This year has been a great one for investors so far. With the S&P 500 up by 19% through late August, gains have again outpaced the long-term average on rising optimism about a post-pandemic growth surge.
Many stocks haven't participated in that wider rally for good reasons such as weakening earnings prospects. Yet some businesses have been unfairly shunned by Wall Street due to temporary challenges like an investment surge by the management team or a growth hangover compared to 2020. That sets up some potentially lucrative buying opportunities if you're willing to hold on through some volatility.
Activision Blizzard's mid-August earnings report was stuffed with good news for investors. The video game developer's core Call of Duty franchise entertains three times as many gamers today as it did two years ago, and users are spending four times as much money within the ecosystem despite a return to more-normal consumer mobility patterns in recent months. "We continue to see robust engagement even as regions continue to reopen," CEO Bobby Kotick told investors.
Kotick and his team are embroiled in a regulatory challenge that has already resulted in some management changes. But the stock's decline so far in 2021 could have more to do with the expected growth slowdown in the industry. Rivals Electronic Arts and Take-Two Interactive are both down this year, too.
Investors willing to hold on through that volatility over the next few quarters might prefer to own the industry leader. Activision has a packed pipeline of content on the way, including expanding the Diablo franchise to the mobile platform. If the company repeats its recent Call of Duty success with that brand and others, then the future is bright for this entertainment stock.
Several consumer packaged-food stocks have been ignored by Wall Street recently, but McCormick stands out as particularly attractive. Sure, the spice and flavorings specialist isn't putting up huge growth numbers. But its latest 8% sales spike constitutes market share gains in the valuable condiments and flavorings niche. The company is likely to grow faster than peers like PepsiCo and General Mills in 2021, partly thanks to that focus.
McCormick brings other great investment factors to the table, including a rising annual cash flow level that just crossed $1 billion. Margins are improving, too, thanks to increased prices and a flood of innovative product releases. And management has demonstrated a willingness to keep cash payouts rising for this Dividend Aristocrat.
These characteristics lay the groundwork for better overall returns for shareholders, especially those buying at a time when many investors are looking elsewhere for growth.
Constellation Brands stock seems to have been unfairly caught up in the sour Wall Street mood for alcoholic beverage growth stocks. Sure, Boston Beer shocked investors recently by signaling an end to the hard seltzer boom that's lifted the beer industry in recent quarters. But Constellation Brands has much more going for it than its Corona branded bet on that niche.
Its Modelo and Pacifico beer franchises are among the fastest growers in the industry, after all. That diverse portfolio is valuable at a time when consumer demand appears to be shifting.
And owners of this beaten-down stock also stand to reap rewards from longer-term bets like Constellation's brewing capacity upgrade, its wine and spirits restructuring, and its ownership of cannabis producer Canopy Growth. In short, this winning stock isn't likely to stay down for long.