Shares of Fastenal Co. surged to their highest levels in 18 months after the company exceeded third-quarter profit expectations. The company, known for its fasteners, tools, and janitorial supplies, experienced record-breaking daily sales rates in the past month.
Impressive Financial Results
Fastenal Co.’s stock, with the ticker symbol FAST, soared 6.6% during afternoon trading, making it the top gainer among S&P 500 index components. This surge puts the stock on track for the largest one-day gain since March 26, 2020, and the highest closing price since April 6, 2022.
The company reported a net income of $295.5 million, or 52 cents per share, for the quarter ending September 30. This represents an increase from $284.6 million, or 50 cents per share, during the same period last year. Fastenal Co.’s financial performance surpassed the average analyst estimate compiled by FactSet of 50 cents per share.
Furthermore, sales grew by 2.4% to reach $1.85 billion, in line with the FactSet consensus.
Despite the positive financial results, concerns still loom over the manufacturing markets. Chief Executive Daniel Florness acknowledged that demand remained sluggish while weakness in these markets intensified. This cautionary sentiment was echoed by Chief Financial Officer Holden Lewis.
While Lewis expressed encouragement over the September dail-sales rate (DSR) breaking the $30 million per day barrier for the first time, he remained reserved about its implications. According to Lewis, this growth seemed to be attributed more to easing comparisons in certain businesses rather than a clear indication of improving customer demand or brighter future prospects.
Lewis added that macro data points and feedback from regional leadership consistently pointed towards sluggish demand and a cautious outlook for spending and production.
Performance Divergence in Product Lines Signals Manufacturing Slowdown
In the third quarter of 2023, the company noticed a significant disparity in performance between its product lines. While fasteners experienced a decline, safety supplies and other products, including tools, janitorial supplies, and cutting tools, performed relatively better. This discrepancy raises concerns about the slowdown in the manufacturing economy.
Factors Contributing to Performance Differences
The company identified two factors that contribute to the varying performance of its product lines:
Greater Susceptibility to Weaker Manufacturing End Markets: Fasteners, being more heavily oriented toward the production of final goods than maintenance, are particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in manufacturing end markets.
Decelerating Pricing for Fasteners: Compared to non-fastener products, fasteners have experienced a faster pace of price deceleration.
Over the latest three-month period, there was a significant decline in the DSR (Distributor Sales Representative) rate for fasteners, falling by 2% after an 18.2% increase the previous year. Safety supplies, on the other hand, saw a positive DSR change of 9.2%, although this was lower than the 12.4% increase recorded in the previous year. The change for other products was also positive at 6.8%, although it experienced a slowdown compared to the 15.4% increase reported last year.
Additionally, within the fastener product line, there was a modest deflation observed.
While the company did not provide a full-year outlook for profit or sales, the FactSet consensus for 2023 sales has remained relatively stable at $7.34 billion since the end of July. Furthermore, the EPS (Earnings Per Share) even saw a slight increase of a penny, reaching $1.99.
Despite the current “sluggish” demand outlook, the company’s stock has gained 1.7% over the past three months. However, the Industrial Select Sector SPDR ETF XLI has weakened by 6%, and the S&P 500 index SPX has given up 2.8% over the same period.