It wasn’t a big surprise at all when chemical manufacturer Dow Inc (NYSE:DOW) split off from the organization formerly known as DowDuPont. Announced last year, the massive conglomerate would form three separate entities: DOW, DuPont (NYSE:DD) and Corteva (NYSE:CTVA). Moreover, the general consensus was that DOW stock, along with the other two names, would perform better individually.
Source: Roy Luck via Flickr (modified)
The principle idea behind this strategy is simple for anyone to appreciate. As a combined entity, DowDuPont was incredibly confusing and convoluted, similar to General Electric (NYSE:GE). And as you can tell from GE’s technical chart, very few people today value large, aimless companies. The emphasis now is on agility, something that Dow Inc stock lacked when tethered to unrelated businesses like Corteva’s agriculture.
So far, though, that “untethering” thesis is on shaky ground. Sure, DOW stock is up nearly 8% in June. However, shares have crumbled since mid-April. Despite the strong start to the month, DOW is still about 14% shy of returning to its closing high.
However, optimists might note that Dow Inc stock suffered from the same pressures as everyone else; namely, geopolitical tensions with China. Of course, the situation currently looks terrible, with both sides not willing to concede an inch.
That said, the smart money would eventually go toward a resolution between the No. 1 and No. 2 economies. After all, prolonged tensions do neither side any good.
Additionally, the Trump administration’s hard-nosed act could be just that, an act. It wouldn’t be the first time that the President said one thing and did another. And if we did get that resolution, DOW stock would presumably jump higher.
Still, I wouldn’t get too excited about Dow Inc stock yet.
DOW Stock Is a Complicated Investment
A cute peculiarity of the DowDuPont breakup is that DOW stock replaced the former in the Dow Jones index. Thus, we have DOW in the Dow.
Its inclusion also made sense because the venerable index maintains exposure to the materials sector. Fair enough. But increasingly, it’s becoming clear that the markets don’t favor big, complicated organizations with broad and disparate reach.
We just need to look at the Dow Jones’ recent history to confirm this sentiment. Dow Inc stock being listed into the index was the first shakeup since General Electric was kicked out. And what is General Electric but the mother of all complicated organizations?
Sure, GE has slimmed down with its own divestments and spinoffs, but it’s still confusing relative to modern organizations. I believe that’s still the key risk associated with DOW stock.
Because let’s not overlook what’s right in front of our face. Despite the much-covered DowDuPont breakup, Dow Inc stock doesn’t provide a clean, linear path. Instead, the underlying company is stretched wide, featuring businesses in consumer products, packaging, industrial materials, large-scale infrastructures and technology.
From a topical perspective, the separation into three entities streamlined operations for the individual cogs. Somewhat left out in the equation was that the individual cogs also have non-intuitive structures.
Rather than a DOW in the Dow being a positive, it seems like an omen. That’s because the Dow Jones has repeatedly kicked out or obstructed these yesteryear organizations. The ones that are still holding on are likely on their last leg.
For instance, I thought a jack-of-all-trades company like 3M (NYSE:MMM) offered a contrarian play for its broad industry coverage. I was dead wrong. And I’m concerned the same fate awaits DOW stock: the markets just don’t like these types of investments anymore.
Don’t Hold Your Breath on China or Even Mexico
In order to really see positive sentiment drive Dow Inc stock, speculators must hope for a big news item. A resolution to the U.S.-China trade war, along with normalizing relations with Mexico would do the trick.
However, I wouldn’t hold my breath on either event. First, I don’t think the Chinese are really interested in a trade resolution. From day one, China sought to leapfrog the U.S. as the undisputed technological leader. That’s why the Chinese committed brazen acts of corporate espionage. It’s the quickest and dirtiest way to accomplish their goals.
Look at it this way: what would a trade deal imply for the Chinese? At the very least, it would mean that they must play by the rules. Ultimately, they’ll never go for that because it necessarily means that China plays second fiddle to the U.S.
As far as Mexico goes, a truce currently exists: Mexico agreed to impose tighter migrant controls in exchange for a tariff-free relationship with the U.S. But it’s a very unsettling one, with Trump able to pull the plug if he doesn’t like what he sees. My bet is that he doesn’t. That also means we may not have a decisive catalyst for Dow stock for quite some time.
As of this writing, Josh Enomoto did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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