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3 Top Stocks for the $1,200 Burning a Hole in Your Pocket

By Rick Munarriz - Apr 20, 2020 at 9:10AM

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There are a lot of risky but potentially rewarding low-priced stocks if you're looking for investments trading at $12 a share or less.

You don't need a lot of money to get started in the market. That $1,200 stimulus check coming your way is obviously better off going to essential bills you need to pay, but let's hypothetically say that an investor has $1,200 ready to throw at the market. Where should it go?

I have a few stock ideas, and I'm going with the assumption that you would be buying at least a round lot of 100 shares. In other words, I'm eyeing stocks that enter this new trading week at $12 or less. I'm going to take a contrarian bent this time, eyeing stocks that have fallen out of the favor to the point where they are trading in the pre-teens.

The risks are high, here, but I think you can do worse than considering the discounted investing values offered by CenturyLink (LUMN 0.72%), Tencent Music (TME 0.23%), and Dave & Buster's (PLAY 1.12%)

A roll of $100 bills wrapped in a green ribbon

Image source: Getty Images.


There are some high yields lurking in low-priced stocks. CenturyLink packs a 9.8% yield, and that was after the provider of residential and commercial telecommunications services sliced its payout by more than half last year. It's fine to be apprehensive when approaching a stock that's had to slash its dividend, but we're finally at the point where CenturyLink's normalized earnings can actually cover its distributions -- something we haven't seen since 2010.

Earlier this month, CenturyLink was upgraded by Guggenheim analyst Mike McCormack. He remains concerned about the long-term fundamentals at CenturyLink, but he feels it will hold up well in the new COVID-19 normal, as churn remains in check across its businesses. Homeowners and businesses will have bigger fish to fry than to kick the telco to the curb.

These are challenging times for most telco companies, but the 3.6% declines in organic revenue it has posted in each of its last two quarters are the smallest year-over-year dips in more than three years.

CenturyLink might not be a stock you'd want to hold for the next five years, but with investors chasing income in this low-income environment, it could beat the market in the year ahead.

Tencent Music

Streaming music is a cutthroat industry with challenging profitability, and Chinese growth stocks can be risky. However, if you put the two negatives together, you get a surprising positive in Tencent Music. Commanding roughly three-fourths of China's streaming music market is a pretty big deal for a company that's in the earbuds of 644 million monthly active users. 

Revenue climbed 35% in its latest quarter, and the bottom line is growing even faster. The key to Tencent Music's surprising profitability is that it's more than just a music-streaming site. Tencent is a leader in social online karaoke, a platform that's a magnet for high-margin revenue generated from folks buying virtual gifts for their favorite performers. 

Dave & Buster's

Before digging into the shortcomings of Dave & Buster's, it should be pointed out that the stock is trading 77% lower than it was a year ago. These are scary times for the big-box concept that combines casual dining and a sports bar with a high-tech gaming arcade for adults. Its locations are closed during the COVID-19 shutdown, and the chain is on life support. One analyst argues that it has about three months of liquidity at its disposal, but that was before Dave & Buster's announced that it was offering up to $75 million through an at-the-market equity offering program to help beef up its balance sheet. 

It's a scary time to be running a high-traffic retail business, and Dave & Buster's chances of survival hinge on when the economy can get rolling again -- or what it stands to receive in the form of government stimulus. This is the riskiest of the three stocks in the near term, but it bears reminding that the stock would have to more than quadruple to get back to where it was a year ago. 

All 137 of its locations have been closed since March 20. Dave & Buster's is negotiating with landlords and vendors as it shaves its operating costs. Its last snapshot as an operating business was mixed. Dave & Buster's reported a 5% increase in revenue for its fiscal fourth quarter that ended on Feb. 2, but this was solely the handiwork of a 12% increase in the number of stores out there. Comps actually slipped 4.7% for the quarter and 2.6% for the entire fiscal year. 

Net income did slip, but it rose on a per-share basis as a result of its aggressive share buybacks. Those repurchases are naturally off the table right now as Dave & Buster's aims to preserve cash. The stock is trading for just four times the $2.94 a share it earned last year. It will obviously be in the red come 2020, but there's no reason it can't return to profitability quickly once it can reopen its entertainment hubs.

Even if Dave & Buster's is only half as profitable next year as it was last year, priced at an earnings multiple in the mid-teens -- a fair valuation as the bankruptcy fears would be fading in the rearview mirror -- the stock would roughly double from here. The valuation is too compelling at this point, even with today's cash crunch and the recessionary fears that will come into play later this year. 

Rick Munarriz owns shares of Tencent Music Entertainment Group. The Motley Fool recommends Dave & Buster's Entertainment. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Lumen Technologies Stock Quote
Lumen Technologies
$11.23 (0.72%) $0.08
Dave & Buster's Entertainment, Inc. Stock Quote
Dave & Buster's Entertainment, Inc.
$43.14 (1.12%) $0.48
Tencent Music Entertainment Group Stock Quote
Tencent Music Entertainment Group
$4.41 (0.23%) $0.01

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