The FTSE 250 is already up 4.7% so far this year, and it's only just March. Which companies have been driving it and what are their future prospects? Here are two that are looking good to me.
Evraz(LSE: EVR) shares have more than trebled over the past 12 months, to 237p, gaining 3% on the day the Russia-based miner and steelmaker posted 2016 results.
At the halfway stage, Evraz reported a 38% crash in EBITDA, largely due to falling prices for iron and steel. But a partial recovery in commodities coupled with $316m in cost savings led the firm to turn that around by year-end. Full-year consolidated EBITDA was reported as being up 7.2% with an improving EBITDA margin, though asset impairment contributed to a reported net loss of $88m.
Cost reduction also helped the firm to a lowering of net debt, from $5.3bn to $4.8bn.
Evraz bills itself as "one of the lowest-cost producers of steel and raw materials in Russia", and further strengthening of prices for its products should give it a significant advantage over many of its rivals.
In fact, analysts are already forecasting earnings performances that would drop the P/E as low as 9.7 by 2018. After being suspended in 2013, the dividend should be back to a yield of around 2.5% by then too.
Is it time to buy Evraz shares now? The company still has some tough debt problems to face, with interest cover for its outstanding facilities not really looking too great. But the firm says it has enough cash and committed credit facilities to cover debts maturing in 2017 and 2018, and that should hopefully be enough to see it through.
It's a risky investment right now, but if iron and steel prices keep moving upwards, I can see Evraz providing further rewards for shareholders.
My second pick is a very different company, James Fisher & Sons(LSE: FSJ), which provides services to the marine and nuclear industries. Here we've seen a 77% share price rise since November 2016, to 1,616p, including a 16p gain on the day full-year results for 2016 were released -- and a near-doubling in five years.
I'm seeing a growth star here that has attracted some serious attention, as the shares' P/E multiple of around 20 will attest. But though there's clearly further growth already factored-in to the current price, I don't see the shares as overpriced and I think there should be more to come.
Figures released Thursday were up across the board, with underlying pre-tax profit and underlying EPS both up 11%, and the total dividend was boosted by 10% to 26.15p per share -- that's a yield of only 1.6%, but it's around three times covered by earnings.
Chief executive Nick Henry spoke of "the continued resilience of the James Fisher business model with its well-balanced spread of activities across the marine sector and international markets". He said business across the firm's divisions looks good, and he predicted "further growth and value for our shareholders in the future".
Brexit shouldn't cause much of a headache, with the company having "only a small presence in Europe outside the UK and Norway".
On the same day as these results, James Fisher announced a new Saturation Diving contract with Shanghai Salvage for delivery in the second half of 2018, and with order books already strong, I reckon the next five years should be kind to shareholders.
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Alan Oscroft has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.