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2 Top Stocks That Could Be Home Runs as the Economy Starts to Reopen

By Matthew Frankel, CFP® – Updated May 6, 2020 at 8:37AM

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As some states begin to reopen their economies, these two stocks could be good long-term buys.

Some areas of the stock market have been absolutely crushed in the COVID-19 downturn. Hospitality stocks like restaurants, entertainment companies, and banks are just three examples that have dramatically underperformed the market as the U.S. economy shut down to help stop the spread of the virus.

However, some of these could be excellent bargains for long-term investors, especially as the economy starts to reopen. Here's why EPR Properties (EPR 1.77%) and Synchrony Financial (SYF 0.58%) could be especially good stocks to add to your watch list.

Crowd of people cheering.

Image source: Getty Images.

Entertainment and recreation properties are closed -- but not forever

EPR Properties is a real estate investment trust, or REIT, that specializes in experiential real estate. Think movie theaters, golf attractions (Topgolf is a major tenant), water parks, ski resorts, and family entertainment centers. Obviously, none of those have been good businesses to be in so far in 2020. And EPR's stock price has been beaten down as a result, with shares still 65% lower than the pre-COVID highs.

However, there are some reasons to think EPR could be a big winner as the economy reopens. While movie theaters aren't likely to get back to full swing until the latter phases of a reopening, top tenant AMC Entertainment was able to raise $500 million in debt, which gives it until at least Thanksgiving before it has to worry about its finances. And many of the other businesses that occupy EPR's properties are well-equipped to incorporate social distancing into their operations. Perhaps most encouraging of all, EPR recently released an update that shows a worst-case scenario of 19 months of liquidity -- and that assumes it collects 0% of its scheduled rent and continues paying its monthly dividend. 

Management seems so confident that EPR is going to be just fine that not only is the company keeping its dividend in place (EPR yields more than 16%), but the company announced a $150 million buyback authorization to take advantage of the "extraordinary dislocation" in the stock price. Buybacks are quite rare in the REIT world, so this is a very encouraging sign.

A beaten-down credit card company could be a big winner

Credit card stocks have been some of the worst performers in the 2020 market downturn, and Synchrony Financial has been beaten down worse than most. Even after a recent rebound, Synchrony trades for roughly half of its value at the beginning of the year.

To be sure, there's a good reason why investors have been so pessimistic. Credit card debt is one of the riskier types of debts from a lender's perspective, and store credit cards (Synchrony's bread and butter) are even riskier. Even during good times, default rates can be high -- Synchrony's net charge-off rate during 2019 was about 6%, meaning that out of every $1,000 in credit card balances, customers defaulted on $60. In bad times, this can easily jump to double digits, leading to massive defaults.

Here's the key point: The company has planned for a massive uptick in defaults, with a 95% increase in its loss provisions in the first quarter. If the economy can largely reopen and Americans can get back to work by mid-summer, Synchrony may be able to avoid a large spike in defaults.

Synchrony is a high-margin business and has done a great job of building relationships with retailers and growing its business. If it can get back on track, the current stock price could seem like a massive bargain.

Don't expect a smooth ride

To be clear, I'm not saying the path upward is going to be a straight one, or that these are going to produce quick returns. However, the economy does appear to be reopening a bit faster than most experts thought it would, and these two stocks are well-positioned to benefit. I'd expect a bit of a roller-coaster ride as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, but I'm confident investors will be glad they bought these stocks during the tough times when looking back five or 10 years from now.

Matthew Frankel, CFP owns shares of EPR Properties. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends EPR Properties. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

EPR Properties Stock Quote
EPR Properties
$36.69 (1.77%) $0.64
Synchrony Financial Stock Quote
Synchrony Financial
$28.38 (0.58%) $0.17

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

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