Just as we examine companies each week that may be rising past their fair value, we can also find companies trading at what may be bargain prices. While many investors would rather have nothing to do with companies wallowing at 52-week lows, I think it makes a lot of sense to determine whether the market has overreacted to a company's bad news, just as we often do when the market reacts to good news.
Here's a look at three fallen angels trading near their 52-week lows that could be worth buying.
Planting the seed
Sometimes your crop of investments just doesn't grow as expected. This has been the case this year with fertilizer producers of all forms. A tough global growth environment, the end of a major fertilizer cartel in Russia, and uncooperative input costs have pressured profits across the board, whether one is discussing phosphate or nitrogen-based producers. In the past couple of days this has caused the floor to finally fall out from under nitrogen-based fertilizer products maker Terra Nitrogen (NYSE:TNH).
A lot of eyes in this sector are squarely on CF Industries (NYSE:CF), the 800-pound gorilla that dictates how the sector performs. CF, which makes both nitrogen and phosphate fertilizer products, noted in its third-quarter report that net sales dropped 19%. Net income fell a more dramatic 42% as prices dropped steeply from the year-ago period, including nitrogen-based granular urea, which fell 28% in price per ton.
Although no specific news has highlighted Terra Nitrogen's tumble, it's possible that emotional traders are jumping ship, given CF's unimpressive results. As for me, I'd take advantage of what could be an overreaction and dip my toes into the fertilizer market.
It could be a few quarters before fertilizer supply normalizes due to Uralkali's break from the cartel, but it seems silly to imagine that fertilizer demand will slump for too much longer, given that farmers are desperate to improve crop yield and millions of people around the world are starving. If there were ever a play on paper that made a world of sense, it's the fertilizer industry. Furthermore, as a master-limited partnership, Terra Nitrogen pays out a premium sector dividend that currently yields 4.7% -- more than $8 per share!
I'm not brave enough to call a bottom in fertilizer prices here, but I'd certainly suggest that it could be time to start planting some bullish seeds with Terra Nitrogen.
Double down on this rental giant
When you've been doing this weekly series as long as I have, you're bound to come across a few duplicate picks. That's what we have here today with residential REIT AvalonBay Communities (NYSE:AVB).
AvalonBay tends to cater to a slightly more affluent rental consumer than the majority of its peers. Under normal circumstances you might think that would hurt its occupancy rate relative to cheaper apartment-home communities, but it has actually provided AvalonBay with some of the highest occupancy rates, best tenants, and lowest turnover in the industry.
At last check in the third-quarter, AvalonBay delivered funds from operations of $1.18 per share, topping Wall Street's expectations despite a year-over-year decline (which was due to the absence of property sales). Overall economic occupancy increased 0.2%, and the company delivered a 4.4% increase in overall rental revenue.
"So why is everyone so glum on AvalonBay?" you ask. The reason is primarily interest rates. Low lending rates spur home-buying, which is not what AvalonBay, an operator of nearly 82,600 apartment homes, wants to see. If rates stay low, it could pressure the company's rental revenue growth.
However, the way I see it -- and this is the reason I made AvalonBay a Basic Needs portfolio selection earlier this year -- interest rates have nowhere to go but up. U.S. consumers have already showed us how spoiled they've become with historically low lending rates by sending mortgage loan originations down 60% from their peak since May. Rates overall are up less than 100 basis points from their lows in May, which by all standards is amazing, yet prospective home-buyers are sitting on their hands. That bodes well for the rental market and AvalonBay's future FFO growth.
A "precious" ETF
As some of you may know, I'm a bit of a skeptic -- and with that skepticism comes a love of hedging my bets.
Over the past year precious metals have been an awful investment, with high-growth technology and health care names soaring to the upside while commodity prices have sunk. Furthermore, with physical gold and silver not paying shareholders any dividends, the recent low-interest-rate environment has kept income seekers away from owning any of these physical metals.
However, I would suggest that now could be the perfect opportunity to take a closer look at the PowerShares DB Precious Metals ETF (NYSEMKT:DBP), which is invested in physical gold and silver at roughly an 80-20 ratio.
One reason I believe this ETF would make for a smart play is simply our precipitous market uptrend. No market goes straight up without a correction, and metal stocks generally feed off of investor fear. An ETF like this could make for a perfect hedge.
On the flip side, though, you would think that the physical demand for metals like gold and silver for conductive purposes would grow along with demand for mobile devices. We don't often think of supply and demand creeping into the equation when it comes to gold and silver, but it can indeed play a role in pricing.
This week's theme is planning for the future. Clearly there are headwinds working against all three companies above. However, the horizon shows plenty of catalysts that could make all three intriguing buys.
Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.
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