely demand driven.

The Basic Materials sector (XLB) has climbed 0.6% so far today and here are its biggest movers:
CompanyMarket CapPercentage Change
Koppers Holdings (NYSE:KOP)$714.9 million+4.7%
Haynes International (Nasdaq:HAYN)$629.8 million+3.4%
Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE:CLF)$5.69 billion+2.9%
Sasol Limited (NYSE:SSL)$30.86 billion+2.8%
KapStone Paper and (NYSE:KS)$991.3 million-2.7%
PPG (NYSE:PPG)$17.28 billion+2.6%
Ashland (NYSE:ASH)$5.88 billion+2.3%
Forex Broker Summary: Forex Capital Markets (FXCM)

Rising 4.7%, Koppers Holdings (NYSE:KOP) is currently trading at $36.04 per share. So far today, the company's volume is 51,211 shares, which is more trading activity than there was yesterday. As a stock moves up or down, it is important to pay attention to the trading volume. This indicates the level of interest: the higher the volume, the more the interest. Investors can make use of valuation ratios to estimate whether a stock is fairly valued. For investors primarily interested in the income a stock can generate, the dividend yield is an important determinant of how attractive a stock is. Dividend yield for KOP is 2.8%. High dividend yields are generally more important to value investors, investors in larger companies, and income oriented investors than they are to growth investors, investors in small cap stocks, and investors in new or emerging companies. SEE: Guide To Stock-Picking Strategies: Income Investing

Haynes International (Nasdaq:HAYN) has risen 3.4% and is currently trading at $52.99 per share. So far today, the company's volume is 25,372 shares. This is 0.3 times its current three-month average. Volume is an important indicator because it indicates how significant a price shift is. In making a decision about a potential or existing investment, valuation ratios are useful as a basis for seeing whether the stock price is too high, reasonable, or a bargain. The price/sales ratio measures a company's stock market value by its total revenues or alternatively, a company's price per share by its revenue per share. The P/S ratio for HAYN is 1.07, which is relatively high. In young companies, a high P/S ratio is a sign of sales growth that is expected to turn into earnings and cash flow. It is important to compare P/S ratios for companies in the same industry, as ratios can vary quite widely for companies in different industries.

Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE:CLF) is up 2.9% to reach a current price of $41.05 per share. The company's volume is currently 9.4 million shares for the day, 1.2 times its current daily average. Volume is also used as a secondary indicator to help confirm what the price movement is suggesting. A company's value as an investment is more easily estimated using valuation ratios such as the price to earnings (P/E) ratio, the price to earnings growth (PEG) ratio, the price to sales (P/S) ratio, the price to book (P/B) ratio, and the dividend yield. The debt ratio is calculated by dividing total liabilities by total assets. CLF's debt ratio is 58.6%. As with all financial ratios, a company's debt ratio should be compared with the industry average or similar companies.

Sasol Limited (NYSE:SSL) is at $47.19 per share after an increase of 2.8%. This morning, the company is trading a volume of 164,957 shares. Volume is used to evaluate how meaningful the price movement of a stock is. Valuation ratios include the price to earnings (P/E) ratio, the price to earnings growth (PEG) ratio, the price to sales (P/S) ratio, the price to book (P/B) ratio, and the dividend yield. A simple P/E ratio can reveal the stock's real market value and show how the valuation compares to its industry group or a benchmark like the S&P 500 Index. SSL's P/E ratio is 9.5. A high P/E ratio indicates a stock that is expensive, while a low P/E ratio indicates a stock that is cheap. SEE: How To Find P/E And PEG Ratios

KapStone Paper and (NYSE:KS) is currently trading at a share price of $20.64, a 2.7% decline. The company's volume is currently 146,368 shares for the day, consistent with the volume from yesterday. High volume indicates a lot of investor interest while low volume indicates the opposite. Investment valuation ratios provide investors with an estimation, albeit a simplistic one, of the value of a stock. The debt-equity (D/E) ratio is a leverage ratio. KS has a D/E ratio of 50%. This easy-to-calculate ratio provides a general indication of a company's equity-liability relationship and is helpful to investors looking for a quick take on a company's leverage.

PPG (NYSE:PPG) has moved up 2.6% and is currently trading at $116.06 per share. The company's volume for the day so far is 647,640 shares. This is 0.7 times the average volume over the last three months. Volume indicates the level of interest that investors have in a company at its current price. Valuation ratios like the price to earnings (P/E) ratio, the price to earnings growth (PEG) ratio, the price to sales (P/S) ratio, the price to book (P/B) ratio, and the dividend yield are useful in determining how attractive a potential or existing investment is. The capitalization ratio measures the debt component of the capital structure, or capitalization of a company (i.e., the sum of long-term debt liabilities and shareholder equity) to support operations and growth. PPG has a high capitalization ratio of 100%. A high capitalization ratio is not necessarily bad since higher financial leverage can increase the return on a shareholder's investment. Prudent use of leverage (debt) increases the financial resources available to a company for growth and expansion.

Ashland (NYSE:ASH) has increased to a share price of $76.63, a 2.3% rise. So far today, the company's volume is 209,116 shares, consistent with its current daily average. If a stock price moves on high volume, this means that the change is a significant one. Valuation ratios allow the investor to make a quick determination as to a company's investment value. When used consistently and uniformly, the price/earnings to growth (PEG) ratio is an essential tool that adds dimension to the price/earnings ratio, allows comparisons across diverse industries and is always on the lookout for value. ASH's PEG ratio of 1.9 is in line with the industry average. Because of the adjustment for earnings growth rate, the PEG ratio is somewhat more useful than many formulas for comparing companies in different industries.

The Bottom Line No matter the economic climate, Wall Street will always have stocks that make major moves each week. Daily stock performance should be weighed against historical performance and put in context of the market overall. Tools like valuation ratios and profit margins, however, are only as useful as the context you put them in; remember to take historical data and competitor performance into account.

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