These two boring-sounding stocks have seen thrilling returns

Over the past year and a half, two of the most consistent performers in the S&P 500 have been construction materials stocks Martin Marietta Materials and Vulcan Materials.

While these are neither the most-exciting businesses nor the most widely watched stocks, they have each managed to follow up substantial rallies in 2015 with solid gains in 2016, which is something that can be said of relatively few S&P stocks.

Vulcan and Martin Marietta both sell "construction aggregates," which are products like gravel, crushed stone and sand that are used in construction. And over the year, both have enjoyed tremendous earnings growth.

Erin Gibbs, equity chief investment officer at S&P Investment Advisory, points out that "the growth is twofold: One, it is from housing growth, and that is happening, we are seeing good housing numbers — but most of the growth is expected to come from highway growth," as America considers repairing its crumbling infrastructure.

And for Vulcan, there's an additional bullish catalyst, Gibbs points out.

"Vulcan is particularly well-poised because they actually operate a major quarry in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, which is very easy to export to Cuba," Gibbs pointed out Thursday on CNBC's "Trading Nation." "So if economic relations improve with Cuba, Vulcan could really be poised for a lot of growth outside of the U.S."

For that reason, she'd prefer investing in Birmingham, Alabama-based Vulcan over Raleigh, North Carolina-based Martin Marietta.

Taking a historical perspective, trader and technical analyst Frank Cappelleri of Instinet points out that Vulcan and Marin Marietta have seen substantial runups before, in the midst of the real estate bubble, only to collapse.

While the stocks could continue to rise in the near term, "a more substantial mean-reverting move is probably in the offing sometime soon," Cappelleri predicted Thursday on "Trading Nation," referring to Vulcan specifically.


At the end of the day, both names are highly vulnerable to the market and the economic cycle. Their betas indicate that for every 10 percent the S&P rises or falls, each stock might be expected to rise or fall some 14 percent.

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Trading Nation is a multimedia financial news program that shows investors and traders how to use the news of the day to their advantage. This is where experts from across the financial world – including macro strategists, technical analysts, stock-pickers, and traders who specialize in options, currencies, and fixed income – come together to find the best ways to capitalize on recent developments in the market. Trading Nation: Where headlines become opportunities.

Michael Santoli

Michael Santoli joined CNBC in October 2015 as a Senior Markets Commentator, based at the network's Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.  Santoli brings his extensive markets expertise to CNBC's Business Day programming, with a regular appearance on CNBC's “Closing Bell (M-F, 3PM-5PM ET).   In addition, he contributes to CNBCand CNBC PRO, writing regular articles and creating original digital videos.

Previously, Santoli was a Senior Columnist at Yahoo Finance, where he wrote analysis and commentary on the stock market, corporate news and the economy. He also appeared on Yahoo Finance video programs, where he offered insights on the most important business stories of the day, and was a regular contributor to CNBC and other networks.

Follow Michael Santoli on Twitter @michaelsantoli

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