To be clear, a stock's price at any given time isn't terribly significant. 100,000 shares of a stock that costs $5 and 10,000 shares of a stock that costs $50 represent the exact same amount of equity, despite a tenfold difference in the price. Having said that, there aren't too many stocks that trade in the sub-$10 range, and of those that do, few are what I would call "attractive investments." Here are three exceptions for 2017.
Office real estate in high-growth markets
One sub-$10 stock that I would consider to be a defensive investment is Cousins Properties (NYSE:CUZ), an office real estate investment trust that was founded in 1958. As of this writing, Cousins has a portfolio of 15.8 million rentable square feet of office space, most of which is located in six markets -- Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Orlando, Tampa, and Tempe.
There are a few reasons to like Cousins as a long-term investment. For starters, it produces a top-quality product which allows it to collect higher rent than peers -- 20%-52% more, depending on the market. And in all of Cousins' major markets, employment growth is well above the national average, which should result in rising property value and rental income.
Office real estate is a rather defensive asset, as tenants are typically on longer-term leases, which minimizes turnover and vacancy during tough economic times. In addition to this, Cousins maintains a debt-to-EBITDA ratio of 4.5x, well below the office REIT average of 6.8x, and the portfolio is quite diverse with no industry accounting for more than 20% of the company's income. Finally, with a respectable 2.8% dividend yield, Cousins is a great choice for investors who want steady income with the potential to grow.
Hotels have advantages in strong economies
While it's not quite as defensive as Cousins Properties, FelCor Lodging Trust (NYSE: FCH) is another sub-$10 stock worth considering.
This REIT invests in hotel properties -- specifically, in upscale and luxury hotels in urban and resort markets. The company currently owns 39 hotel properties with about 11,000 rooms, and the largest markets include San Francisco, Boston, Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and Myrtle Beach.
Again, hotels are not defensive investments, as they tend to suffer more than most other property types in downturns. Since the "tenants" of a hotel can leave on a day's notice, vacancy can spike and rental income can plummet during tough times.
However, that is also a hotel property's biggest strength in prosperous times. Hotels can adjust their rental income on a daily basis, allowing them to maximize revenue and occupancy. So, if you believe the economy will do well over the next several years, this one is worth a look.
FelCor is currently in the middle of some strategic changes designed to boost financial strength and enhance shareholder value. This includes asset sales, redevelopments, and the implementation of a stock repurchase program, the combination of which could improve FFO by about 70% from its current level, according to the company.
If you have the stomach for risk...
The third sub-$10 stock I have my eye on (well, I already own it, but am considering adding more) is Fitbit (NYSE:FIT). Before I say anything else, I want to be perfectly clear that Fitbit is by far the riskiest stock discussed here.
Fitbit has declined sharply since its IPO, and has plunged even further in recent months to less than $6 per share.
Why the poor performance? Well, simply put, the stock began to fall because of concerns about its growth. Lately, it continued to decline because it appears those concerns were valid. Fitbit announced preliminary results that revenue during the highly important holiday season will fall well short of expectations, which should translate to a non-GAAP loss of between $0.51 and $0.56 per share. The company expects 2017 sales to drop to $1.5-$1.7 billion, as compared with the $2.17 billion the company reported for 2016.
In response to the dismal results, Fitbit announced a restructuring plan that includes layoffs and cutting annual operating expenses by $200 million. And, CEO James Park's 2017 salary is being reduced to $1.
Essentially, an investment in Fitbit at this point is a bet on the company's ability to innovate. The updates to the company's Charge and Flex products were obviously not enough to convince existing Fitbit users to upgrade to the newer models.
While it's entirely possible that 2017 will be as bad as the company expects, I wouldn't be surprised if Fitbit learns from its past and comes up with something truly innovative this year. If it does, Fitbit's stock could certainly rebound to the double digits quickly. Just know that if the company doesn't produce some real innovation, there is much more room for Fitbit to fall. Keep this in mind if you decide to invest.