For an amazing eight consecutive years beginning in 2009, the grain-based foods share index compiled by Milling & Baking News outperformed broad market indexes, including the S.&P. 500. Midway through the eighth month of 2017, the share price index, which is based on the stock price values of companies with significant grain-based foods operations, does not appear poised for another year of outperformance. The index as of Aug. 10 was down 1% from the Dec. 30 close, versus a 9% gain for the S.&P. 500, an 11% advance for the Dow Jones average of industrial shares and a 14-point jump for the Nasdaq composite index.
In fact, a 1% decline understates the industry’s share price performance year-to-date. Of the 25 companies included in the index, the share price of 17 is lower year-to-date. Five have double-digit declines year-to-date. Certain of the stronger performers have been bolstered by speculation that they may be takeover targets.
Truth be told, the eight years of grain-based foods share outperformance certainly overstates the industry’s fundamental strength during this period. Low interest rates were credited as a major driver of the sector’s extraordinary strength over the last several years. The reversal — the recent gradual upward move of interest rates — clearly is now a contributor to the underperformance. Still, the share price weakness also reflects severe challenges confronting numerous food companies, including those within grain-based foods.