Portfolio manager Peter Lynch made investing more accessible to millions of people by emphasizing a common-sense approach to finding stocks. Buying stocks that were easy to understand or which needed no introduction was a good starting point, followed by research into the strength of the business.
Lynch's books One Up on Wall Street and Beating the Street reinforced the notion that having a long-term outlook would enable an investor to beat the professionals every time. With that as a backdrop for what stocks to buy today, the three stocks below seem to fit the criteria well.
Beer consumption in the U.S. is in decline. According to the Treasury Department's Tax & Trade Bureau, beer production in 2019 fell 1.7% to $179.7 million barrels, though that was mostly from the biggest brewers, or those producing over 6 million barrels annually.
Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE:BUD), the very largest brewer, will obviously bear the brunt of most of the decline, but 70% of its sales are outside of the U.S., where the brewer experienced organic growth across almost all of its markets, and it owns brands that are strong across numerous markets, including Budweiser, Corona, and Stella Artois. Of its more than 600 brands, 19 generate over $1 billion annually for the brewer.
Shares of Anheuser-Busch have lost almost half of their value year to date, but even as the coronavirus pandemic disrupts businesses of all kinds, there is a good argument to be made that alcohol will be a product that continues to resonate with consumers regardless.
The brewer trades at just 10 times trailing earnings and only 13 times next year's estimates, yet analysts expect it to expand its earnings 11% annually for the next five years, meaning it trades at an attractive 0.9 price-to-earnings-to-growth (PEG) ratio (a ratio under 1 means a stock is undervalued compared to future estimates).
Anheuser-Busch's dividend yields 4.7% annually, and after a surprise 50% cut in 2018 the brewer is in a much better position now to sustain it. It has spun off its Asian brewing division and just got the next step of approval in selling its Australian beer and cider business, maneuvers that will allow it to pay down more of its debt.
While it did also just draw down the totality of its $9 billion credit facility at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the move ensures it will have sufficient liquidity available throughout the crisis. Coupled with a discounted stock price and an expectation of continued earnings growth, this is a stock Lynch might consider buying.
Dick's Sporting Goods
The pandemic has also upended Dick's Sporting Goods (NYSE:DKS), which has had to close its stores during the outbreak to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
While the industry is still in the grips of a retail apocalypse that will only worsen, that doesn't apply to Dick's, which continued to see comparable-store sales grow as it experienced its strongest gains since 2012. The pandemic likely means business is only deferred, not forgone, so that when the crisis passes it will resume its growth trajectory.
Shares of the sporting goods retailer have also taken a nasty spill this year, as shares have tumbled more than 60%. That discount, though, could make Dick's an attractive dividend income option in the years ahead. Dick's pays shareholders a massive 6.7% yield, but has a payout ratio of just 34%. It also recently hiked the dividend by 13.6%. With only $224 million in borrowings on its $1.6 billion credit line, its conservative use of debt suggests the sporting goods giant ought not find itself in the kind of financial difficulties other retailers have, and it should be able to maintain its dividend in the coming years.
Its valuation is even more attractive than Anheuser-Busch's, trading for just 5 times next year's estimated earnings, while analysts see it being able to grow them 8% annually over the long haul. That gives it a PEG ratio of just 0.8, even as it trades for just a fraction of its sales, making it a great value stock to boot.
The price of oil recently hit an 18-year low at around $20 a barrel, a development that sent ExxonMobil's (NYSE:XOM) stock tumbling to a 50% loss for the past 12 months. That's the market overreacting to current events, but oil and natural gas are going to continue powering the world for decades to come, even as renewable energy sources take on a larger role. Exxon has been through such price shocks before, and it has insulated itself against such downturns.
The energy giant has a very conservative balance sheet, with debt-to-capital ratios below 20%. and, priding itself on its dividend payment history, will likely rely upon that strength to continue making the payout. Its returns might be temporarily interrupted by the price war Saudi Arabia and Russia are engaged in, though President Trump has said the two may initiate production cuts that helped lift oil prices. In either case, the long-term outlook remains strong.
Exxon has paid dividends to investors for over 100 years and has consistently raised the payout each of the past 37 years. It is supporting the payout with cash from operations. It may have to take on debt to finance its capital projects as a result, but analysts see that its balance sheet strength makes it manageable and that it will likely reduce the number of projects it pays for.
The energy producer's dividend is yielding an incredible 8.6% annually as it trades at 19 times earnings expectations. While an oil and gas giant might seem out of the range of the type of stock Lynch might have championed early on, a beaten-down business with a long-term growth ramp might just attract his eye today.