Stocks are near record highs as we head deeper into the second half of 2018. Yet attractive buys can still be found, and investors don't even have to venture into those volatile small-capitalization stocks to secure good deals.
Below, three Motley Fool contributors highlight a few of the market's biggest companies that appear to offer that valuable mix of growth potential and reasonable prices. Read on to see why Disney (NYSE:DIS), Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG), and McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) deserve spots on your watchlist this month.
Disney stock is an entertaining ride
Rich Duprey (Disney): Disney's stock may be trading at all-time highs, but there's good reason the House of Mouse has been on a run: It's been performing admirably in almost all of its many segments, and the prospects for continued growth look bright.
The movie business goes from strength to strength on the back of its Marvel universe, and with its monster hit Black Panther hitting DVD this quarter, it's propelling the studio forward. Similarly, Disney faced a tough year-over-year comparison in its theme park division, but it has handily ridden the wave with a summer that has seen seasonally appropriate weather. While operating profits in its media division continue to feel the impact of consumers cutting the cord with cable, its direct-to-consumer ESPN+ streaming program holds promise as an alternative for Disney in the "skinny program" model that seems to be the future.
For all that, Disney trades at 17 times earnings and 15 times next year's estimates, while the price is under 15 times the free cash flow it produces. That's a steep discount for an entertainment giant as powerful as Disney, making this $170 billion company a bargain-bin stock that investors should consider purchasing this month.
An ambitious technology play
Nicholas Rossolillo (Alphabet): When it comes to large caps, few are larger than Google parent Alphabet. The company's market cap as of this writing is over $851 billion. In spite of its size, though, the Alphabet family of businesses keeps getting bigger.
Second-quarter 2018 earnings season wasn't kind to some of Google's tech peers, like Facebook, for example. For Alphabet, though, growth accelerated as paid clicks on Google properties rose 58% from a year ago. That more than offset a 22% decline in cost per click (what Google charges when an ad is clicked on) and led to a 26% increase in revenue to $32.7 billion.
The sole black mark on the earnings release was the $5.1 billion fine levied by the European Union at the end of the quarter for infringement on competition laws by the Android mobile segment. Including that penalty on a comparable basis, earnings per share were $4.54, a 9% decline from the same period in 2017. Excluding the fine, earnings were $11.75, a 32% increase year over year.
Google's old but still-growing advertising business is still in the driver's seat, but newer businesses are also contributing. The company is constantly improving its search and software capabilities with AI, and cloud-based services are now generating over $1 billion in revenue every quarter. The tech giant is also planning a relaunch into China via a partnership with Chinese counterpart Tencent.
Then there's the "other bets" segment, a hodgepodge of smaller subsidiaries and start-ups that include operations in autonomous cars, smart-home devices, smartphone manufacturing, and scientific research. While operating losses from other bets grew to $732 million compared with $633 million a year ago, there's enough development happening inside that segment that sooner or later, Google will land its next big winning idea.
Thus, even though Alphabet is already a sprawling enterprise, resurgent growth in the second quarter and plenty of potential payoffs lead me to think the stock is still a buy.
Demitri Kalogeropoulos (McDonald's): Fast-food titan McDonald's recently announced a growth slowdown that took some of the shine off of its multiyear business rebound. The restaurant chain endured falling customer traffic in the key U.S. market in the second quarter, so comparable-store sales are now up 4.7% over the past six months compared to a 5% gain in the prior-year period.
There are some good reasons for investors to look past that operating slowdown and consider buying this large-cap stock. McDonald's is seeing more robust growth in each of its international markets, for example, and the company has a good track record of applying what works in one geography to other areas of the business. That's why Mickey D's is currently pouring cash into remodeling and upgrading its U.S. store portfolio, in part to better take advantage of the push toward online ordering and delivery.
Meanwhile, investors can expect to see profitability continue marching toward management's mid 40% goal as the company completes its refranchising initiative in the coming months. At last count, McDonald's operated 8% of its store base, down from 14% a year ago. But management is aiming to get that proportion down to a more profitable 5% by 2019.