If you're reading this, chances are you watched as global stock markets fell apart yesterday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq, in particular, ended down close to 7% as bellwether tech names bled red and traders ran for cover.
Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) fell 5.5%. Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM ) declined 7.3%. And Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) , which S&P named as one of five whose debt now rates higher than U.S. Treasuries, closed off 4.7%. Today's rally in the shares of all three of these stocks shows the selloff to be more of Mr. Market's erratic, nonsensical behavior. But if you look at the numbers, you'll see that some stocks are better bargains than others:
Estimated 5-Year Earnings Growth
Excess Cash-Equivalents After Debt
|Cisco Systems||10.11%||$26.6 billion||9.26|
|LM Ericsson Telephone||10.00%||$7.7 billion||11.74|
Sources: Capital IQ (a division of Standard & Poor's) and Yahoo! Finance. Cash is reflective only of short-term investments and does not include long-term investments.
This table tells me two things. First, traders don't care about balance sheets. Some of yesterday's biggest losers have billions in the bank. Second, more than half of these top techs trade below the long-term growth estimates analysts have set. Here's a look at the eight with the widest deltas between P/E and anticipated growth, and their resulting PEG ratios:
Delta Between Estimated Growth and P/E
Sources: Capital IQ (a division of Standard & Poor's) and Yahoo! Finance.
The case for Apple gets stronger
Based on the numbers alone, I think there are good cases to be made for Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) . I'm less convinced of HP's value, regardless of what the PEG says. Of them all, I love how the fastest grower -- a certain maker of Macintosh computers -- also sports the most attractive valuation on the basis of price to earnings to projected growth.
True, the PEG can make for extremely dangerous shorthand, especially in the hands of an investor who's done no other valuation work or study of the underlying business. But in Apple's case, the 0.61 PEG looks delicious for two reasons:
- Estimates call for less than half the annualized growth achieved over the past five years.
- Analysts routinely underestimate Apple's growth potential.
There's also the company's cash hoard to consider: $28 billion if you don't count long-term investments, $76 billion if you do. Giving Apple full credit for its war chest wouldn't be fair, given its history of earning poor cash returns. But partial credit would make sense.
Apple and Microsoft are two of the industry'’s best at producing returns on available capital, which includes the billions in cash each company generates annually. Add it all up and you have a selloff that may as well have been an early Christmas gift from Mr. Market and his merry band of panicked traders.
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