Commodity price cycle

The Economic/Commodity price cycle

Cyclical companies are at the mercy of the economic cycle. While it is true that good management and the right strategic and business choices can make some cyclical firms less exposed to movements in the economy, the odds are high that all cyclical companies will see revenues decrease in the face of a significant economic downturn.

Unlike firms in many other businesses, commodity companies are, for the most part, price takers.

In other words, even the largest oil companies have to sell their output at the prevailing market price. Not surprisingly, the revenues of commodity companies will be heavily impacted by the commodity price. In fact, as commodity companies mature and output levels off, almost all of the variance in revenues can be traced to where we are in the commodity price cycle.

When commodity prices are on the upswing, all companies that produce that commodity benefit, whereas during a downturn, even the best companies in the business will see the effects on operations.

Volatile earnings and cash flows:

The volatility in revenues at cyclical and commodity companies will be magnified at the operating income level because these companies tend to have high operating leverage (high fixed costs). Thus, commodity companies may have to keep mines (mining), reserves (oil) and fields (agricultural) operating even during low points in price cycles, because the costs of shutting down and reopening operations can be prohibitive.

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