Investors who aren't looking to take a lot of risk and still want some of the upside the stock market presents may have a hard time finding value in the companies that make the news everyday. But there are some great values available without taking a lot of risk.
Invest in the new (work) economy
Rich Smith: (Kelly Services): There's a lot not to like about the economy in the 21st century -- pensions are disappearing, jobs are less permanent, and temporary or "gig" work is becoming the norm. One thing to like about the 21st century, though, is that thanks to the stock market there are a lot of ways to invest in the changing economy -- and profit from it.
In the work world, of course, everything seems to be moving toward temp and contract work, which makes temporary staffing agencies a logical place for conservative investors to look for good bargains. I think Kelly Services (NASDAQ:KELYA) just might be one such bargain.
Admittedly, temporary staffing is not a "sexy" area to invest in. The good news, though, is that because it's not sexy, it doesn't get a lot of attention on Wall Street, and that tends to keep expectations, and prices, low. Both of which are pluses for conservative investors.
Priced at just 7.2 times trailing earnings, Kelly Services is undeniably a "cheap" investment. The entire company is valued at no more than $860 million. And conservatively run Kelly has cash on its balance sheet, but no debt -- making its enterprise value an even cheaper $810 million.
Analysts don't pay a lot of attention to Kelly, making long term growth estimates hard to come by. Those analysts who do follow Kelly, though, see its profits growing from $1.56 per share last year to about $1.87 per share in 2018 -- a nice, conservatively paced 10% growth rate that I think pairs well with a sub-10 P/E ratio. Throw in a modest 1.3% dividend yield for a kicker, and Kelly Services stock won't set the world on fire -- but it's cheap, safe, and likely to provide conservative investors with returns quite nicely.
Look north for great value
Dan Caplinger (Toronto-Dominion): The banking sector in the U.S. has seen extraordinary gains in recent months. Investors have reacted favorably to the idea that rising interest rates from the Federal Reserve will lead to steepening yield curves that in turn should help to boost net interest margin figures for major financial institutions. Yet north of the border, Canada's Toronto-Dominion Bank hasn't seen the same excitement, despite its 3.3% dividend yield and its current earnings multiple of less than 13.
Conservative investors can appreciate the way that Canadian banks like Toronto-Dominion weathered the financial crisis, with far less drama than their American counterparts suffered. Despite some concerns about potential overheating in the Canadian housing market, Toronto-Dominion has done a good job of protecting itself from potential systemic threats while still taking advantage of opportunities to boost its business.
At the same time, through its TD Bank unit in the U.S., Toronto-Dominion has exposure to the American banking sector; the unit has made inroads regionally in the Northeast and has sought to expand selectively. If you want a conservatively run bank with North American scope, then Toronto-Dominion has a lot going for it and could be exactly the stock you're looking for.
Dividends and growth at AT&T
Travis Hoium (AT&T): Cellphone bills are one of the areas people don't seem willing to cut back in, no matter how weak the economy gets. And with only four major cellphone companies, and two with clear premium positions and coverage leads over the competition (Verizon and AT&T), this is an area conservative investors can count on for long-term profits. That makes AT&T and its 5.1% dividend yield a great buy today.
Not only are cellphone networks great cash generators today, the future is looking bright for AT&T as well. It's buying Time Warner to acquire one of the best video content libraries and studios in the business, giving the company a path forward to sell streaming services, which could be bundled with cellphone service, broadband, or even DirecTV packages. As more devices go wireless and more customers turn to streaming, AT&T is well positioned for growth.
Not only is AT&T building the bundle of the future, it's one of the leaders building 5G networks that will enable self-driving cars, mobile VR/AR, connected cities, and other technologies. It's planning to introduce 5G in 20 cities across the country this year, with 5G devices coming later in the year as well.
AT&T is a value stock for conservative investors because it has a rock solid high dividend yield of 5.1%, and it'll be a great investment long-term because of its strategic acquisitions and upcoming 5G network.
Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. Travis Hoium owns shares of AT&T; and Verizon Communications. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Verizon Communications. The Motley Fool recommends Time Warner. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.