According to investment guru Benjamin Graham, the stock market is a voting machine in the short term but a weighing machine in the long term. That reality often creates a mismatch between current share prices based on short-term perception and the underlying business's true long-haul value. Finding and exploiting these mistaken discounts can make you rich over the years.
So we asked a handful of investors here at The Motley Fool to share some of the juiciest stock discounts on the market today. Here's why they picked General Motors (GM -6.57%), Cirrus Logic (CRUS -3.57%), and Atlas Air Worldwide (AAWW -1.10%).
Let this stock drive your portfolio higher
Dan Caplinger (General Motors): One area that has been a good place for value investors to look for some time is the auto industry. Companies like General Motors have enjoyed extremely strong earnings over the past several years, yet investors have been nervous that the good times in the industry are destined to give way to a cyclical downturn that will reduce profits. That fear is what has GM trading at just six times forward earnings estimates currently.
However, there's reason for optimism that General Motors could weather less ideal conditions for the economy more easily than some of its automaker rivals. The fact that GM went through bankruptcy proceedings early in the decade helped the car company restructure some of its obligations in a manner that makes them less onerous for the future, and that could help to lessen the blow from the next recession.
Tax reform should also help General Motors, both by letting it keep more of its domestic profits and by giving it more favorable treatment on its extensive overseas operations. Combine that with ambitious plans for vehicle rollouts over the next couple of years, and there's reason to think that GM is trading at a ridiculously low valuation compared to its potential for growth.
A decent company in a tough industry
Chuck Saletta (Atlas Air Worldwide): Aircraft leasing is a notoriously difficult business. Airplanes have the ability to get virtually anywhere in the world in a short amount of time. That means that competition can quickly step in and offer its service for a lower price if one member of the industry is charging a substantial premium for its services. With large airplanes costing hundreds of millions of dollars each, that's a fairly substantial investment where it's tough to make a large return on invested capital.
That said, well-run companies in the industry can generally recoup their costs and make some profit, and Atlas Air Worldwide typically delivers positive earnings for its efforts. Despite that ability to fairly reliably profit, Atlas Air Worldwide trades at a mere 0.85 times its book value. Given that its biggest investments (the airplanes) depreciate over time from an accounting perspective, often faster than the economic lifetime of the planes, that's a fairly low price to pay for its business.
From an earnings perspective, Atlas Air Worldwide trades at a single-digit price-to-earnings ratio, whether you're looking at past earnings or expected forward earnings. That's a price you'd expect to pay for a business that's incapable of growing over time, yet analysts think Atlas Air Worldwide will continue to grow its earnings over the next several years. Additionally, while Atlas Air Worldwide does carry debt, its balance sheet does not appear to be overly leveraged.
That combination of a low price-to-book ratio, a market price that anticipates earnings stagnation despite decent prospects for growth, and a reasonably solid balance sheet is hard to come by. Together, those factors make Atlas Air Worldwide look absurdly cheap and make the stock a fine addition to your investment portfolio.
This longtime Apple supplier is bound to rise again
Anders Bylund (Cirrus Logic): This maker of high-quality audio processors won Apple's (AAPL -4.42%) business many years ago. To this day, Apple devices ranging from iPods and iPhones to high-end Macbooks all come with Cirrus Logic's audio chips inside. In recent years, that relationship has included Cirrus' wireless audio controllers in both the devices and in the EarPods themselves.
Let's just say that Apple's orders have been very good to Cirrus Logic's income statement. Cupertino accounted for 79% of Cirrus Logic's top-line sales in fiscal year 2017 and that ratio has trended upwards for years. Second-place revenue contributor Samsung accounted for 15% of Cirrus' sales in one of the last three years.
So Cirrus Logic gets to tag along when Apple is soaring, but also suffers when that enormous customer faces headwinds. That's the case right now, as Cupertino barely edged out Wall Street's first-quarter targets while offering timid guidance for the second quarter. Apple shares took a 4% haircut the next day but Cirrus investors suffered an 8% plunge. Today, Apple's stock is trading 4% higher year to date while Cirrus shares have fallen 24% in 2018.
It's true that Cirrus' business is linked to Apple's in a magnified kind of way, so that the ups and down in Cupertino are more keenly felt at Cirrus' headquarters in Austin, Texas. But a temporary lack of high-octane growth does not spell instant doom for the audio chip supplier, as it can scrape along just fine on yesteryear's Apple order volumes.
The company can look back at $1.6 billion of trailing revenue, trickling down to generate $318 million in free cash flow. This is a healthy business with no long-term debt and nearly $230 million of cash reserves. Yet Cirrus shares are trading at just 11 times trailing earnings or eight times free cash flow -- far cheaper than Apple itself on both counts, and by many other valuation metrics besides.
Cirrus Logic stock has no business being this cheap. Do yourself a favor and see if you can pick up a few shares at these low prices.