The major stock market indexes were all up in July as the market continued to come back from its March lows. However, there is still uncertainty for many businesses. The pandemic has kept spreading and the recession has dragged on, with a historic GDP decline last month.
Value investors who think they may have missed the boat should think again -- there are still some underpriced performers out there. Here are three value stocks that are absurdly cheap right now, but probably won't be for long.
Bank of America
The nation's second-largest bank, Bank of America (BAC -1.50%), is ridiculously cheap right now. It is down about 29% on the year through Tuesday's close, trading at about $25 per share with a price-to-earnings ratio of around 12. At that valuation, it's an opportune time to scoop up some shares. Just ask Warren Buffett -- Berkshire Hathaway plowed about $1.7 billion into the stock in recent weeks. Berkshire Hathaway now has an 11.3% stake in Bank of America, its second-largest holding after Apple.
Bank of America has been hit hard by the COVID-19 recession, mainly due to huge provisions for credit losses. In the second quarter, it set aside $5.1 billion for expected loan losses -- six times more than during the same period last year -- due to COVID-19-related hardships. In the first quarter, the bank allocated $4.8 billion.
While revenue was only down 3% year over year, these loan-loss provisions have really tanked the company's profits. The next few quarters won't be great, considering how the pandemic continues to spread. Still, Bank of America, the overall market leader, has done a great job of managing expenses and building up its liquidity even through this crisis. It's poised to weather the storm.
As the economy slowly improves, revenue should increase, and the loan-loss provision should come down. When a vaccine hits the market (hopefully sometime next year), Bank of America should be back in earnings growth mode and provide solid returns for investors who bought on the dip, like Buffett.
Franklin Resources (BEN -3.06%) is the parent company of Franklin Templeton Investments, a name you may not have heard much from in a while. That's because it's been a rough decade for the money manager. At the end of 2009, Franklin Templeton was the 24th-largest asset manager, with $553 billion in assets under management. As of June 30, 2020, it had just $622 billion in AUM, falling to the 39th-largest in the world behind rivals like T. Rowe Price Group and Invesco.
But Franklin is poised for a comeback, as it just closed on an acquisition of erstwhile rival Legg Mason on July 31. The new organization will gain valuable scale and have about $1.4 trillion in AUM, putting it in the global top 15. The deal is expected to fill gaps in Franklin's investment offerings, as over half of Legg Mason's assets are in fixed-income funds. It also improves the company's distribution capabilities.
The company expects to realize $270 million in net cost savings through layoffs and operational synergies, which should help it improve its balance sheet and pay down some of the $2 billion in debt Franklin brought over from Legg Mason. The company expects to see earnings growth once the companies are fully integrated in 2021. The stock price was trading around $21 per share at 10 times earnings as of Tuesday's close, so it's a good value at the moment.
Like Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase (JPM -1.56%) is another bank beaten down by huge anticipated credit losses. And like Bank of America, it is undervalued, trading at about $96 per share after losing roughly 31% of its value year to date, with a P/E ratio of around 13. But what's most impressive about JPMorgan Chase -- the country's largest bank, with about $2.5 trillion in assets -- is that the bank still managed to generate a 15% year-over-year increase in revenue in the quarter, driven by its investment banking and asset management arms.
Earnings were still down due to a $10.5 billion allowance for credit losses, but the revenue gains indicate a bank that's ready to soar as the economy improves and we move toward a COVID-19 vaccine. It's a testament to what got JPMorgan Chase through the Great Recession in better shape than its peers: its "fortress balance sheet," as Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon calls it, and a diversified revenue stream that allows it to offset losses in consumer banking with gains in other areas.