Sugar slide to sweeten Smucker, Hershey shares

Hershey's
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When the price of sugar falls, share prices get sweeter for makers of candy bars and jellies such as Hershey and J.M. Smucker, history shows.

Sugar has dropped more than 19 percent in the last six months from 19 cents a pound to 15 cents due to oversupply of the sweetener from its largest producer, Brazil.

On 13 occasions since 1980 when sugar has fallen more than 19 percent, Hershey has traded in the green 77 percent of the time with a median return of 24 percent in the period during sugar's drop and three months after the decline, according to analysis by Kensho, a quantitative data analytics tool. For seven occasions during the same time period, J.M. Smucker has traded positive 86 percent of the time with a median return of 30 percent, Kensho found.

The shares could use the sugar rush after trading listlessly all year between gains and losses. As of the close Monday, Hershey was up 2 percent for 2014, while J.M. Smucker was off 2 percent.

Rising dairy costs have weighed on the stocks, causing Hershey last month to lower its guidance for the year and for most analysts to turn neutral on the shares.

But management at Hershey, the maker of Reese's peanut butter cups and Almond Joy among others, is taking action to make the most of this sugar slide, saying last week that it may replace corn syrup with sugar in some products, Reuters reported.

The Kensho search returned a curious sugar bear market winner in Kroger, the supermarket chain.

Indeed, Kroger did have positive returns 77 percent of the time, with a median return of 17 percent amid a drop in sugar, according to Kensho. Cheaper sugar actually gives Kroger's margins a boost because of the many private-label cookies and snacks it makes.

Citigroup initiated Kroger with a "buy" rating Tuesday in part because of higher margins for its private-label goods.

Alongside the sugar drop recently, wheat futures have fallen about 20 percent from their peak price of $7.39 a bushel in May.

The two have historically traded in tandem and that became apparent when the Kensho search yielded two more stock winners: restaurant chain Darden and burrito maker Chipotle.

Darden, which owns the Olive Garden restaurant chain and several other brands, had positive returns for 10 instances and had a median return of 18 percent. Chipotle traded positive on five occasions with a median return of 51 percent.

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The Kensho study looked at the performance of the S&P 500 three months before and three months after a half-year decline in sugar by more than 19 percent.

—CNBC's parent NBCUniversal is a minority investor in Kensho.

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