`Tis The Season For Cement

THE CEMENT PLAY IS A canny--and little-noticed--way to make money from seasonal swings in share prices. Or so Scott & Stringfellow, a Richmond (Va.) securities firm, tells clients: Buy these unglamorous stocks at their low point in December and sell them in April, when the construction season cranks up and share prices rise. The Richmond firm tracked the December-April performance of three of the largest publicly traded U.S. cement companies over the past five years. Lafarge, Medusa, and Southdown racked up an average annual return--just price, not dividends--of more than 23%.

Timing is crucial. David Beeghly, the Scott & Stringfellow analyst who found this pattern, says spring is the best time to sell because, after the slow winter months, Wall Street typically predicts a rosy construction year. Later, reality intrudes, such as bad weather, which can often sour the outlook.

Beeghly finds a similar pattern in other construction-related stocks, but it isn't as pronounced. Example: Vulcan Materials, which makes a variety of building materials, had an average return of just 9.7%.

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