We witnessed history last week, albeit not the type that investors typically tout to their family and friends. For the week, the 123-year-old Dow Jones Industrial Average, technology-driven Nasdaq Composite, and benchmark S&P 500 ended lower by 12.4%, 10.5%, and 11.5%, respectively. It was their worst single-week performance since October 2008, with Thursday, Feb. 27, delivering the largest single-session point losses in history for all three indexes.
Additionally, the S&P 500 took just six trading sessions and eight calendar days to go from an all-time closing high to an official correction (i.e., a decline of at least 10%, not rounded). That's the swiftest period of time for the S&P 500 to enter correction territory.
But amid this seeming chaos, there is good news: Valuations for certain companies just became that much more enticing. History has shown that buying high-quality businesses during corrections and holding them for long periods of time is usually a winning formula. Remember, each of the previous 37 corrections in the S&P 500 since the beginning of 1950 has been completely erased by a bull-market rally.
If you're looking for top stocks to add to your portfolio that haven't been this cheap in a long time, consider the following three brand-name stocks.
The first company you're probably very familiar with that merits closer inspection is Whirlpool (WHR 1.86%), the largest appliance maker in the world.
Pardon the pun, but Whirlpool has had the kitchen sink thrown at it over the past two years. First, the U.S.-China trade war imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum, sending the production costs of Whirlpool's appliances higher. In response, the company wound up raising prices, with the subsequent sticker shock causing sales to fall as material costs rose. More recently, the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has adversely affected Whirlpool's stock. The clear concern here being that consumers could choose to hold off on making major purchases worldwide until this illness is under control.
But the thing is, Whirlpool has dealt with recessions and disease scares before, and it's come out stronger every time. In fact, even in the face of the U.S.-China trade deal spat, Whirlpool recorded an all-time high adjusted profit of $16.00 per share in 2019, with its operating segments generating $1.2 billion in cash flow.
What really stands out about Whirlpool's record year is the company experienced virtually no pushback from consumers on price. While there was definite backlash to higher prices following steel and aluminum tariffs in 2018, Whirlpool showed investors just how powerful its branding can be in 2019 (as well as how quickly consumers adapt to higher prices).
Following last week's tumble, Whirlpool is now valued at 6.7 times its operating cash flow and a little below 8 times its forward earnings. Both figures are a respective 30% and 20% below Whirlpool's five-year averages. What's more, with Whirlpool consistently buying back its own stock and rewarding shareholders with a 3.8% yield, the long-term reward appears to significantly outweigh any short-term risks.
There are likely few industries that are more out of favor at the moment than automakers. But that hasn't made General Motors (GM 1.74%) any less appealing, especially following last week's stock market tumble.
There's little doubt that GM's sales are going to take a hit during the first-half of 2020. After selling 7.72 million vehicles in 2019 and contending with tariffs on aluminum and steel, General Motors' top-line will now be adversely impacted by COVID-19. Remember, 40% of GM's sales were derived from China last year, and the second largest country in the world by GDP had numerous regions affected by COVID-19 in January and February.
However, what's important to realize here is that while auto demand is in a cyclical downswing, it's being artificially inflated by fear. GM responded to the industry's about-face more than a year ago by announcing plans to lay off over 14,000 employees throughout North America. By being fiscally prudent, General Motors should be able to weather this downturn without too much pain. In fact, taking into account the charges associated with the United Auto Workers' strike, GM should face some highly favorable year-over-year comps in either 2020 or 2021.
In spite of the COVID-19 scare, China very much remains a key growth cog in General Motors' long-term forecasts. As China continues to close the GDP gap between it and the United States, and the country's middle class blossoms, brands such as Cadillac should continue to thrive.
Though automakers regularly trade for price-to-earnings (P/E) multiples that are well below the average P/E of the broader market, GM's forward P/E of 5 is inexpensive relative to the industry and its own five-year average. Patient investors with a long time horizon can sit back and collect a healthy 5% yield while waiting for GM to once again puts its pedal to the metal.
Another brand-name stock for investors to absolutely love during this correction is tobacco giant Altria Group (MO -2.49%). Though the name "Altria" may not exactly ring a bell with Americans, its underlying premium brand, Marlboro, certainly will.
The biggest issue for Altria Group is an ongoing shift in perception toward tobacco in the United States. A decade's-long campaign against the tobacco industry by U.S. health regulatory agencies has worked, with adult cigarette smoking rates at an all-time low. As a result, Altria's cigarette shipment volumes have been shrinking.
But as long as you're not turned off by the idea of owning vice stocks, there is a bright side here. For instance, Altria continues to grow its sales and per-share profits even with declining cigarette shipments. One reason is because of the company's incredible pricing power. The addictive nature of nicotine has allowed Altria to pass along hefty price hikes to ensure continued growth.
Altria has also been no slouch in the shareholder return department. This is a company that's regularly repurchased its own stock, and is currently paying out a mammoth (yet sustainable) 8.3% dividend yield. Even with the negative stigma's associated with tobacco in the U.S., this capital return program makes Altria incredibly attractive. Not to mention, repurchasing its own stock can be a positive effect on earnings per share.
Right now, Altria Group is valued at roughly 9 times next year's consensus profit forecast and a mere 9.6 times operating cash flow. Both of these figures are well below where Altria has been valued over the past five years, making it the perfect stock for income seekers and value investors to consider buying.