The first batch of stimulus payments, part of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, will be deposited in Americans' bank accounts this week. Adults will receive $1,200, subject to income limits, plus an additional $500 for each child.
If you need that money to help your family get through this crisis, you shouldn't even think about investing it. But if your emergency fund is topped off and your employment situation is stable, the stimulus cash could be put to good use in the stock market. Three hard-hit stocks worth considering are Skechers (SKX 1.10%), Cisco (CSCO 0.41%), and AT&T (T 0.53%).
A rock-solid balance sheet
Skechers has been growing quickly over the past few years. The footwear company surpassed $5 billion in annual sales in 2019, and revenue soared by 23% in the fourth quarter. That growth was primarily driven by the international business, but the company managed to grow domestic sales as well.
It's almost a certainty that Skechers' sales have already been hit hard by the pandemic. The company pulled its first-quarter guidance in late March after it temporarily closed its retail stores in North America and some European markets. Skechers couldn't predict the impact of the crisis on its business at that time, but it's safe to say that the next few quarterly reports are going to be rough.
While sales and profits will probably plummet for a while, Skechers has enough cash to see it through this difficult period. At the end of 2019, the company had cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments totaling $936 million. That compares to total debt of just $121 million.
Skechers stock is down 43% from its 52-week high, and it could tumble further if the stock market plunges again. Not accounting for the excess cash, shares trade for about 11 times full-year earnings. Earnings will take a dive this year, but the company shouldn't have any trouble surviving this crisis and returning to growth. A few years down the road, the current stock price will look like a steal.
Cisco, the leading provider of enterprise networking hardware, was going through a slump before the pandemic. Sales were down 4% in the fiscal second quarter, which ended on Jan. 25, and the company had guided for a 1.5% to 3.5% sales decline for the third quarter.
These periods of weak sales, driven by customers' delaying or downsizing of orders over economic uncertainty, aren't uncommon for Cisco. With a global pandemic shutting down large swaths of the economy, it's possible the sales slump has worsened. However, Cisco has a couple tailwinds that may help its results hold up better than other tech companies.
Cisco has seen an increase in demand from corporate customers who are dealing with increased online activity or supporting a vast increase in the number of employees working from home. Of all the possible crises, a pandemic that leads to soaring Internet usage may have the least downside for the tech company.
Outside of critical internet infrastructure, Cisco has seen soaring demand for its WebEx video conferencing product. That excess demand may not last past the crisis, but it will help Cisco's results for the time being.
With Cisco stock down 29% from its 52-week high, now is a good time to add this durable tech stock to your portfolio.
Strong cash flow
After a flurry of massive acquisitions, AT&T is now a major media company in addition to being one the of largest providers of wireless services. The debt that came with those acquisitions is a risk, especially if the company's plans to grow its video streaming business with the upcoming launch of HBO Max don't pan out. But AT&T's wireless business should continue to provide plenty of cash flow, even during a crisis.
Exactly how AT&T's core business will be affected by the pandemic is unclear. Smartphones and wireless plans have become essential, but there's always the chance that a significant number of wireless users delay smartphone purchases or opt for cheaper wireless plans. Either could have a meaningful impact on AT&T's wireless business, although that recurring revenue should prove to be fairly resilient.
AT&T said as recently as early March that it expects to generate roughly $28 billion of free cash flow this year. At the current stock price, which is down 24% from the 52-week high, the price-to-free cash flow ratio is just under 8. The company hasn't pulled that outlook yet, but it may do so when it reports its quarterly results on April 22.
At a single-digit multiple of free cash flow, this is about as cheap as AT&T gets. Things can certainly go wrong for the telecommunications and media conglomerate, but this looks like a good time for buy-and-hold investors to pick up some shares for the long haul.