Right now, the stock market may seem like an investor's nightmare, with shares of companies large and small down by double-digit percentages so far this year. But on the other hand, it might actually look like an opportunity for value investors. Plenty of stocks, especially large-cap stocks, are trading at bargain prices.
Unfortunately, a lot of those stocks are cheap for good reasons. Coronavirus-related travel restrictions, the oil price war, and a souring global economy may make it hard for some of these beaten-down companies to recover.
But even in a market like this one, savvy investors can find good prospects. Three large-cap stocks that are looking like top buys right now are Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) (RDS.B), ExxonMobil (XOM -0.93%), and Disney (DIS 0.56%). Here's why you may want to consider grabbing shares while they're cheap.
Oil down, dividends up
The first large-cap stock I'm picking is the largest oil company in the world by revenue, integrated oil-and-gas giant Royal Dutch Shell. Its shares, down about 37% in 2020, have fallen farther than the broader market thanks to collapsing oil prices.
After Saudi Arabia and Russia failed to come to an agreement about production limits in early March, both countries vowed to flood the market with cheap oil, cutting crude prices almost in half, and stocks across the industry fell as well. Shell's shares lost about half their value over the next two weeks, before rebounding a bit after management announced it would be cutting its 2020 expenses and suspending its share-repurchase program.
The market liked those moves because they offered some indication that Shell wouldn't cut its best-in-class dividend, currently yielding above 10%. While the current crude oversupply isn't good news for Shell in the short term, the company has a solid balance sheet, a sizable cash hoard, and plenty of experience weathering periods of low oil prices. It should have no problem continuing its payout until oil prices stabilize...whenever that happens to be.
An increasing dividend
While Shell's dividend yield may be the highest among the oil majors, it hasn't actually upped its quarterly payout per share since 2014. However, its fellow oil major ExxonMobil has increased its dividend every year since then...in fact, every year since 1983.
That record makes ExxonMobil one of a small number of Dividend Aristocrats -- companies that have increased their dividend payments annually for at least 25 straight years. Maintaining that status is very important to the company, which is just one reason why it's likely to up its payout again this year, even though it's currently yielding almost 9% -- a record high for the company.
ExxonMobil is also going to be hurt in the short term by low oil prices, and if the oil superpowers of Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the U.S. can't get a deal worked out on production limits soon, its shares -- along with Shell's and all the other oil companies -- are likely to be volatile and may fall even farther. But ExxonMobil's size and global footprint position it well to weather short-term volatility and reward investors in the long run.
A global powerhouse
Speaking of companies that are experiencing short-term headwinds, Disney is experiencing more of a short-term hurricane. Coronavirus-necessitated travel restrictions have forced it to close all its theme parks indefinitely, and those are still expensive to maintain even without guests. Movie theaters are closed, so it has pushed new film debuts off into the future. And its powerhouse ESPN television network doesn't have much content to show since professional and college sports leagues have canceled their seasons.
Small wonder that the stock market has sent the House of Mouse's shares tumbling 35% so far this year. This is one of the few times since 2015 that the company's stock can be had for less than $100 a share.
Disney's biggest asset -- its vast catalog of content, which includes Pixar, Marvel, and the Star Wars universe -- isn't going anywhere. And once tourists start traveling again, moviegoers start buying tickets again, and sports leagues start...sportsing again, Disney should quickly regain its spot atop the pedestal of the entertainment universe.
In the meantime, its Disney+ and Hulu streaming services are providing an invaluable service to home-bound citizens (especially those with kids).
Large-cap stocks tend to add stability to a portfolio, but as long as the COVID-19 pandemic is keeping the entire economy on uncertain ground, even large-cap stocks will experience their fair share of volatility. But that can be a good thing for investors looking to buy shares at a discount. And right now, Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil, and Disney look like bargains.