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How Putin’s War Made These 3 Fertilizer Producers Hot Stocks

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Illustration by Elias Stein

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Since Russia invaded Ukraine, shares of Saskatoon, Canada’s


Nutrien
,
the Western Hemisphere’s top fertilizer maker, have climbed 37%. The

Energy Select Sector SPDR
exchange-traded fund, a proxy for Big Oil, is up only 13%.

Fertilizer is derived from potash, phosphate, and natural gas. Russia and Belarus produce more than a third of global potash, and dominate in natural gas. Belarus’ potash exports were strangled by prewar Western sanctions; Russia cut its own off on March 4. Potash fertilizer prices have soared by three-quarters in 2022. Prices of urea, one of two main nitrogen fertilizers distilled from gas, have risen 60% in a month.

The market is dynamic. Nutrien has enough spare potash capacity to substitute more than a third of what’s offline in Russia and Belarus, says Brian Madden, CIO at First Avenue Investment Counsel. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbors are growing nitrogen fertilizer output by 7% to 9% a year. And hard-hit farmers, who lay down nitrogen every season, can skip a year or two with potash or phosphate by “mining the soil” for leftovers. Crop shifts can drive this process: Corn needs nitrogen, while wheat and soybeans need phosphate and potash.

North American producers have an edge on European rivals, because they have access to cheap gas. Diversified Nutrien has two major competitors on the continent:


Mosaic

and


CF Industries Holdings
.
“CF can kill everyone in the market because it has cheap American natural gas,” says Piper Sandler chemicals and agriculture analyst Charles Neivert. But he likes all three: “The cash flows of these companies are astonishing, and there’s not a lot of new capital spending they need.” Nutrien is near his $110 price target. Mosaic and CF, he adds, can go 20% higher.

Next Week

Monday 3/28


Jefferies Financial Group

reports first-quarter fiscal-2022 results.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas releases the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey for March. The consensus estimate is for a 12.5 reading, 1.5 points fewer than in February. The index has had a positive reading every month since July 2020, showing growth in the region’s manufacturing sector.

Tuesday 3/29


Chewy
,


Lululemon Athletica
,


McCormick
,


Micron Technology
,
and PVH release earnings.


Autodesk

and SolarEdge Technologies hold investor meetings.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. Expectations are that there were 11.3 million job openings on February’s last business day, roughly even with January’s total. Unfilled jobs remain near record levels in an extremely tight labor market.

S&P CoreLogic releases the Case-Shiller National Home Price Index for January. Home prices are projected to have risen 18.8%, year over year, matching December’s increase. In 2021, homeowners enjoyed the largest appreciation in the 34 years in which the data have been collected–led by Phoenix, Tampa, and Miami, all with prices up by 27% or more.

Wednesday 3/30


ADP

releases its National Employment Report for March. Consensus estimate is for a gain of 400,000 jobs in private-sector employment. Private-sector employment still lags behind prepandemic levels by three million.


BioNTech

and Paychex report quarterly results.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports its final estimate for fourth-quarter gross-domestic-product growth. Economists forecast that GDP grew at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 7%, unchanged from the BEA’s second estimate.

Thursday 3/31

Walgreens Boots Alliance holds a conference call to discuss its earnings.

The Institute for Supply Management releases its Chicago Purchasing Managers Index for March. Expectations are for a 56.5 reading, roughly even with the February figure.

The BEA reports on personal income and expenditure for February. Income is projected to have increased by 0.6%, month over month, while spending is expected to have risen by 0.3%. This compares with a flat reading and 2.1% rise, respectively, in January.

Friday 4/1

The BLS releases the jobs report for March. Economists forecast a gain of 450,000 in nonfarm payrolls, compared with 678,000 in February. The unemployment rate is seen edging lower to 3.7%, from 3.8%. The previous two releases saw a combined upside surprise to the consensus of 633,000 additional jobs, as the jobless rate nears the February 2020 level of 3.5% which matched a half-century low.

Email: editors@barrons.com

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