Over the past several months, political leadership in Washington, D.C., has been stuck in a quagmire as talks regarding a potential second round of stimulus can't get beyond talking. Yet, there are signs that the current icy partisan bickering may be thawing.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (who is representing President Donald Trump in the discussions) have reportedly made some progress on stimulus negotiations, and the economic relief package being negotiated appears to be for somewhere between $1.8 trillion and $2.2 trillion. Whatever is agreed to will very likely include another issuance of $1,200 stimulus checks for qualifying Americans and will likely be the centerpiece of any deal.
If the two sides can hammer out an agreement, these checks could unleash a new wave of spending by U.S. consumers. Let's look at three stocks that are well-positioned to benefit from another round of stimulus checks.
There's little doubt that Walmart (NYSE:WMT) was a significant beneficiary of the first round of stimulus checks. Spending at the discount retailer surged in the weeks and months following the signing of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act at the end of March. Many Americans were already shopping at the discount retailer, so it isn't surprising that a chunk of those stimulus checks would end up in Walmart's cash registers.
During the conference call in May to discuss first-quarter earnings results, the subject of stimulus came up on 12 separate occasions. CEO Doug McMillon said the company saw increases across a variety of retail categories, including apparel, televisions, video games, sporting goods, and toys, noting that discretionary spending "really popped toward the end of the quarter." He also said that sales reaccelerated in mid-April, "as government stimulus money reached consumers."
In the six months ended July 31, Walmart's net sales climbed more than 7% year over year, while comp sales in the U.S. during the first and second quarters increased 10% and 9.3% respectively. This was driven in part by e-commerce sales that soared 74% in the first quarter, followed by a 97% year-over-year increase in the second quarter.
Given its stunning performance so far this year, it's easy to see that Walmart would again be a huge winner from another round of stimulus checks.
The combination of stay-at-home orders and remote work has kept people sequestered in their homes like never before. Many have been forced to reimagine their living spaces as gyms, movie theaters, restaurants, and home offices, a phenomenon that was no doubt accelerated by the first round of stimulus payments.
Additionally, the amount of time and money spent on entertainment, traveling, and dining out has been severely curtailed in recent months. This fact of life during the pandemic has resulted in a reallocation of those funds, with many consumers "nesting," or spending the money to improve life at home. Arguably very few companies are positioned at the intersection of those two trends better than home improvement retailer Lowe's (NYSE:LOW).
As the pandemic dragged on, consumer behavior shifted, with an increasing focus on home improvements, renovations, remodeling, repairs, and maintenance and away from the aforementioned areas of discretionary spending.
There's little doubt consumers have turned to Lowe's to upgrade their living spaces, as evidenced by the company's recent results. For the quarter ended July 31, the company reported net sales that grew 30%, while comparable-store sales jumped 35%. That translated into diluted earnings per share that increased by 75% year over year. The results were given a significant boost by e-commerce sales that soared 135%.
The pandemic is ongoing, with no end in sight. With that as a backdrop, consumers will likely continue to spend heavily to improve their quality of life at home, and if Washington unleashes another round of stimulus checks, Lowe's will no doubt be one of the clear winners.
While management at the world's largest online retailer was much more reticent to discuss how the government stimulus affected the company, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) was definitely a beneficiary of the first round of relief checks. But it also benefitted from the widespread stay-at-home orders that blanketed the country. Shoppers increasingly turned to e-commerce, largely avoiding crowded stores for fear of contracting the virus.
Data released by the U.S. Department of Commerce illustrates the magnitude of the shift. During the second quarter, online sales increased by more than 44% year over year -- even as total retail sales declined by 3% during the same period. The spike in e-commerce sales grew to 16% of total retail, up from just 10% in the year-ago period.
For the second quarter, Amazon's net sales jumped 40% year over year, while its net income increased by an eye-popping 97% -- even after the company spent an incremental $4 billion on COVID-related expenses.
Amazon accounts for nearly 40% of all online retail in the U.S., according to eMarketer, so it isn't a stretch to think the company would grab a disproportionate share of the next round of stimulus checks.
The chart tells the tale
It's important to recognize that while there could soon be another economic relief package, the partisan gridlock that pervades Washington, D.C., may continue for the foreseeable future, casting doubt on whether another round of stimulus checks will eventually materialize.
That said, given the impressive financial results generated by each of these retailers and the overriding trends driving them, investors will likely benefit from these stocks whether there's another round of economic incentive payments or not.