The S&P 500 is currently trading for more than 25 times trailing earnings, which is quite expensive from a historical standard. That doesn't mean it's destined to fall drastically from here, but it does hint that finding value in today's market is harder than it has been over the last few years.
Still, if you're willing to do some digging, there are pockets of value to be found in the markets. Below is a list of three high-quality companies that have trailed the market's returns year to date, hinting that there could be value in buying shares today.
No. 1. Celgene
The biotech sector has been man-handled over the past year, causing valuations to decline across the board. That's affording investors a great chance to buy into the sector at bargain prices, and I think Celgene (NASDAQ:CELG) is a great choice for anyone interested in fast growth.
Celgene has been a home-run stock for years thanks largely to the unbelievable success of Revlimid, its treatment for the blood cancer multiple myeloma. Despite its megablockbuster status, Revlimid continues to put up double-digit growth thanks to label expansion claims, price increases, and global expansion.
But there's more to the Celgene story than just Revlimid. Anti-inflammatory drug Otezla is growing by triple-digits, while Pomalyst, another multiple myeloma treatment, continues to grow at a rapid clip. Together, these drugs are powering the company's top line to new heights.
Like any good biotech, Celgene's pipeline is also packed with potential. The drug that excites me most is ozanimod, which the company brought into the fold thanks to last year's buyout of Receptos. Ozanimod's peak sales potential is running as high as $4 billion annually, which, if realized, will go a long way toward powering growth in the years ahead.
Management is so confident in the company's future that it has forecasted at least $21 billion in total sales and more than $13 in earnings per share by 2020. That implies more than 22% annual growth in the bottom line over the next few years. With shares currently trading hands for 16 times next year's earnings, Celgene is a high-quality growth stock that's on sale.
No. 2. Walt Disney
The last few months haven't been kind to investors in the house that Mickey Mouse built. Shares of Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) have declined by nearly 8% since the start of the year, which badly lags the 6% gain of the S&P 500 in general.
It's not hard to understand why traders have been bailing on the company's shares. Wall Street is concerned about the decreasing subscriber base of ESPN, which is being driven by more and more consumers choosing to cut their ties with cable. ESPN's subscriber base stands at only about 90 million today, which is down from its peak of over 100 million in 2011. That's stoking fears that the division will be in for negative growth for years to come.
I'll admit that's a trend worth watching, but at the same time, investors should remember there's far more to the Disney growth story than just ESPN.
Disney's park segment continues to grow at a healthy rate, and with the Shanghai Disney off to a great start, this segment looks poised to shine.
Disney's movie studio business is looking as strong as ever, too, thanks to the company's continued ability crank out hit after hit. With Star Wars, Marvel, and Pixar all producing a stream of high-quality content, investors should fell good about this division's future growth potential.
Looking ahead, Disney should be able to continue to produce great content that consumers will love and squeeze every last penny of profit from them by rolling them out across the empire. That should keep the company's growth engine humming. It's also worth pointing out that even with the worries over ESPN, analysts are still projecting double-digit profit growth over the next five years. With shares trading for less than 16 times next year's earnings and a dividend yield of 1.5%, buying this stock while it's in the discount bin makes a whole lot of sense to me.
No. 3. Proto Labs
Rounding out our list today is Proto Labs (NYSE:PRLB), a quick-turn manufacturing service provider. The company sets itself apart from other manufacturers because it has created cutting-edge software that significantly speeds up the prototyping process. Proto Labs' customers get a real part in their hands in as little as 24 hours, which is much faster than the traditional process, which normally required weeks of lead time.
That fast turn-around time gives the company a huge leg up, as developers are often under the gun to bring their products to market as quickly as possible. Perhaps it's no surprise to see that the number of product developers who count themselves as customers has been growing by double-digits over the last few years, topping 13,519 as of the end of the second quarter.
That strong customer growth helped to drive a 17% jump in revenue, but rising expenses caused the company's margins to decline and the bottom line to stagnate. Understandably, that news didn't sit well with Wall Street, and shares sold off when the results were released.
I think the market is being a bit short-sighted right now. Yes, profits and margins declined, but that's because the company is digesting the acquisition of Alpharform AG, a German-based 3D printing service. The move beefed up the company's presence in Europe, but it caused the gross margin line to decline by a whopping 310-basis points. That charge, combined with increased operating spending, caused operating margins to plunge.
I'm personally not all that concerned by the results, as I think it makes sense to spend now to build out the company's capabilities to accelerate future growth. As long as revenue and developers continue to grow at double-digit rates, I'll remain a happy shareholder.
Right now, the markets don't share my view, which is why shares have been knocked down so badly that they only trade for 26 times next year's earnings estimates. That's still a premium price tag, but for a company projected to grow at more than 27% over the next five years, I think that's a bargain.