Here's a happy coincidence. Have you ever wandered into a store -- just to run an errand, a "must do" mission -- and discovered to your surprise that they're holding a sale that very day?
Stock investors can enjoy this fortuitous confluence of circumstances every day of the week.
Screening for bargains
Banks are still paying piddling interest rates, but if you've got a few dollars in your pocket, you can fire up a stock screener such as finviz.com, enter a few variables, and find yourself a good handful of brand-name stocks on sale. Some of them might even be worth buying -- and to prove it, I've just dug up a few.
You know Macy's (NYSE:M). Everybody knows Macy's. It's one of the biggest brands in department store retailing, and right now, it's a stock on sale. According to finviz's screener, shares of Macy's on the day I wrote this sell for 50% off their high price of the past year -- just $34 and change. But while Macy's shares are down, I wouldn't count them out. Here's why:
Macy's shares sell for just 11.4 times trailing earnings, which is less than half the 25 P/E ratio on the S&P 500 index of large companies. Why has Macy's been beaten up? It's largely Macy's own fault. Last quarter, for example, Macy's reported a 7.4% decline in its quarterly sales, while its profits slumped nearly 40% year over year. But bad times pass, and over the next five years, analysts still see a reasonably bright future for Macy's, which is expected to resume earnings growth at a rate of 8% per year.
Add in the benefit of a 4.3% dividend yield, and Macy's stock could produce annual profits of more than 12%, giving it a total return ratio of less than 1.
Another well-known brand in retailing is Kohl's (NYSE:KSS), and just like its upscale competitor, it's on sale the day I write this -- 38% cheaper than its 52-week high.
Once again, week near-term performance is to blame. Kohl's suffered a 3.7% sales slip last quarter -- and its profits collapsed nearly 87%. But just like Macy's, Kohl's is expected to recover if given enough time. Expectations are for 8.2% annualized earnings growth over the next five years. Combined with Kohl's even more generous 5.2% dividend yield, that makes for annualized profits of 13.4%. This makes the stock's 13.1 P/E ratio look like a bargain, too.
Looking for an even bigger steal of a deal? Look up. Discount airline JetBlue Airways' (NASDAQ:JBLU) shares are having a one-third off sale, down 33% from their highs on the day I write this. This sell-off is resulting in a pretty amazingly cheap valuation on the stock, which sells for barely 8.4 times trailing earnings.
Now, unlike the retailers above, JetBlue doesn't pay a dividend -- but that may be OK. According to data provided by the finviz.com site, analysts who follow the stock expect JetBlue to fly away from the pack with a 19% expected annualized growth rate over the next half-decade. Even without a dividend, that would give the stock a PEG ratio of just 0.4.
Do keep a close watch on this stock, however, because not all financial data sites agree with finviz's estimates. For example, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence figures, JetBlue is only expected to grow its earnings at 5.1% annualized over the next five years -- a far cry from 19% growth.
And that brings up one final point: Cheap valuations and respectable-to-superb estimated growth rates make these three big-brand stocks terrific prospects for further research. Each looks remarkably cheap on the surface. But before actually buying them, you'll want to examine a whole host of other variables. Differing projections for growth rates are one example. You also want to ask: Are these companies generating good free cash flow to back up their reported earnings? (Here's a hint: All three stocks are free-cash-flow-positive, and JetBlue is even cheaper measured on this metric than on P/E.) And what do their balance sheets look like? Are they as cheap as meets the eye after you factor debt into the picture?
It's a long path to tread from screening to buying. But now you have three good prospects to start with.
Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of, nor is he short, any company named above. You can find him on Motley Fool CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked No. 288 out of more than 75,000 rated members.
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