Eq: Value (30)
The market may be way up this year, but there are still some great values out there. The average P/E ratio of the S&P 500 is 16.7, yet 67 of the companies in it trade at below 10, triple the amount of five years ago. Here are a handful of blue chips that are very cheap, but have strong market positions, decent profitability, and nice growth positions: Delta Airlines, Bank of America, Kroger, homebuilder Lennar, and BorgWarner, a maker of car components.
FINSUM: These seem like great picks, but they also appear to be the victims of the long-term decline in value investing. Investors keep thinking value investing will bounce back, but it hasn’t.
The market’s outlook grew significantly dimmer yesterday. The Fed made clear that investors should not expect a rate cut in a July, which took the wind out of equity investors’ sails. With that in mind, here is a list of ten stocks that should help investors win in a downturn. The theme here is “low volatility” stocks, or stocks with less risk that should outperform the market in a choppy environment. The list: Aflac, Amdocs, American States Water, Atmos Energy, DTE Energy, Duke Energy, McDonalds, NextEra Energy, OGE Energy, WEC Energy Group.
FINSUM: Given the Fed’s reversal from what the market thought was its stance yesterday, right now does seem like a good time for low volatility stocks.
Low volatility stocks aren’t behaving the way they are suppose to right now, but that is what makes them interesting. Stocks chosen because of their generally low volatility tend to perform poorly in up markets as their low beta means they underperform benchmarks. But the nature of this year’s rally has defied that idea. Stocks are up 18% this year, but there are still many worries about the economy, the combination of which has given a big boost to otherwise boring stocks. Even during the losses of May to June, low vol stocks barely lost anything even though the market plunged.
FINSUM: There are a number of low vol funds like USMV and SPLV which are good choices for this area. These stocks seem like they have found a sweet spot in the current market environment.
You might not think it is the right time for this stock, but Goldman Sachs says you should. The bank has just come out very positive on Ford. The automotive company has far outpaced the S&P 500 this year, but is still down 16% over the last 12 months. Goldman says that Wall Street is not appreciating how significant Ford’s recent restructuring is, as they think it can unlock “billions in trapped value” by lowering costs in the trucks division.
FINSUM: Basically, Goldman says Ford is going to see a big and sustained pop in earnings that no one sees coming. It is a nice, simple thesis and we like it.
If you follow Warren Buffett at all, you will know that one of his main investing philosophies is to buy companies with a wide moat, or a major defensive position in their industry which blocks competitors from grabbing market share. It seems second nature to want to invest in such stocks, however, research suggests they may not perform as well as one would think. The reason why is that wide-moat stocks are often very popular, which means they get overpriced as investors pile in. Because of this, companies that consumers love often have returns that lag lesser companies. “Great companies don’t always make great investments”, says the CIO of retirement for Morningstar Investment Management.
FINSUM: This is a really a matter of timing. At some point these popular companies see a big run up in their stock, so it is more a matter of buying them early than saying they underperform.
Will the robotaxi model come to dominate the car landscape or will the current ownership model persist? Will electric cars come to dominate? These are big questions for the US automotive industry. However, the answer is that it likely won’t matter because Detroit will win either way, especially GM. While Tesla would have no backup plan if electric cars didn’t become mainstream, GM could continue on with its main business line. Further, GM has a valuable self-driving card division, Cruise, which could do very well if robo taxis become the predominant model.
FINSUM: A couple things to note here. Firstly, GM is the cheapest stock in the S&P 500 on an earning basis, so it has a lot of upside. Secondly, we don’t think the robo taxi model will take over as the cost per mile to the end consumer is likely 2-7x the current cost, which means there would need to be massive changes to make it competitive.
The retail sector had a terrible 2017, the “retailpocalypse”, only to recover and have a strong bounce back in the first half of last year. Now things are looking bleak once again. Top retailers like Nordstrom and Urban Outfitters have already fallen 25%+ in the last year. Each business has its own issues, but the general trend in the sector has been bearishness. Some may think with valuations very low it is a good time to buy in. Think again. Retailers are having to invest heavily to update their models and offerings in the face of digital disruption to the industry. Further, tariffs from the trade war will wound the sector.
FINSUM: The bruising period retail has been going through is not over and it does not seem like a wise time to invest.
Investors looking at the automotive sector need to think carefully about their allocation. In particular, it might be smarter to put money into automakers themselves, like GM and Ford, rather than parts suppliers. This runs counter to the typical investment strategy of buying into suppliers in major industries rather than producers themselves. Parts maker in autos have outperformed makers over the last several years, but there is a big catalyst for a reversal: auto makers are no longer looking to slash prices to increase volume. Instead, they are shifting to a higher priced margin-oriented model, which favors the makers’ stocks versus suppliers’.
