Madison Funds, an investment management firm, published its “Madison Dividend Income Fund” first quarter 2021 investor letter – a copy of which can be downloaded here. A return of +7.6% was delivered by the fund’s Class Y for the Q1 of 2021, ahead of its S&P 500 benchmark that delivered a +6.2% return but below the Russell 1000 Value index that had an +11.2% gain for the same period. You can view the fund’s top 5 holdings to have a peek at their top bets for 2021.
Madison Funds, in their Q1 2021 investor letter, mentioned Nucor Corporation (NYSE: NUE), and shared their insights on the company. Nucor Corporation is a Charlotte, North Carolina-based steel production company that currently has a $24.4 billion market capitalization. Since the beginning of the year, NUE delivered a 53.37% return, extending its 12-month gains to 91.95%. As of April 28, 2021, the stock closed at $81.58 per share.
Here is what Madison Funds has to say about Nucor Corporation in their Q1 2021 investor letter:
"This quarter we are highlighting Nucor (NUE) as a relative yield example within the Materials sector. NUE is a leading manufacturer of steel and steel products. It is the largest steelmaker in the U.S. based on production volume with a vertically integrated business model. The company has a low fixed-cost position due to its use of electric arc furnaces, which are cleaner, less labor and energy-intensive than blast furnaces, and this results in low total costs per unit of steel produced. Our view is that a low cost position is an important attribute in a commodity business. NUE’s historical financial record supports this view as it has been profitable every year except for one over the past fifty years, unlike many steel producing peers. In addition, the company has a diverse product and mill portfolio that takes market share over time. We believe its scale, low fixed-cost position, consistent record of profitability and diverse mill portfolio result in a sustainable competitive advantage versus peers.
Our thesis on NUE is that it should benefit from higher steel prices as the U.S. economy recovers from the downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The company may also be a beneficiary of on-shoring, where manufacturing returns to the United States. These two dynamics should drive growth this year, and if the United States Congress passes new infrastructure legislation, that will provide another avenue for growth longer-term.
Importantly, NUE has a strong balance sheet and flexible capital spending model that can quickly adjust to changing economic conditions. If economic growth slows, NUE can quickly reduce its cost structure, something it has done successfully in prior cyclical downturns. The company has low financial leverage as its net debt/adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) was only 0.9x at the end of last year, and it consistently generates positive free cash flow. These favorable characteristics differentiate NUE from other steel producers and help the company gain market share through disciplined capital allocation.
The fund purchased NUE at $56 in January, 2021, after it reached a low valuation with an attractive dividend yield and relative dividend yield versus the S&P 500. At the time or purchase, the stock yielded 3.3% and had a relative dividend yield of more than 2x the S&P 500, which was the high end of its historical range as shown in the bottom pane in the graph. The company is also a Dividend Aristocrat that has raised its dividend annually for 48 years. We expect continued dividend increases going forward.
Risks to the thesis include a prolonged economic downturn, lower steel prices and increasing steel import volumes that could hurt NUE financial performance. We believe these risks are manageable as economic growth is expected to be well above average this year. Specifically, Goldman Sachs is forecasting U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) growth of +8% in 2021, which would be the fastest pace of growth since 1950. Strong growth is likely to result in higher manufacturing activity, which we believe would be supportive of higher steel prices and limit risks to the thesis."
Our calculations show that Nucor Corporation (NYSE: NUE) does not belong in our list of the 30 Most Popular Stocks Among Hedge Funds. As of the end of the fourth quarter of 2020, Nucor Corporation was in 29 hedge fund portfolios, compared to 28 funds in the third quarter. NUE delivered a 58.93% return in the past 3 months.
The top 10 stocks among hedge funds returned 231.2% between 2015 and 2020, and outperformed the S&P 500 Index ETFs by more than 126 percentage points. We know it sounds unbelievable. You have been dismissing our articles about top hedge fund stocks mostly because you were fed biased information by other media outlets about hedge funds’ poor performance. You could have doubled the size of your nest egg by investing in the top hedge fund stocks instead of dumb S&P 500 ETFs. Here you can watch our video about the top 5 hedge fund stocks right now. All of these stocks had positive returns in 2020.
At Insider Monkey, we scour multiple sources to uncover the next great investment idea. For example, Federal Reserve has been creating trillions of dollars electronically to keep the interest rates near zero. We believe this will lead to inflation and boost real estate prices. So, we recommended this real estate stock to our monthly premium newsletter subscribers. We go through lists like the 15 best innovative stocks to buy to pick the next Tesla that will deliver a 10x return. Even though we recommend positions in only a tiny fraction of the companies we analyze, we check out as many stocks as we can. We read hedge fund investor letters and listen to stock pitches at hedge fund conferences. You can subscribe to our free daily newsletter on our website:
Disclosure: None. This article is originally published at Insider Monkey.