With many financial headlines describing "frothy" markets at or near "all-time highs," investors may think most stocks are extremely expensive. But in every market, there's usually something out there that's cheap, if you look hard enough.
Although high-flying growth stocks have sold off recently on interest-rate fears, many are in fact still expensive on traditional metrics. Yet based on earnings estimates for this current year, a number of cyclical companies are still priced quite cheaply, suggesting that investors don't believe the current reopening "boom" will have legs beyond this year.
But if you believe JPMorgan Chase (JPM 0.85%) CEO Jamie Dimon that the economy is set for a boom that could last into 2023, there won't be any cyclical slowdown happening any time soon. If that's the case, these cheap value stocks are screaming buys.
We are just at the beginning of what looks to be a highly profitable upcycle for Micron (MU 5.15%), a leading manufacturer of DRAM memory and NAND flash. Coming off two recessionary years for chip stocks, along with the accelerated digitization of the digital economy, many semiconductors are in a severe shortage right now.
But since Micron's commodity-like products are price-takers, a shortage will increase the price at which Micron will be able to sell its bits, leading to fattening profit margin and free cash flow. Research website DRAMeXchange forecasts DRAM prices to increase 18%-23% just in this quarter alone, even as Micron sells more bits at a lower cost per bit than last year. Analysts now expect $5.50 in earnings this fiscal year (ending in August) and $10.76 next year, although the most bullish analyst has Micron's earnings at $15.50 in 2022. Yet Micron is down over 10% from its recent highs and trades near $85, less than eight times the average EPS estimate for 2022.
Of course, Micron is notoriously cyclical, so investors may be thinking we are nearing an inevitable peak. Meanwhile, Micron did recently touch all-time highs.
However, Micron has improved its standing in the industry over the past cycle, and was the first memory company to reach both the 1-alpha node in DRAM and the first to achieve 176-layer NAND. In prior cycles, Micron had been a laggard to its Korean competitors.
Now with technology leadership, Micron's earnings and cash flow should make higher highs and higher lows with each cycle. If that holds true, its stock is still cheap.
Kulicke & Soffa
Staying in semiconductor world, Kulicke & Soffa (KLIC 1.20%) is a key equipment supplier to the back-end assembly industry. Its wire bonding and other types of machines connect logic and memory chips in various combinations and connect them into multi-chip packages on printed circuit boards.
Kulicke & Soffa also gives investors a strange example of a company that reports terrific earnings while the stock goes in the opposite direction. Not only did Kulicke & Soffa beat revenue and earnings expectations last week, with revenue up 125.7% and operating income up a whopping 648.6% over the prior year, but management also forecast solid sequential growth for the current quarter.
As was the case with Micron, with a company that has been so cyclical in the past, and with revenue up more than 100%, investors are probably anticipating when the next downturn will happen. However, CEO Fusen Chen said on the conference call with analysts that this strong cycle could last for years:
The most comparable period of underinvestment in the past was during 2008, 2009, which then led to an extended period of strong demand. In addition to these two transitional drivers, I would like to clearly highlight the more material and secure long-term trend such as the anticipated data explosion, supported by global 5G, IoT, and artificial intelligence adoption. The electric and autonomous vehicle transition, and also the increasing capital intensity needed to support next generation, higher density semiconductor assembly requirements. These new applications are expected to create additional layers of demand, structurally supporting the above average semiconductor growth over the coming years.
Modern applications such as 5G and artificial intelligence need more complex systems on chips, which puts a great emphasis on back-end assembly equipment. So, it's quite possible that Kulicke & Soffa's recent strong results could be a new "baseline" above its traditional revenue range.
In addition, Kulicke & Soffa is innovating in the rising mini-LED market, a new kind of display technology that is replacing traditional LCD or OLED screens. Though it's a smaller portion of revenue, Kulicke & Soffa will hit the high end of its mini-LED equipment revenue expectations this year and could be in for much more growth as mini-LED costs come down as the technology receives greater adoption. Last quarter, K&S acquired mini-LED company Uniquarta to enhance its technological advantage in this new segment.
After its recent sell-off, Kulicke & Soffa is cheap. Having earned $1.90 over the first six months of the fiscal year year and guiding for $1.35 next quarter, K&S could earn well over $4 per share this fiscal year. When stripping out the extra $9 of cash on its balance sheet, K&S stock is trading under 10 times this year's likely earnings figures.
Turning to the cannabis industry, U.S. multistate operator (MSO) Ayr Wellness (AYRW.F 5.56%) is another bargain-priced stock -- at least compared with its U.S. cannabis peers. With most U.S. MSOs trading at a mid-teens EV/EBITDA multiple on 2022 EBITDA estimates, Ayr trades only around seven times that figure.
Why so much cheaper? Well, Ayr operated in only two states to begin 2020, but by year end, it will have a presence in seven. Run by former bankers and private equity executives from some of the country's biggest banking houses, Ayr has aggressively consolidated cannabis companies across several highly attractive states across the United States. So it's quite possible the market isn't fully appreciating the company's future earnings power, since Ayr is still in the process of closing all of these new acquisitions. From the current base in Nevada and Massachusetts, key new states include limited license medical states of Florida and Pennsylvania and the recently legalized states of Arizona and New Jersey.
The company's opportunity in Florida is especially interesting. Ayr bought Liberty Health Sciences last year, which at the time had 31 dispensaries. Liberty was underperforming its peers because of some supply and cultivation issues, but Ayr believes it can bring Liberty's grow performance up to the level it's achieving in other states. It appears Ayr's opportunity is now growing in Florida, as the company has added three more dispensaries and just opened its 34th dispensary in the state.
Having pulled back recently with other growth stocks, the U.S. cannabis stocks could get a big boost if Congress rolls back federal prohibition in some way. If that happens, Ayr could benefit handsomely, especially if it meets its 2022 profit guidance.