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3 Stocks That Could Set You Up for Life

By Rich Smith - May 1, 2020 at 9:30AM

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Booking Holdings, Ally Financial, and Carnival Corporation sell 30%, 50%, and even 70% below what they cost at the start of the year.

Do you feel dizzy?

I know I do.

U.S. stocks just made their fastest move from bull market to bear market territory in recorded history -- then they reversed course, rocketed back, and recovered half of their COVID-19 losses. The net effect of all these gyrations, though, is that two months after the market first melt down, the S&P 500 still sits 16% below its high.  

And if you want to, there's still time to buy.

Little girl fanning a wad of $100 bills

Image source: Getty Images.

30% off sale -- Booking Holdings

Although "16% below the high" means many stocks are no longer in bear market territory, there are still some pretty incredible bargains to be had. Let's start with Booking Holdings (BKNG 1.70%) -- currently trading 33% below its January 1, 2020 price.

The company formerly known as Priceline.com, Booking Holdings has moved far beyond its "name your own price" roots to become the biggest name in travel-related bookings (flights, hotels, and rental cars). Last year, Booking Holdings recorded more than $15 billion in travel-related revenue, and nearly $4.9 billion in profits (says S&P Global Market Intelligence). That's bigger -- and more profitable -- than Expedia and TripAdvisor -- combined.

Now admittedly, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown Booking's business into turmoil temporarily, to the extent that the company had to withdraw its guidance for first quarter earnings last month. No one's flying much of anywhere these days, nor booking hotels or reserving rental cars either. Analysts forecast that even if economies begin to reopen later this year, Booking is looking at a nearly 30% reduction in revenues this year -- and more than a 70% decline in profits.

But even so, economies will reopen eventually, and business will get back to normal for Booking Holdings. By the time that happens, a lot of the company's smaller competitors -- companies lacking Booking Holdings' $7.3 billion in cash reserves, may have been driven out of business, and Booking Holdings could emerge stronger than ever before.

50% off -- Ally Financial

Is it a smart move to buy a bank in the middle of a recession? A lot of people think not, and that's why online bank holding company Ally Financial (ALLY -0.87%) stock has lost 50% of its market capitalization since the year began.

In a way, they may be right to worry. After all, just last week Ally reported a 12% decline in revenue and a big net loss for its first fiscal quarter of the year, as the bank reserved more than $900 million to pay for anticipated losses on its loan portfolio from borrowers hurt by the Great Shutdown.

But here's the thing: At a mere 5.5 times trailing earnings, Ally's share price bakes in a lot of bad news already. Yes, the charge to earnings hit profits in the first quarter, and perhaps the second quarter won't be much better. But in the long term, Ally has proven itself capable of being a very profitable operation -- and I have to think that the longer coronavirus stay-at-home orders remain in effect, the more popular online banking is going to become, which would be a plus for Ally's business, both during and after the pandemic passes.

What's more, while Ally has suspended share repurchases to conserve cash, it is continuing to pay its dividend -- which to my mind, at 5.3%, is big enough to justify the stock's current valuation all on its own. If Ally grows earnings even just a little (over the next five years, analysts expect it to grow by a lot -- 10% annually), the stock's a screaming bargain at today's prices .  

70% off -- Carnival Corporation

Of course, if you really want to snag a stock at a bargain price that will set you up for life, cruise lines look like both the riskiest, but also potentially the most profitable area of the stock market in which to fish -- and at nearly $21 billion in annual revenues (pre-coronavirus, at least), Carnival Corporation (CCL 1.09%) (CUK 1.46%) is the biggest fish in the sea.

The past year has seen Carnival stock lose 78% of its value, with more than 70% of those losses occurring since the start of this year -- and for good reason. Not only did Carnival vessels feature prominently in the early days of the Corona crisis, linking the company and the virus in investors' minds, but they continue to feature prominently in stories to this day, notably including the CDC's recent order forbidding any cruise ships to leave port until late June at the earliest.

Carnival sailed into this recession, moreover, burdened by $13 billion more debt than cash on its balance sheet -- not the kind of cargo you want to be carrying in the midst of an economic storm.

For a time at least, there was serious doubt the company would survive. And yet, thanks to the Federal Reserve's March corporate lending program, Carnival has already managed to secure bank loans for an additional nearly $6 billion -- enough cash, says the CEO, to keep the company afloat even if its ships must remain docked throughout the entirety of this year.  

If you believe Carnival's CEO, therefore, there's every possibility that within a year or two, Carnival could be back earning what it was earning in 2019 ($4 a share or thereabouts). If you've got the patience to wait for that to happen, at Carnival's current share price of just $13, this is a stock cheap enough to set you up for life.

Rich Smith has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Booking Holdings and TripAdvisor. The Motley Fool recommends Carnival. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Booking Holdings Stock Quote
Booking Holdings
BKNG
$2,098.89 (1.70%) $35.12
Carnival Corporation Stock Quote
Carnival Corporation
CCL
$10.65 (1.09%) $0.12
Carnival Corporation Stock Quote
Carnival Corporation
CUK
$9.74 (1.46%) $0.14
Ally Financial Stock Quote
Ally Financial
ALLY
$35.38 (-0.87%) $0.31

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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