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.
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.
The FINSUM team came across an interesting ETF recently, run by a team that we really liked. We always pay special attention to small caps because we think it is an area where strong research and a well defined strategy can create a lot of value. That is exactly the feeling we get with the LeggMason Small-Cap Quality Value ETF (SQLV). The fund is run by George Necakov, and experienced portfolio manager from Royce & Associates, themselves a specialist in small and microcap portfolio management that has been around since 1972. The fund seeks to create outperformance by tracking the results of an index made up of small cap stocks with relatively low valuations. The fund uses a multi-factor approach to choose companies with high profitability and low relative valuations. SQLV has an expense ratio of 60 bp.
FINSUM: This fund is still small but we like their approach and George seems like a very competent manager. Small cap value is an area where one needs a considered and labor-intensive approach and this ETF appears a great way to get some simple and reliable exposure.
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.