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Coronavirus Recession: 3 Stocks to Buy in May

By Rich Smith - Updated May 6, 2020 at 6:31AM

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When investing during a recession, look for stocks that make products that will do well in a recession -- and beyond.

No two ways about it: Coronavirus has done a number on the American stock market -- and that number is "35%."

From late February high to late March low, the S&P 500 lost roughly 35% of its stock market value. And yet, from late March to...well, to now actually, the stock market has made back much of its losses. At a value of 2,895 or so, the S&P 500 is now only 15% below its highs of late February. So does this mean it's "too late to buy," and ride the rally?

Not necessarily.

Yes, a lot of stocks have gone back up and are no longer as cheap as they once were. But "a lot" is not "all." There are still bargains out there -- victims of the coronavirus recession. Indeed, literally hundreds of companies today still sell for 30% or more below what they cost at the beginning of this year.

Here are a few you might want to think about buying in May:

Cinco de Mayo skeleton wearing a medical mask and surrounded by coronaviruses.

Image source: Getty Images.

Anheuser-Busch Inbev

Weighing in at a steep 48% year-to-date decline in stock price, Anheuser-Busch Inbev (BUD 0.20%) is arguably the cheapest stock on today's list, with a trailing P/E ratio of just 8.9 (according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence). It's also a perfect stock in which to drown your sorrows over the imminent recession.

For better or worse, one side effect of instituting nationwide stay-at-home orders has been more time for alcohol consumption, and many media outlets have noticed a rise in the popularity of "Zoom happy hours."  

On the one hand, that might translate into greater revenue growth at Anheuser-Busch when the company reports its Q1 earnings on May 7. If it doesn't, though -- if, for example, coronavirus-linked closures of restaurants and sporting and concert venues  cause sales to decrease -- well, that could drive Bud stock down even further in May, offering investors a chance to purchase shares of this blue-chip beverage producer at an even steeper discount.

With a share price less than 10x trailing earnings, high earnings quality (free cash flow at A-B backs up 95% of reported net income), and an unimpeachable stable of brand names to its credit, one thing is certain: Anheuser-Busch stock is a quality stock name to own for the long run, and trading at a bargain price.

Callaway Golf

What if Anheuser-Busch beats expectations this week instead of missing them? It could happen. In fact, we got a lesson in what could happen when it happened just last month, when golf-equipment manufacturer Callaway Golf (ELY -4.23%) reported preliminary results for its first quarter.

Callaway's official earnings release, like A-B's, won't happen until Thursday. But in April, the company reassured investors that it was going to be profitable in the quarter -- and that was all it took to send Callaway stock rocketing 16% higher on earnings day.

Callaway stock hasn't looked back since, and rightly so. In addition to the reassurance on profitability, management pointed out that golf -- its raison d' etre -- is a perfect sport in "a world of social distancing and a 'new normal'," and argued that golf "is commonly viewed as a relatively safe and healthy outdoor activity that one can enjoy while still observing social distancing guidelines."

That bodes well for the company's future whether coronavirus is quickly extinguished or lingers for a longer time. It also gives us a clue point toward a third stock to consider for today's list:

Hasbro

If what you're looking for is a "safe" stock that can perform in times of pandemic and times thereafter, then Hasbro (HAS -1.70%), one of the biggest toy companies in the world, is a logical place to look.

Some six or seven weeks into lockdown, kids are climbing the walls, and parents around the country are desperate for ways to entertain them. Bad news for us, perhaps -- but good news for Hasbro.

Last week, Hasbro reported its Q1 2020 earnings, and while overall sales slipped, sales of certain products did very well indeed -- the exact products that you'd expect to do well in a time of quarantine: board games. Such titles as Monopoly and Connect 4, reports the Fool's own Demitrios Kalogeropoulos, produced 30% sales gains for Hasbro in the most recent quarter even when coronavirus was just emerging. I'd be willing to bet those sales trends  have only grown as lockdowns have continued and will continue to grow as long as they last.

And soon, summer will be here. Whether this means the end of coronavirus is uncertain. What is certain is that summer means more outdoor playtime for the kids -- kids who may be stuck at home or at least confined to the backyard if summer camps remain closed. There, they may expand their repertoire of toys to include not just board games but Nerf guns and Super Soaker water pistols -- all "weapons" that can be employed at safe social distances, the better to avoid getting pegged, or soaked.

What does this mean for Hasbro stock? At 22.3 times earnings, Hasbro is from one perspective the most expensive stock on this list. The company produces great free cash flow, however -- about $1.28 in cash profits for every $1 in net income it reports, bringing its price-to-free cash flow ratio down to just 17.5.

With a generous 3.9% dividend yield and 11% projected long-term earnings growth ahead of it, I think that's a great price to pay to own this marquee toy brand.

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Stocks Mentioned

Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV Stock Quote
Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV
BUD
$54.19 (0.20%) $0.11
Hasbro, Inc. Stock Quote
Hasbro, Inc.
HAS
$84.19 (-1.70%) $-1.46
Callaway Golf Company Stock Quote
Callaway Golf Company
ELY
$20.39 (-4.23%) $0.90

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

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