It's easy to jump on the bandwagon and invest in stocks that are performing well. However, being a contrarian investor can yield even stronger returns -- if you're right.
Contrarian investors buy shares of companies that the markets aren't optimistic about, to effectively bet that a turnaround will happen. That means contrarian stocks could be bargains, especially if the companies are able to bounce back and you snagged shares at a low price. Here are three stocks that are cheap and could appeal to investors who are interested in going against the grain.
1. Aurora Cannabis
Aurora Cannabis (ACB 0.82%) has lost 85% of its value over the past year as the S&P 500 index has risen 11%. The pot stock has underwhelmed and often disappointed investors. The most embarrassing blunder was undoubtedly when the company missed its own sales guidance back when it reported its fourth-quarter results in September. It's one thing to fall short of analyst expectations, but missing your own forecast doesn't inspire much confidence from investors.
But the company's still optimistic that it is turning things around. In its third-quarter results, released on May 14, Aurora stated that it is "on track for EBITDA profitability in the first quarter of fiscal 2021." It's an ambitious goal given that in Q3 the Alberta-based pot producer recorded an adjusted EBITDA loss of 50.9 million Canadian dollars.
If Aurora can indeed hit its target, the stock will likely take off in a hurry. But that's a tall task during an economic slowdown and with many people out of work and struggling to make ends meet. The pot stock's a risky buy but it's also trading at 0.6 times its book value and around 6.5 times its revenue; it's not an expensive buy and is a lot cheaper than where it was months ago.
2. Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL -0.82%) stock is down around 50% over the past year. Cruise lines have, unfortunately, become synonymous with the COVID-19 pandemic. And that makes them risky buys because even if cruise lines start operating again, demand is likely to be a fraction of what it would've been without the fear of a pandemic weighing on people's minds.
The company released its first-quarter results on May 20, when it reported a net loss totaling $1.4 billion. Much of that was the result of impairment and credit losses, which were $1.1 billion during the quarter. Royal Caribbean's operating activities still generated $198.7 million in cash. However, with the period only going until March 31 when the COVID-19 pandemic was still in its early stages in North America, future quarters will likely be a lot worse.
But one reason to swim against the tide and believe in Royal Caribbean is that people are still making bookings. In the press release about its earnings, the company stated that customers continued to make bookings for 2020 through 2022. Customers are also showing a willingness to take credit instead of cash refunds. Royal Caribbean stated that as of the end of April, 45% of customers on canceled sailings wanted cash refunds. There's clearly some optimism from customers that the pandemic won't be as bad as many fear it will be. And if that's the case and Royal Caribbean can weather the storm and get back to operating sooner rather than later, the stock could see a big rally.
Currently, shares of the Florida-based cruise company are trading at 1.5 times both their book value and sales. While the stock's recovered from the 52-week lows it hit earlier this year, it's also nowhere near the more than $130 it was trading at to start 2020.
JPMorgan Chase (JPM 3.09%) is only down 4% over the past 12 months. But year to date, the top bank stock has lost more than one-quarter of its value while the S&P 500 is down around 1%. In the midst of a recession and the bank preparing for greater credit losses ahead, investors aren't particularly excited about investing in the New York-based company.
JPMorgan reported its first-quarter results on April 14. During the quarter, the bank's profits were down 69% from the prior-year period. However, that was mainly due to the company building up its credit reserves "given the likelihood of a fairly severe recession." The bank stock's normally a safe bet to record strong profits, and in each of the four quarters prior to Q1, its profit margin's been 30% or better.
Here, contrarian investors would be betting on the recession not being as severe as the bank expects it to be. And that's possible, given the pressure there's been on states and cities to reopen. But it also depends on there not being a new wave of COVID-19 infections that sends cities back into lockdown. As long as that doesn't happen -- and it's hard to gauge at this point how likely that scenario is -- then JPMorgan's stock could see a quick recovery.
The top bank stock's currently trading at around a modest 1.5 times its book value.
Which stock is the most likely to turn things around?
Of the three contrarian buys on here, the best buy is certainly JPMorgan Chase. The financial company is profitable and will likely stay that way over the long term; the same cannot be said of the other two stocks on this list. Aurora Cannabis and Royal Caribbean could both run into cash flow problems at some point this year, depending on how strong their respective industries are. There are potentially higher returns available for those stocks, but there's also much more risk involved.
With JPMorgan, contrarian investors are taking a modest-sized bet that the stock will recover. And over the long term, it's almost a given that the top bank stock will rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.