FINSUM: We think the concept of a higher margin business favoring makers is logical.. However, we aren’t sure the customer is actually going to buy into this model, in which case neither makers nor suppliers would do well.
One the most brutalized stocks on Wall Street is going through a renaissance. The agricultural stock Mosaic has been beat up lately. The fertilizer specialist has been hammered because of weakness in crop prices and corresponding falls in fertilizer. Shares are down 18% this year. The company just released earnings where it cut profit forecasts and then something amazing happened—it surged 7%. Analysts and the market suddenly decided the stock was too cheap. One JP Morgan analyst summarized, saying “Mosaic has been a poor equity performer over a one, three, five, and 10 year period … And we think the shares are now priced to create a favorable risk-reward balance”.
FINSUM: This is a classic blood-in-the-streets type purchase, but the stock is so cheap compared to almost every valuation metric that there does seem to be asymmetric risk to the upside.
Kohl’s did something we think is really brilliant. The company announced yesterday that it has entered an agreement with Amazon to accept all the online retailer’s returns. Kohls’ shares soared on the news. The program is an expansion of a pilot it started in 100 stores, but will now offer the service in all 1,150 stores. Kohl’s will also be selling Amazon merchandise.
FINSUM: We know from in-depth retailing experience that returns are a huge driver of foot traffic and extra sales. This is a very smart way to bring new customers into the store. Kohl’s revenue will rise materially from doing this. Brilliant strategy and very synergistic for both sides.
The Wall Street Journal has published an interesting article giving advice to investors on how to assess, and when to dump, losing mutual funds. The article makes the point that investors should not automatically clear out their losing funds, just like they shouldn’t always buy winning ones. Funds have their own reasons for poor performance and those reasons can have a big impact on whether they should stay in a portfolio. Here are four questions to ask in assessing funds, “Does the fund have a good process in place?”, “Is the manager sticking to his or her own guns?”, “Is there a new manager, and do I trust him or her?”, “Is this negative performance coming in a segment of the market in which it is tough to beat index funds?”.
FINSUM: Good funds can have significant down periods, so it is important to have a methodology for deciding if and when to dump them.
We bet that when you read that headline you thought we were using garbage in a metaphoric sense. We weren’t. We are actually taking about waste management stocks, which the market has been ignoring lately. The two biggest US waste haulers, Waste Management and Republic Services, are down almost 4% this month, way behind the market. Analysts have been souring on the stocks too. However, that is odd considering they have been performing well. Perhaps most interestingly, they have a strong long-term catalyst, which is the growth in the recycling business.
FINSUM: We cannot profess to have any expertise in waste hauling, but there are definitely some interesting mixed signals coming through here. Our instinct is there might be a good contrarian bet here.
It has been a long time since value stocks had a chance to shine. A LONG time. Growth stocks have handily outperformed their growth cousins, so much so that even some diehard value investors have talked about giving up on the practice. Value stocks took a pounding in March following the Fed’s dovish turn and spreads versus the market’s most expensive stocks are at their widest in 70 years. This means it may be a good time to buy, says Bernstein’s equity research team. If you look away from financial value stocks, the sector did not actually get wounded much last month. The reason why it may be time to buy is two-part: the first is that value stocks tend to outperform when the economy is slowing, but not in outright recession. The second is that high value stock spreads are seen all across the economy, and not just in challenged sectors, which means they are less likely indicative of real challenges and are more likely just a market symptom.
FINSUM: We understand this analysis, but have to disagree. We just don’t think the old precedents for value stocks hold much water at the point. Our view is that as growth slows, investors will buy the stocks with the most growth, not the cheapest ones.
In our ongoing coverage of the best funds and products we met at the Inside ETFs conference (and in our regular course of business), we today want to highlight Exponential Funds’ American Customer Satisfaction ETF (ACSI). We met with the founding team of the issuer and the fund last month and were impressed with both their concept and implementation. The fund itself takes a different tack in choosing quality companies with good outlooks—instead of focusing solely on financial performance as most other funds do, it looks to extensive customer satisfaction surveys, and chooses the companies which are scoring most highly with consumers. It uses the American Customer Satisfaction Index, which was founded in 1994 at the University of Michigan, as the basis for its models. Customer satisfaction is a widely recognized metric and is ultimately a statement of economic value, so companies that score highly in the area are serving their customers well and are likely to thrive. The fund has an expense ratio of 0.66%.
FINSUM: We really like the angle this fund has developed as it takes a totally different view than mainstream ways of judging company outlooks. We see this as a long-term play that could have significant rewards.