Major market benchmarks are rallying, but that doesn't mean that the pool of viable low-priced stocks has run dry. There are plenty of stocks trading below $5 that still offer a clear path for upside -- as long as you can stomach the inherent risks of low-priced investments.
Trivago (TRVG), TrueCar (TRUE -1.43%), and Qutoutiao (QTT) are three stocks with Happy Meal share prices that I think have the potential to beat the market in 2020. Let's get to know each company a little better.
This may not seem like a good time for Trivago if your research ends at the top line. The online portal for the hotel industry has posted seven consecutive quarters of declining revenue, but there is more to that metric than meets the eye. For starters, the 1% drop it posted last time out is the narrowest of the deficits. The move is also largely by design as it shifts to making more per ad at the expense of serving up fewer spots. The number of qualified referrals has fallen 14% over the past year, but the consolidated revenue per qualified referral is up 16% in that time.
The news is even better on the bottom line. Trivago wasn't profitable when it was routinely posting double-digit growth, but now it's been in the black for five straight quarters. Its co-founder CEO recently stepped down, but he was replaced by Trivago's CFO, who shares the vision of working with its two major advertisers on a collaborative approach to drumming up leads.
Another online lead generator that has fallen on hard times is TrueCar. The comparison-shopping platform for auto buyers has seen its stock shed more than half of its value over the past year. Auto sales in general have declined; the 17 million cars sold last year is the lowest tally in five years. A slight dip is expected in 2020. However, TrueCar's own model is feeling the pinch.
Website traffic and the number of vehicles sold through TrueCar has dropped over the past year. The stock still moved nicely higher after its latest financial report. TrueCar's revenue exceeded the high end of its earlier expectations, and it also surprised investors in a good way on the bottom line. Like Trivago, TrueCar is going through its own executive shuffle, but that's not necessarily a bad thing for a company ripe for fresh perspective.
Let's close things out by turning our attention to the world's most populous country. If you think buying low-priced stocks or investing in China is risky, combining the two isn't going to appeal to you. Qutoutiao checks off both risk boxes, but it could be worth an investment given the Chinese mobile content aggregator's heady growth.
There were 133.9 million monthly active users on Qutoutiao's platform at the end of September -- 105% more than a year earlier. Daily active users have nearly doubled. When it comes to engagement, the average time spent on Qutoutiao is 61.3 minutes a day, up from 55.9 minutes a year earlier. Top-line growth has slowed to 44% given recent online monetization challenges in China's slowing economy. Qutoutiao is also posting widening losses on an adjusted basis, as costs are growing faster than usage or revenue. However, as long as user growth and engagement are on the rise, you don't want to bet against the near-term financial hiccups here.