The Building Boom Fizzles


The Building Boom Fizzles

Our infrastructure picks were battered, and so were three growth-stock recommendations.

President Barack Obama's promised investment in infrastructure came too late to stem the carnage in the stocks of its expected beneficiaries. The case for infrastructure stocks, which we laid out in The Great Global Building Boom, remains sound: Over the next 20 years, it will cost trillions to build and maintain roads, bridges and other infrastructure around the world. What's more, Obama wants to make infrastructure spending a big part of his economic-recovery program.

But for now, the primary megatrend is the global market meltdown, which infrastructure stocks could not escape. Over the past year through January 9, an exchange-traded fund we recommended, iShares S&P Global Infrastructure Index (symbol IGF), dropped 39%. During the same period, Standard & Poor's 500-stock index fell 35%.

Mueller Water Products (MWA) performed well, relatively speaking. The shares of the maker of high-quality pipes, valves and even fire hydrants lost 8%. But our other picks bombed. Macquarie Infrastructure Co. (MIC), which invests in U.S. assets, owns airport parking lots and airport-services businesses, among other things. Hurt by a slowdown in travel, Macquarie cut its dividend, contributing to an 85% plunge in the stock. At its January 9 close of $5.49, the stock yields nearly 15%. Meanwhile, shares of El Paso (EP), which owns pipelines and also produces natural gas, sank 53%. The big culprit: problems obtaining financing for planned projects. We still like Mueller and the iShares ETF, but we've lost confidence in El Paso and Macquarie. We advise selling the stocks.

Our growth-stock recommendations in Make More, Keep More, in the same issue, also performed poorly. Data-storage giant EMC (EMC) fell 30%; online data tracker ComScore (SCOR) tumbled 60%; and Hologic (HOLX), a maker of diagnostic equipment for breast and cervical cancer, plummeted 84%. We still think all three are good businesses and that their stocks will eventually rebound.