The stock market has been setting new highs and is up 10% so far in 2017. The rally hasn't left many obvious deals as investors are paying about 24 times earnings for the market as a whole.
Below, we'll look at a few promising companies that sport P/E ratios well below that expensive figure. Garmin (NASDAQ:GRMN), Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), and Nucor (NYSE:NUE) are each priced at, or below, 15 times the past year of earnings.
Garmin's diversifying business
Wall Street has left Garmin out of the recent rally thanks to worries that its GPS tracking devices will lose relevance as consumers shift to smartphones to meet their navigating needs. There's no question that this move is hurting parts of the business today. Garmin's last fiscal year included a 17% slump in its core automotive segment, after all.
However, management is doing a great job at filling that gap with other product lines. Its outdoor division, packed with watches aimed at hiking enthusiasts, jumped 18%, and the booming fitness tracker category jumped 27%. Altogether, Garmin posted overall gains both in sales and profits in 2016.
Management is forecasting a slight revenue decline this year, but it recently boosted that outlook thanks to stronger demand in the outdoor and aviation GPS segments. Its nearly 60% gross profit margin, meanwhile, suggests healthy pricing power that should serve the business well over the years ahead.
Best Buy's growth acceleration
Consumer electronics retailer Best Buy surprised investors in late August by posting healthy sales gains even as profit margins ticked higher. Its 5.4% comparable-store sales bounce marked a big improvement over the prior quarter's 1.6% increase, and gross profit rose to 3.6% from 3.4% in the prior year.
A big part of those gains are likely temporary effects from industry consolidation. Major rival, hhgregg, closed up shop recently and customer traffic likely jumped as competitive choices declined. That one-time lift helps explain why CEO Hubert Joly warned investors not to expect consistent growth on the 5% level over the coming quarters.
Still, Best Buy stands to benefit from a strong holiday shopping season for the consumer electronics industry, beginning in the current quarter as new innovations are launched in the computing and smartphone segments.
Nucor's blazing profits
Steel specialist Nucor looks attractive as an investment, especially considering that earnings are up more than 100% over the past six months. Its acquisition strategy, which last year gave the company deeper exposure to value-added industry segments including pipe and tube, is paying off in spades.
The push has helped operating margin climb back into double-digits for the first time in over five years.
Nucor's business is exposed to many risks, including a general economic downturn and the potential for a flood of imports that would drive steel prices down. Yet management has executed well through such environments in the past. The company's track record of allocating resources between managing capacity and expanding into more favorable market niches has allowed Nucor to raise its annual dividend for more than 25 consecutive years. Thanks to its solid mix of income and operating growth, all at a valuation that's well below the broader market, this steel giant gets my vote as the best choice among these three "cheap" investment options.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that Nucor's downstream segment would soon reach 20% of sales due to the company's acquisition strategy. The article has been updated.