For the third consecutive month ending December, data showed that wholesale inventories at U.S. businesses slipped as companies reduced their unwanted stockpiles. When sales shrink, companies typically cut their spending on inventory.
According to data from the Commerce Department, inventories fell 0.1%, versus revised November figures of 0.4%. Sales dipped 0.3% in December after sliding 1.3% in November. While the figures show a small fall on a month-over-month (MoM) basis, on an annual basis, inventory stocking fell to 1.9% from 6% in early 2015.
As this phenomenon typically occurs between the months of October and December, economists and analysts alike are hopeful that restocking will resume soon.
Despite the weak data and resulting gloom, three wholesale manufacturers are set to move higher. They have largely met or beaten analysts' estimates in recent quarters and have shown solid management and growth prospects.
They are the sort of stocks that Warren Buffett and his Berkshire Hathaway would love. Stock up on these wholesale stocks to catch them on their way up.
Over the past one year, shares of Owens and Minor, a medical equipment wholesale company have climbed 5.8%, and 7% on a year- to-date (YTD) basis, helped by positive earnings announcements and the acquisition of Medical Action Industries.
For the past three quarters, the company has beaten analyst estimates on earnings per share (EPS). In the most recent quarter that ended in December, Owens and Minor reported EPS of 56 cents, beating estimates of 49 cents. Revenues were flat on a year-on-year basis at $2.49 billion.
Over the past five quarters, the company has had consistent revenue, but has managed to raise its net income from $14 million in the fourth quarter of 2014 to $32 million in the fourth quarter of 2015.
Going forward, analysts expect OMI to deliver earnings growth of 7.09% per annum for the next five years, compared to 4.88% for the S&P 500. The two-year suspension of the special tax on medical devices will give a further fillip to the sector and medical device companies.
The company's dividend yield of close to 3% also makes it an attractive pick, considering the industry average of 1.1%. It's a reaonably priced growth play that meets Buffett's value criteria.
Fastenal sells industrial and construction supplies and is the largest fastener distributor in North America.
Sales of industrial fasteners have declined owing to dwindling demand from heavy machinery manufacturing units engaged in oil and gas operations. A strengthening U.S. dollar proved to be another headwind for the distributor.
Yet the company has either beaten or largely met analyst expectations on EPS. Its stock price has also displayed resilience, flat on a yearly basis but up 5% YTD. The 3.3% rise in daily sales has powered the spike, but January net sales slipped 1.6% on year.
Despite the gloom looming over the industrial and warehousing sectors overall, the company declared a cash dividend of 30 cents a share, raising its dividend every quarter since 2013.
A turnaround in the industrial and manufacturing sector will benefit the stock. For the next near, analysts expect earnings growth of 7.7%, dwarfing the 2.9% figure expected for the industry. The stock reflects the sort of intrinsic strengths that the Oracle of Omaha looks for.
Another stock that received a boost from favorable reaction to its earnings announcement is Sysco. In sharp contrast to the S&P 500 which is hovering at 52-week lows, the stock of the Houston-based food distributor is trading around its 52-week high.
For the second quarter, the company beat analyst estimates on revenues and EPS. Revenue came in at $12.2 billion versus estimates of $12.17 billion and EPS of 48 cents smashed the Street's expectations of 41 cents.
Investors may soon receive a windfall. Hedge fund Trian Fund Management in August, which disclosed a 7.1% stake in the firm, has asked Sysco to do everything in its capacity to unlock shareholder value.
The company contained its operating expenses which boosted earnings. It now seems on track to achieve first-year goals of its three-year plan to generate at least $400 million in annualized operating income growth and a 15% return on invested capital by 2018.
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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.