It's common knowledge that the market is either fully priced or even overpriced at the moment. After all, the S&P 500's CAPE (cyclically adjusted PE) ratio, a metric invented by Yale professor Robert Schiller, is currently over 34 -- its highest mark since the dot-com bubble of 1999.
However, even in 1999, there were undervalued stocks to buy that would have done well even as the internet sector fell out of favor. So are there still cheap stocks in the market today?
It appears so, as the following solid businesses miraculously all trade at 12 times their 2021 earnings estimates -- or less.
One of the more remarkable statistics about the COVID-19 downturn is that the average consumer FICO score went up.
Huh?" you might ask. In recessions, people usually miss payments and their credit scores go down. That totally rational expectation is what sent financial stocks like credit card lender Discover Financial (NYSE:DFS) plummeting in the early days of the pandemic.
However, thanks to the stimulus bill and Federal Reserve action to backstop the economy in the early days of the pandemic, relief payments and extra unemployment insurance have allowed many to bolster their household balance sheets. If you've kept your job throughout this time, you've also likely built up lots of savings and paid down debt, since you aren't spending a lot on travel expenses.
That's great news for credit, and credit card companies have not yet experienced any meaningful charge-offs as a result of the pandemic. That means that many credit lenders may release reserves taken last year, bolstering their earnings in the year ahead. That's especially true if the Biden stimulus plan released last week gets passed, and if a vaccine is rolled out in the months ahead.
Analysts are already anticipating $8.16 in 2021 EPS for Discover, nearly back to the all-time record of $9.08 earned back in 2019. That $8.12 would mean Discover trades at a 12 PE ratio. However, the highest analyst target for 2021 is $13.85. If the stimulus and vaccine rollout bring spending and lending back in a bigger way, Discover could be extremely cheap looking a year or two out, even after its impressive recovery this year.
Super Micro Computer
Believe it or not, there's a technology stock that also trades at a forward PE ratio under 12. In fact, server manufacturer Super Micro Computer (NASDAQ:SMCI) trades at just about 10 times its earnings estimates for 2022. But keep in mind, Super Micro's fiscal year ends in June, so fiscal 2022 is really the period between June 2021 and June 2022.
Currently, Super Micro Computer is trading at 20 times trailing earnings, but that's a bit misleading; the company had to take on extra expenses to remediate its financial controls after an accounting scandal in 2017 led to the company being de-listed from major exchanges in 2018. However, Super Micro satisfied regulators and was relisted on the NASDAQ back in January 2020.
Those extra costs, however, ran through the recent June quarter. Now that that ordeal is completely behind the company, Super Micro can get back to the work of providing leading energy-efficient and customized servers that enable enterprises worldwide to run applications and AI. Founder, CEO, and large shareholder Charles Liang said on the recent conference call with analysts that he believes the company can get back to the 20% growth rate it averaged between 2007 and 2017, before its accounting troubles. And a new expansion of the company's Taiwan facility should lower costs and open up the cloud computing segment as well.
A 20% growth rate would be phenomenal for such a cheap stock. Moreover, Super Micro's strong balance sheet and recently announced share repurchase program should only add fuel to the fire.
Sure, many media investors have been lauding the big gains for Disney (NYSE:DIS) in the wake of its impressive Disney+ sign-ups last year. But you know what media competitor is up even more than Disney over the past six months? ViacomCBS (NASDAQ:VIAC).
Though Viacom's stock is up a whopping 84% over the past six months, it still trades at less than 11 times 2021 earnings estimates! That gives you a glimpse into how shockingly cheap the stock became in the wake of the pandemic.
The fear for ViacomCBS was that the continued cord-cutting trend would hurt this legacy media company, especially the niche cable networks acquired in the Viacom acquisition in late 2019. And yet, like Disney, ViacomCBS has managed to put together enough streaming growth for investors to believe it can make the transition successfully.
ViacomCBS actually has three streaming outlets today: PlutoTV, which is a free ad-supported platform, CBS All Access, which is a streaming bundled version of the core CBS broadcast and Viacom networks, and Showtime, which is a premium network that used to be distributed through cable companies, but is now offered over-the-top as well. Last quarter, ViacomCBS grew streaming subscribers a whopping 78% and grew digital and streaming revenue by 56% to $636 million. PlutoTV ad revenue doubled.
This year, ViacomCBS will rebrand CBS All Access to Paramount+, and include more original programming from Paramount Studios, such as a 10-part docuseries on the making of The Godfather. Interestingly, unlike AT&T (NYSE:T), which is folding HBO in with the other Time Warner media networks to form HBO Max, Showtime has seen such strong subscriber growth as a standalone service that it won't be absorbed into Paramount+, although you can bet that there will likely be a bundling discount for those who sign up for both.
Meanwhile, an economic recovery will likely be very good for ViacomCBS' advertising revenues, which, despite a recovery from the second quarter, still ended the third quarter down some 6% versus last year. A vaccine rollout also may get people back in movie theaters, which will help lead to a recovery in Paramount Studios' theatrical revenues.
ViacomCBS was a truly out-of-favor value stock even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. So if CEO Bob Bakish's plan to turn the company around pays off, as it appears to be doing, there could be even larger gains for this unloved stock in 2021.