The market's been down recently, which means buying opportunities are up. To highlight opportunities, I asked some of our top analysts this question:
What's the best stock to be looking into right now?
Alex Dumortier, CFA: This stock may not be the "best" out there, but for contrarian/deep value investors, it should be a high priority idea. It's BP (NYSE: BP ) , the oil and gas major at the center of the Gulf of Mexico debacle and one of the most reviled companies in the world right now.
The current crisis reminds me of one of the worst industrial disasters in history: On December 3, 1984, gas leaked from a pesticide plant operated by a majority-owned subsidiary of Union Carbide (now part of Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW ) ), killing several thousand villagers in the town of Bhopal, India. During December, Union Carbide shares lost a quarter of their value. In 1985, however, the shares gained 93%, smashing the S&P 500, which rose just 26%.
A single example is by no means proof that BP is a great buy at current prices; however, it is an excellent place to look (along with the rest of the oil & gas patch, actually). In a crisis of this magnitude, it would be surprising for the shares not to overshoot to the downside at some stage.
Rick Munarriz: [The company] LivePerson (Nasdaq: LPSN ) isn't a familiar name, but it should be. The company went public at $8 a share 10 years ago, and is trading lower than that today despite consistent profitability over the years and a recession-proven business model.
LivePerson offers a live chat platform that companies can embed into their websites to provide cost-effective customer service, tech support, or e-tail guidance. LivePerson's 8,000 clients include Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard and continues to grow, so obviously it's doing something right.
Revenue grew 27% in its latest quarter. There are plenty of bargains after last month's rubble, but I'm looking for cheap stocks that are helping other companies improve their operations. That never goes out of style, and LivePerson totally fits the bill.
Morgan Housel: My vote goes to Gannett (NYSE: GCI ) , a media company that owns, among many others, USA TODAY and Careerbuilder.com.
The newspaper industry is pretty well wrecked, but Gannett still cranks out profits for a few reasons. One, it's diversifying into other segments (Careerbuilder.com is a good example). Two, USA TODAY has a more stable reader base than most papers because it's big in places like hotels and airports, where people who would normally shun a physical paper find it valuable. Three, the company is well run -- just look at how management handled the (admittedly high) debt load over the past few years.
As for how cheap it is, shares trade for 8 times last year's earnings (a terrible year), 6.5 times this year's earnings, and 5.5 times 2012's estimates. When a stock becomes that cheap, a few points become relevant: Even if earnings never grow again, it's still probably a good buy. Even if estimates are grossly optimistic, it's still probably a good buy. Even if another huge recession hits, it's still probably a good buy. A lot can go wrong and it can still be a good buy. That's when it gets exciting.
Tim Beyers: For as much as I like Google at these levels, TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO ) owns the patents for pausing live TV and one of the biggies is going to want to own this technology. With it, Apple TV would get more useful, Microsoft Mediaroom would get more interesting, and Google TV would get ... well everything needed to crush rivals' offerings before they're mature enough to be serious competitors. A sweet buyout offer of TiVo from one or even all three is virtually inevitable. Rich licensing deals of time-shifting software are also a possibility. Either way, I believe TiVo is the best stock for the here and now.
Matt Koppenheffer: Lately I've been stirring up controversy by batting around a couple of companies on the public sentiment hit list. I recently went to bat for the stock of one of those companies, and today I'm going to tout the other. Yes, I'm talking about Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) .
Over the long haul I still think that publicly traded Wall Street firms are more about rewarding insiders than they are about enriching shareholders, and so I wouldn't want to put myself down as a long-term Goldman shareholder. However, I don't really think that financial reform is going to alter Goldman's business to any great extent, and the market doesn't seem to be taking that into account yet. With a tangible book value multiple of 1.2 and a forward P/E of around 7, I think there are handsome gains to be made in Goldman's stock.
The same line of reasoning could be applied to Morgan Stanley, but Goldman is simply the better (and cheaper) of the two.
Anand Chokkavelu, CFA: I'll end the roundtable with a quick hit. If I didn't already own it, I'd be seriously looking into tobacco producer Philip Morris International (NYSE: PM ) . Tobacco's not for everyone, but given its strong brands (e.g. Marlboro), its growth opportunities, its tasty 5.3% dividend, and its currently depressed stock price, I see opportunity. See all my thoughts on Philip Morris International here.
Those are some stocks we find especially compelling at today's prices. Share yours in the comments area below.