With the S&P 500 index gaining roughly 29% over the last year, it might seem like cheap stocks are harder to find right now. The good news for investors is that the stock market's gains have mostly been driven by a small selection of mega-cap tech giants, and there are still many promising companies trading at big discounts.
So, while multitrillion-dollar valuations for companies including Apple (AAPL 0.48%) and Microsoft (MSFT 0.85%) are shaping the broader market narrative, investors have opportunities to score big wins with smaller names that are currently underappreciated. Read on for a look at two stocks that offer attractive risk-reward profiles and strong return potential in 2022 and beyond.
1. Zynga: This beaten-down game maker has big upside
Zynga (ZNGA) stock kept falling across 2021's trading, and I kept buying. Despite a short-lived pricing rally after the company's third-quarter report arrived with better-than-expected performance and guidance, the video game publisher's stock has continued to languish. Shares now trade in the range of a two-year low, and the stock price is down by nearly half from the 52-week high it hit early last year.
2021 was generally a challenging year for video game stocks. After enjoying huge engagement surges at the height of pandemic-related restrictions in 2020, top publishers had a harder time delivering eye-catching growth to wow investors. Apple and Alphabet (GOOGL 0.77%) (GOOG 0.69%) have also been flexing their platform-holding muscles, changing the way user data is tracked and creating major shifts in the digital advertising market.
Zynga has been making some significant acquisitions in the hyper-casual, ad-focused gaming market over the last couple of years, and privacy changes on iOS and Android and the possibility of additional disruptions have admittedly dampened the gaming publisher's outlook. It's true that not being able to accurately target ads to viewers based on their personal data will close off some growth opportunities for Zynga. But the company should still be able to squeeze out wins in ads-based gaming, and it's not as if the company doesn't have other growth avenues to pursue.
The overall mobile games market still looks poised for strong growth through the next decade and beyond, and Zynga is branching out and will begin releasing games for consoles this year. The company's development and marketing expertise also positions it to be a winner in emerging interactive content media, including augmented reality and the metaverse.
With shares trading at a big discount after a tough year, Zynga is a strong buy for investors who want to build a stake in the future of gaming and interactive content.
2. Altria Group: Yield that smokes the rate of inflation
In some ways, it's easy to see why the market is down on Altria (MO 1.68%) stock. Unit volume sales for its core cigarette products have been declining for years. The company's growth initiatives with its iQOS heated tobacco products have been hampered by a recent patent infringement ruling barring the products from being imported and sold in the U.S. Big investments in electronic-cigarette-maker Juul and cannabis company Cronos Group (NASDAQ:CRON) have also been slow to pan out.
Altria's share price has slid roughly 30% over the last five years, but now could be a smart time for income-seeking investors to start building positions in the stock. Despite declining unit sales, the company has managed to grow sales roughly 9% across the last half-decade, and the stock looks cheaply valued at current prices.
Altria trades at roughly 10 times this year's expected earnings, and the company's relatively low price-to-earnings multiple could help the stock hold up well if volatility comes calling for the broader market. Altria's brand strength and the addictive nature of its products also give the business strong pricing power. If production costs increase within a reasonable threshold, the company should be able to pass the expenses on to consumers in the form of price hikes and keep its hefty dividend payments flowing.
With the stock currently yielding roughly 7.4%, Altria pays a dividend that exceeds even today's elevated inflation rate. There's a good chance that investors can look forward to small but steady payout increases, as well. The company ranks as a Dividend King and has increased its quarterly payout 56 times over the last 52 years.
Sin stocks may not be for everyone, but Altria's conservative valuation and massive dividend yield make it a great pick for investors seeking low-risk investments that can help you thrive amid market volatility and high inflation.