With most of the flood of second-quarter earnings reports now behind us, it's safe to conclude that investors liked what they heard from the country's biggest companies. The S&P 500 nearly recaptured its all-time high in early August, in fact, and it remains in solidly positive territory for the year.
Many individual stocks are lower over the last few months, though. The key question is whether a few of those valuation cuts could just be temporary speed bumps in a broader trend of long-term gains.
Below, we'll look at a few big-brand businesses whose stock price discounts might reflect that type of attractive investment opportunity.
Coffee is a global growth market
Starbucks (SBUX -0.28%) had warned investors to expect bad news in its fiscal third-quarter report, and the coffee titan delivered on that unfortunate promise. Comparable-store sales inched higher by just 1% in the core U.S. market while slipping into negative territory in China. That announcement in late July helped push shares down about 10% so far this year, compared to a 6% increase for the broader market.
It's understandable that many investors are avoiding this stock, given that management is now on track to undershoot its growth goals for the second straight year. After all, many things that used to work for the restaurant chain, including holiday product sales and Frappuccino drinks, aren't resonating with customers these days.
The business has massive advantages, though, including one of the world's most valuable brands and impressive profitability and cash flow metrics. Thus, patient investors who can get behind management's optimistic rebound strategy might want to add this stock to their watch lists.
An impressive beer business
Constellation Brands (STZ 0.46%) shares are down so far this year, as investors have become less excited about its outlook. To be sure, the owner of blockbuster imported beer franchises like Corona and Modelo is likely to post its slowest annual earnings growth in five years in 2018 as it spends aggressively on marketing for new launches like the recent Corona portfolio expansions. Constellation is also shelling out nearly $1 billion to upgrade and expand its network of Mexican breweries this year.
Yet the company is still putting up strong numbers. Sales gains met management's expectations last quarter as the beer segment enjoyed robust demand despite rising prices. That success implies that Constellation's extra marketing spending isn't a result of tougher competition but instead is just a down payment on future growth that should support continued gains for this market-thumping stock.
Dominating the fast food market
McDonald's (MCD -0.90%) stock is on sale after the fast food titan in late July announced a growth slowdown that took some of the shine off of its recent recovery. Comparable-store sales improved at a 4% rate, which beat many rivals including Yum! Brands and Shake Shack. However, customer traffic declined for the second straight quarter in the key U.S. market, so investors are worried that the chain might struggle to prolong its two-year sales recovery.
Management pointed out last month that international geographies are performing better, in part because McDonald's has poured resources into upgrading those stores in the last few years. A similar initiative is in its early stages in the U.S., and CEO Steve Easterbrook and his team are confident that the move will help get the domestic segment back on track.
While investors wait for evidence of that rebound to gain steam in the coming quarters, they can be highly confident in rising profitability. The company still has room to boost operating margin toward 45% of sales thanks to a refranchising strategy that's set to reduce the proportion of company-owned locations to 5% by 2019 from 8% in the most recent quarter.