Concerns over weak economic growth in Europe and stagnation in emerging markets have dented shares of these large industrial companies, which depend on sales outside of the United States, according to portfolio managers and analysts who follow the stocks.
"As far as the diversified industrials, the big bugaboo the last month is if you have a higher concentration of sales in China and Europe," said Charlie Smith, chief investment officer at Fort Pitt Capital.
Stocks of diverse manufacturers have underperformed the broader U.S. market this year, to the point that Morgan Stanley analyst Nigel Coe said on Monday they were in "official correction territory." The stronger dollar reduces the value of foreign sales, while worry over slowdowns in some industrial markets such as energy also could be dampening expectations.
"It’s time for companies to prove they’re worth paying up for, and hopefully we’ll see that in demand," said John Heslin, who follows industrial companies as vice president at Tradition Capital Management.
Third-quarter reports for large diverse manufacturers kick off on Friday with General Electric (>> General Electric Company) and Honeywell International (>> Honeywell International Inc.). At an investor meeting last week, GE Chief Executive Officer Jeff Immelt, whose company is often viewed as an economic bellwether, said GE was seeing healthy orders despite global volatility.
"I still think we’re kind of in the same world recovering from the financial crisis that’s got slow growth and volatility," Immelt said.
Barclays analyst Scott Davis forecast 4 percent quarterly core sales growth for diverse manufacturers, saying in a research note that 3 percent "would be a concern."
Although companies such as GE and United Technologies (>> United Technologies Corporation) are not due to forecast 2015 results until later in the year, investors certainly will look for clues.
Sales and earnings were likely to be "notably lower" next year compared to 2014, William Blair analyst Nick Heymann warned in a research note this week. He expects organic revenue growth of 1 percent to 3 percent on average in 2015, versus 3 percent to 5 percent this year.
"The question a lot of people have is where is '15 going to be," said Scott Lawson, vice president at Westwood Holdings Group, who follows industrial companies. "You tend to see industrials rally in November and December as investors look toward the growth for next year."
While the stocks at the start of the year may have looked expensive after a big run in 2013, "the valuations have pulled back, so we’ve found a few opportunities lately," said Kevin Toney, senior portfolio manager at American Century Investments.
Toney cautioned: "We're still nibbling around the edges, as opposed to finding lots of juicy opportunities in this group."
(Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf; Editing by Nick Zieminski)
By Lewis Krauskopf