Kimberly-Clark Cleans Up

Cramer takes notice when a stock is up on a day that the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 238 points. That was the case for Kimberly-Clark on Monday.

KMB has two things going for it in the present economic environment: It’s a defensive stock that traders flock to when the market’s struggling, and the falling price of oil and gas is finally taking some pressure off the company’s margins.

No doubt this played a role in Kimberly-Clark’s performance yesterday. Granted, the stock only went up 13 cents. But even rival defensive plays like Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive declined in value. And other sectors like the financials? Yikes.

Kimberly-Clark makes tissues, toilet paper, diapers, feminine hygiene products and the soap and paper-towel fixtures that sit in so many of our company bathrooms. There’s a small healthcare business, too, where the company sells surgical gowns, exam gloves and face masks.

The problem for KMB is that oil is an active ingredient in so many of the products the company makes that it’s often hostage to high commodity prices. (There’s the cellulose fiber used in toilet paper. That’s had its own cost increases.) For every $1 the average annual price of oil increases, Kimberly-Clark’s annual earnings lose a penny. For every $1 in the annual average price of natural gas, KMB’s annual earnings lose 4 cents.

By the time the price for a barrel of oil reached $148, Kimberly-Clark was in some trouble. KMB’s earnings projection had been based on $100 oil. That’s why the company pre-announced a worse-than-expected second quarter on July 14. (Profits dropped 10%.) Erring on the side of extreme caution, KMB offered conservative Q3 and full-year guidance and upped its expected energy and commodity costs.

But Cramer said the company might being too conservative. The downward trend for oil and gas alone should be a big help to this business. And there’s a price increase of 3% coming on top of the 1% to 2% increase they already put through this year. Colgate-Palmolive was able to beat Wall Street's profit forecast Tuesday when it implemented a price increase of 4.5%. Cramer’s thinking KMB can do the same.

So there’s a chance for a real turnaround here. As oil and gas prices come down and KMB’s price increase kicks in, the stock should move up. In the meantime, Kimberly-Clark pays a 4.1% dividend yield for you to sit and wait.

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