Since bottoming in March as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the United States, the stock market's rebound has been nothing short of remarkable. The S&P 500 index has soared by more than 50% from the low.
However, some sectors of the stock market have been left behind in the rally. The financial sector is one big example, as there is tremendous uncertainty surrounding just how badly banks will be affected by high unemployment and persistently low interest rates. Real estate stocks have been laggardly as well. After all, real estate investment trusts, or REITs, own physical assets that depend on people being willing and able to go places.
With that in mind, here's a rock-solid bank stock and a top-quality REIT that you might want to add to your radar before another market rally helps these reopening stocks catch up to the rest of the stock market.
The best big consumer bank
The financial sector as a whole has underperformed the S&P 500 by a wide margin in 2020, but banks that focus on the commercial (savings and loan) side of the business, as opposed to incorporating investment banking into their operations, have performed worst of all. That's why U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB) is down by more than 35% year to date, underperforming the S&P by more than 40 percentage points.
The short explanation is that many aspects of investment banking actually perform better during volatile markets. On the other hand, record-low interest rates make lending profit margins fall. With the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing, there's simply no way to know how many consumers will end up having trouble paying back their loans.
U.S. Bancorp is arguably the best-in-breed of all of the big banks, and this is especially the case when compared to other commercial banks. The bank has consistently generated the best returns on equity (ROE) and assets (ROA) figures of the large banks and has run a more efficient operation than most other branch-based banks. Plus, it has a strong history of smart lending -- in fact, U.S. Bancorp was one of the only banks of any size that never had negative earnings during the financial crisis.
In short, U.S. Bancorp is cheap today, but that won't be the case forever. I've bought shares during the pandemic and may add even more before it's over.
An income and growth machine
STORE Capital (NYSE:STOR) is a real estate investment trust, or REIT, that focuses on single-tenant commercial properties, particularly those occupied by retail and service industry businesses. The stock is down by about 20% in 2020, and there's a good reason -- the company has significant exposure to some industries that have been severely affected by the pandemic, such as movie theaters and restaurants.
However, the worst is behind the company. By mid-August, 93% of its properties had reopened, though most movie theaters were still closed at that point, and STORE had collected 86% of its August rent. By the time you're reading this, it's likely that the reopened rate is approaching 100%. Much of the rental income that STORE hasn't collected will end up being paid eventually due to deferrals.
STORE Capital's management is so confident in the health of its business that it is one of the few REITs to actually increase its dividend in 2020. The company just announced a 3% dividend increase, and also said that it is getting back into growth mode, expecting to complete between $300 million and $425 million in net acquisitions in the second half of the year.
Great long-term buys before the U.S. gets back to normal
In a nutshell, both of these companies are extremely well-run and should be fantastic long-term holdings for patient investors who have the foresight to buy them before the pandemic ends. While the path higher won't likely be a smooth one -- especially in the near term -- I'm confident that investors who buy at these prices and hold for the long haul will be glad they did.