Whether it's a consumer browsing the goods at a sidewalk sale or roaming the aisles of new vehicles at a dealership, people love to feel like they're getting a great deal. We all love value. That's especially true in the stock market, where savvy investors try to zig when others zag and reap the rewards when an overlooked or oversold stock wins in the long run.
If hunting for value stocks is a strategy you're interested in, three Motley Fool contributors think you should check out Target Corporation (TGT -0.23%), Wells Fargo (WFC -2.67%), and General Motors (GM -5.08%). Here's why.
A retailer on the rebound
Jeremy Bowman (Target): Brick-and-mortar retailers present one of the biggest opportunities for value investors these days; the sector has been largely left behind, as the market seems to view the rise of e-commerce as an endemic threat to physical stores. However, that's not really the reality in the industry. While plenty of retailers are struggling, and some big names like Sears Holdings and Toys R Us have filed for bankruptcy, others are solidly profitable and even thriving.
Target looks like one of the best of the bunch today. The big-box chain trades at a P/E ratio of just 13.7 and is a Dividend Aristocrat, paying a dividend yield of 3.5%. Target is also putting up strong sales growth these days after making investments in e-commerce and its store base, and the stock is down about 20% from its highs last fall on a misguided sell-off, setting up an opportunity for investors.
Comparable sales jumped 5.7% over November and December, the key holiday shopping season, and digital sales increased 29%, showing that Target is executing both online and offline. That follows a third quarter in which comps rose 5.3%, digital sales jumped 49%, and adjusted earnings per share increased 20%.
With its "cheap chic" reputation and strength across categories like home, baby, and apparel, as well as an improving grocery operation, Target has a unique profile in retail, and its strategy of expanding delivery and pickup capabilities, remodeling stores, and opening new small-format locations in high-density areas like college towns and underserved urban neighborhoods is paying off. As sales growth continues, the bottom line will follow, rewarding investors who take advantage of today's discount.
Big and cheap
Jordan Wathen (Wells Fargo): This year is likely to be an unexciting one for Wells Fargo. The bank now expects that it will remain capped at $2 trillion in assets for the remainder of 2019, which removes its ability to grow its balance sheet by taking in deposits and making more loans.
But even no-growth banks are worth buying at the right price, and with shares trading for about 12 times 2018 earnings and about 10 times what it could reasonably earn in 2019, Wells Fargo certainly checks the boxes for value.
Scale is the name of the game, and Wells Fargo has it. Across the country, the bank has more than 5,500 branches through which it houses roughly $1.3 trillion of client deposits. These deposits cost it very little, just 0.56% per year, in the most recent quarter.
A stable low-cost deposit base affords Wells Fargo the ability to earn high returns without taking on excessive risk in its loan and securities portfolios. Riskier, non-real estate consumer loans make up only about 7% of its interest-earning assets. Its commercial banking activities are largely restricted to plain-vanilla commercial and industrial and commercial real estate loans.
For as long as Wells Fargo remains capped at $2 trillion in assets, investors should expect the bank will pay out virtually all its income in the form of dividends and stock repurchases. It's not inconceivable that the bank could spit out a 3.5% dividend yield, all the while reducing its shares outstanding at a mid-single-digit clip each year until, finally, it gets approval to grow once again.
When Wells Fargo will get the green light to grow is anyone's guess. But for as long as shares trade as cheaply as they do today, Wells Fargo may be better off simply staying in place, using its earnings power to pay a high dividend and repurchase stock at low earnings multiples.
One automaker to rule them all
Daniel Miller (General Motors): When the automotive industry exited the past recession, Ford Motor Company was in the spotlight as Wall Street's favorite, and for good reason. But that script has flipped in recent years, and Ford has lost momentum to crosstown rival General Motors. Over the past three years, GM's stock is up 33%, while Ford's is 28% lower. GM also just posted a strong fourth quarter, has significant upside with its autonomous-vehicle subsidiary GM Cruise, and is still trading at a paltry forward price-to-earnings ratio of roughly six times.
Let's start by taking a look at how GM closed the books on 2018 and what it anticipates in 2019. GM posted fourth-quarter 2018 net income of $2 billion thanks to impressive sales of higher-margin crossovers, SUVs, and trucks in the U.S. market, which helped offset restructuring costs and overseas losses. Adjusted earnings per share checked in at $1.43, blowing away analysts' estimates calling for $1.22 per share. And GM expects 2019 to be even better, thanks in part to lower costs from its previously announced restructuring and higher profitability driven by fresh products.
But the real kicker for investors looking for value is that GM can defy the upcoming plateau in U.S. new-vehicle sales if it can capitalize on its already impressive GM Cruise, which some analysts have argued could be worth $43 billion already. Allied Market Research estimated the global autonomous-vehicle market to be worth $54.23 billion in 2019 and $556.67 billion by 2026, and Intel concluded the global annual market could be worth $7 trillion annually by 2050.
Sure, investors will have a tough decision picking which company will end up thriving over the decades as the evolution to driverless vehicles takes place, but if GM capitalizes on GM Cruise, it's certainly a value stock today worth considering.