2020 has been a turbulent year for the stock market, but not necessarily a bad one when you consider all that has happened. In fact, the S&P 500 is actually up by about 4% for the year as I'm writing this, indicating that the market as a whole has recovered nicely from the effects of the pandemic.
Not all stocks have fared as well. There are some that are still trading for massive discounts to where they started the year, despite strong long-term growth prospects. Here are three in particular that look like compelling values right here and now.
This beaten-down bank could be ready to turn the corner
To be fair, Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) is cheap for a reason. It still has a damaged reputation due to the infamous fake-accounts scandal and several others. And as a bank that focuses almost exclusively on commercial banking (as opposed to investment banking), the combination of record-low interest rates and potential loan losses stemming from high unemployment has made it extremely difficult for Wells Fargo to make money. In fact, it was the only one of the largest U.S. banks that was forced to cut its dividend in 2020.
Having said that, Wells Fargo still has a top-notch lending operation with a strong history of prudent risk management. The bank is well capitalized and should emerge from the pandemic in good shape. And as the economy normalizes, so should Wells Fargo's profits. At a staggeringly low valuation of just 57% of book value and a 63% decline in share price over the past three years, it could be finally worth a look.
When conferences and conventions come back, so should this stock
Ryman Hospitality Properties (NYSE:RHP) is a hotel real estate investment trust, or REIT, that focuses on large-scale events like conferences and conventions. And it also owns some iconic concert venues and other entertainment assets. In short, Ryman makes money when people gather together in large groups, and that's why its stock price is down by 53% this year.
While 2020 has been a rough year for Ryman, there's light at the end of the tunnel. First of all, the company has done an excellent job of controlling costs, getting leisure travelers to stay at its properties, and reducing its cash burn as the pandemic continues. As a result of this, and its excellent financial shape, Ryman has an estimated 30 months' worth of liquidity, and that's if things stay just like they are right now.
This isn't likely to be necessary, since Ryman's situation is likely to improve significantly from here. Its concert venues are starting to host live events (at 25% capacity), and future demand has been very strong. In fact, the company has successfully rebooked more than 1 million room nights that were canceled due to the pandemic, and 2021 is shaping up to be a much stronger year.
Buy one of the most famous buildings in the U.S. for pennies on the dollar
There have been many high-profile companies that have said employees will be allowed to work from home even after the pandemic, and others are likely to follow. This has many experts questioning the long-term need for office space, especially in high-cost urban areas.
As a result of these fears, Empire State Realty Trust (NYSE:ESRT) is trading for a massive discount to its net asset value (NAV) -- about 70% less by some estimates. This office real estate investment trust owns the iconic Empire State Building, plus a portfolio of valuable office real estate concentrated in and around New York City.
First off, I don't buy that everyone is going to work from home in the post-pandemic world. And that's putting it mildly. In-person work is more productive, and employers and employees want to see one another. There's a reason Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) have recently signed huge leases for more office space in the NYC area: People want to live and work there.
In the third quarter, Empire State collected 94% of its billed rent, signed 18 leases, and reopened the observatory atop the Empire State Building. It may take a few years before New York City office real estate is thriving again, but patient investors could be handsomely rewarded.
One key takeaway
One of my favorite investment strategies during turbulent markets is to buy stocks that aren't just cheap, but that are cheap due to temporary issues. At some point, unemployment and interest rates will normalize. Conferences and conventions will start to happen again. And people will get back to work in offices (yes, even in cities).
The point is that these are otherwise solid businesses that are under pressure for reasons that won't last forever, and investing in situations like these has the potential to make patient investors lots of money.