Considering the dramatic recovery of numerous stocks during 2020, investors might not expect to find many options sitting in the bargain bin. But there are several companies that have taken a real hit this year, and their stocks are trading at a significant discount to their pre-pandemic highs.
With the recent approval and administration of COVID-19 vaccines, there is a real opportunity for some of these suffering S&P 500 stocks to take advantage and stage a comeback. If you want to increase your chances of benefitting from such recoveries, you should take a closer look at Boeing (BA 0.97%), Chevron (CVX 0.84%), and Lumen Technologies (LUMN 12.98%) stocks. Here's why these three top stocks are currently on sale.
Airframe manufacturer Boeing has had a rough couple of years. For much of 2019, it faced significant damage to its reputation following two deadly plane crashes involving its 737 MAX jetliner and some faulty flight software. In 2020, it took an even bigger hit as COVID-19 walloped the airline industry and evaporated demand for new Boeing aircraft of any kind, not just the 737 MAX.
The stock is currently trading at a deep discount primarily because of the ongoing problems in the commercial-airplanes division. Third-quarter revenue for that division is down about 56% from year-ago levels. Consequently, the defense, space, and security division (now the company's largest division by revenue) has had to step in to bolster the company. It accounted for nearly half of the company's overall revenue in the latest quarter.
The commercial-airplanes division's troubles are a big reason that Boeing stock trades at less than half of the $446 per share high it reached right before the 737 MAX became embroiled in controversy. While the stock is down, its price has more than doubled from lows it hit in March during the worst of the COVID-19 crash.
For all of the company's problems over the past two years, Boeing still has a lot going for it. For instance, it has an order backlog still on the books to build about 4,300 planes valued at $313 billion. And just this week, some 737 MAX jets returned to commercial service after getting FAA approval to operate. More are expected to return to service over the next six months with various airlines.
Airbus is the company's only direct competition, so airlines wanting to buy planes for their fleets have very few options besides Boeing. This likely means that when the 737 MAX fully returns to the air and the world recovers from the pandemic, the company's stock will fly high again.
Chevron stock was trading above $130 per share in 2018 as the energy giant used its heavy investment in fracking to generate strong profits. But an oil price war involving Saudi Arabia and Russia put a hit on oil prices in 2019 and threatened some fracking operations (which rely on certain oil price points to make it worth the effort) and caused a stock price drop. The stock price slide accelerated in 2020 amid COVID-19 and a shutting down of the economy that didn't need all the oil being produced. At about $85 per share currently, Chevron stock trades at a 35% discount to that 2018 high.
In past downturns, Chevron could count on its involvement in drilling, refining, and other activities to maintain stability. However, with the coronavirus pandemic, consumption fell off a cliff and past efforts are not necessarily the solution this time around. A longer-term issue involving the rising popularity of renewables has exacerbated Chevron management's efforts to keep operating without losses.
While some competitors have turned more of their focus to renewables, petroleum and natural gas still made up about 69% of the U.S.'s energy consumption in 2019. Hence, the need for fossil fuels will likely not dry up anytime soon. And with more people vaccinating against COVID-19, a return to pre-pandemic consumption patterns is likely underway. These should help bolster a recovery in Chevron's profitability and the stock's recovery.
Additionally, Chevron is a Dividend Aristocrat, a stock that has increased its payout annually for at least 25 years (32 years in Chevron's case). It maintains a yield of about 6% and having that Aristocrat designation gives Chevron an added incentive to keep generating enough free cash flow to maintain the payout growth.
Amid losses, the company has taken on debt to keep building on its current $5.16 per-share annual payout. At least for now the headwinds it's facing aren't compromising Chevron's balance sheet. Moreover, the generous payout should keep Chevron's stock price afloat until it profits again.
3. Lumen Technologies
At first glance, Lumen Technologies, formerly known as CenturyLink, looks like a lost connection. The company's vast fiber-optic infrastructure took a massive hit as customers cut landline and pay-TV services that were using Lumen's network.
While these customers will probably not return, the company's fiber network has drawn interest from a newer, unexpected source -- wireless providers. For all of the focus on wireless, 5G networks need fiber optics to serve as the backbone for their wireless communications. Instead of becoming obsolete, Lumen's fiber network may become more essential than ever.
Additionally, the company is shopping out its network services to cloud edge facilities. It also provides Internet of Things connections and security services.
Lumen's struggles have taken a company that once sold in the $50 per-share range just before the 2008-09 Great Recession down to about $10 per share, an approximate 80% drop. The stock is cheap, selling for a forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of just above 6. Despite the company's challenges, the stock pays $1 per share in annual dividends, which equals a yield of just over 10%, at current prices.
This also came after a dividend cut in early 2019. In the first nine months of 2020, Lumen has already earned $1.18 per diluted share, making this generous payout sustainable.
Lumen is also deleveraging. Though its $31.1 billion debt remains massive, it paid down almost $1.3 billion in the last nine months alone. This is helping build confidence in the company's finances.
As Lumen transforms itself into a cutting-edge telco provider, its long-suffering stock could again connect with investors.