With the S&P 500 up more than 70% over the past five years, it might seem tough to find "cheap" stocks in the market. But there are actually plenty of stocks which still trade at steep discounts to the overall market.
Today, we'll examine the consumer goods sector, which covers a wide range of industries in food production, packaged goods, apparel, beverages, automobiles, and consumer electronics.
Many stocks in these industries rallied sharply over the past year, but some promising plays still trade at less than 15 times earnings -- which is much lower than the S&P 500's average P/E of 24. Let's examine two stocks which fit that description -- Altria (NYSE:MO) and Harley Davidson (NYSE:HOG).
Altria is the largest tobacco manufacturer in America. Its flagship Marlboro brand controlled 43.5% of the domestic cigarette market in the first half of 2017, and its other brands boosted its total market share to 50.9%.
Its Copenhagen and Skoal smokeless tobacco controlled 53.8% of the smokeless market during that period. Altria's MarkTen e-cigarettes also controlled 13% of the U.S. mainstream retail market during the second quarter, and it's invested in the wine market through its Ste. Michelle Estates subsidiary.
Altria is a slow-growth company -- analysts expect its revenue and earnings to respectively rise just 2% and 8% this year. It continually offsets declining U.S. smoking rates by hiking prices, cutting costs, and buying back stock. Its core cigarette business constantly faces threats like higher taxes and FDA plans for tighter regulations, but the stock still rallied nearly 90% over the past five years.
Altria currently trades at just 8.5 times earnings versus the industry average of 14 for tobacco companies. That's because AB InBev's (NYSE:BUD) acquisition of SABMiller -- which Altria owned a stake in -- gave it a windfall of $5.3 billion in pre-tax cash and a near-10% stake in the new company, and boosted its pre-tax earnings by $13.7 billion.
That gives Altria more freedom to pursue new acquisitions, buy back more stock, or boost its dividend. Altria already pays a hefty forward yield of 4.1%, which is supported by a low payout ratio of 32%.
Motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson fell out of favor over the past year due to four straight quarters of year-over-year revenue declines. Shipments of its motorcycles fell as consumers scaled back their purchases and competitors carved up the market.
Harley faces tough competition from European and Japanese rivals, as well as domestic recreational vehicle maker Polaris (NYSE:PII), which sells Indian motorcycles, snowmobiles, ATVs, and short-range electric vehicles. Weaker motorcycle sales also weigh down Harley's financial services unit, which provides financing for its vehicles. As a result, analysts expect Harley's revenue and earnings to respectively fall 7% and 12% this year.
However, investors should remember that the motorcycle industry is a cyclical one. Demand for its Milwaukee-Eight powered touring motorcycles could continue rising, while new 2017 models (which were held back earlier this year as dealers cleared their inventories) could pique customers' interest again. That's why Wall Street expects Harley's revenue and earnings to respectively rebound 3% and 11% next year.
Granted, Harley might miss those targets if its rivals land harder blows, oil prices spike, or its core U.S. market suffers an economic slowdown. But for now, the stock looks cheap at 14 times earnings, which is much lower than Polaris' P/E of 39 and the industry average of 23 for recreational vehicle makers. It also pays a forward dividend yield of 3.1%, which is easily supported by a low payout ratio of 41%.
But should you buy Altria and Harley-Davidson?
Altria and Harley-Davidson look cheap, but investors should recognize the risks. Altria's SABMiller tailwind is a one-time gain, and its forward P/E of 20 looks less impressive. Aggressive FDA moves could cause big dips, as they did in late July. Harley's future relies on its ability to win back market share from Polaris and its overseas rivals with attractive new bikes.
Therefore, investors should do their homework before buying either stock. However, I believe that the downside potential for both stocks remains limited by their low valuations and high dividends.