Just as we often examine companies that may be rising past their fair values, we can also find companies trading at what may be bargain prices. While many investors would rather have nothing to do with stocks 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.
Drilling deep for value stocks
Though consumers may be relishing lower costs at the pump due to oil prices hitting a four-year low, integrated oil and gas companies are an absolute mess. The prospect of lower price realizations, as well as the potential for a global growth slowdown, has investors concerned.
Take oil giant Chevron (NYSE:CVX) as a perfect example. Chevron shares lost about 20% of their value in a matter of months, nearly mirroring the drop in oil prices. In fact, the company's 2015 EPS forecast has fallen by 10% over the past three months due to concerns that oil and gas producers simply won't be as energized to increase production with oil near $80 per barrel.
However, Chevron has a lot going for it that should put the company on investors' radars, even with oil hovering near a four-year low.
For starters, Chevron has one of the most diversified asset portfolios among energy companies. This isn't just your run-of-the-mill oil and gas producer. It has made more than two dozen natural gas field finds off the coast of Australia, which should perfectly position Chevron to serve the rapidly growing Southeast Asian market in the coming decades. It also has oil assets in some of the most lucrative shale deposits in the U.S., such as the Permian Basin. In short, it's geographically set to thrive as global energy demand needs rise.
Further, Chevron is a dividend aristocrat, having boosted its payout in 27 consecutive years. With its current payout approaching 4% and its payout ratio at only 42% based on next year's reduced earnings estimates, it's safe to assume that Chevron's dividend has a number of years of additional increases on the way. At just 11 times forward earnings, this is a value stock in the energy sector that you should have on your radar.
Sometimes boring is a good thing
Some businesses are inherently unexciting, and companies that specialize in life insurance, pension, and asset management assistance could arguably head that list. However, boring companies can occasionally make for the best investments, as they tend to be less volatile and can outperform in both good and bad economic environments.
Take life insurance and financial products provider Aegon (NYSE:AEG), which has been smacked around in recent week on fears that global growth could be slowing. Based in the Netherlands, Aegon finds itself at a bit more risk of a European growth slowdown than many of its U.S. peers.
However, this value stock could have one big catalyst on the horizon: rising interest rates. In the U.S., the Federal Reserve has moved to put QE3 in the rearview mirror, which could have the effect of boosting interest rates in the U.S., given that QE3 involved the purchase of long-term U.S. Treasury bonds intended to help keep rates down. Life insurance and financial-product providers like Aegon thrive in higher-interest-rate environments because they're often sitting on huge cash positions vis-a-vis their investment portfolios, and any uptick in rates could lead to significantly better returns on the money they're managing.
Another point to consider is that when the stock market becomes volatile, that's precisely when investors might consider turning toward an asset management company like Aegon. Though stagnant growth environments can lead to potentially choppy growth, they present an opportunity for Aegon to establish new relationships with customers around the globe and to build its brand.
Lastly, Aegon just keeps delivering, even in what could be described as unfavorable market conditions in ex.-U.S. markets. In the second quarter Aegon saw its life insurance product sales improve in Asia and the U.S., which should be two key markets moving forward, while its overall net income jumped 43%. Additionally, gross deposits rose 3% to $16.5 billion, and return on equity improved to 8.8%.
Currently valued at just 13 times forward earnings and sporting a dividend yield nearing 4%, Aegon is a surprisingly underfollowed value stock that should be on investors' radars.
Could this value stock be the Core of your portfolio?
Lastly, I'll make a U-turn and steer you right back to the oil and gas sector for a closer look at oil and gas technology and services company Core Laboratories (NYSE:CLB), which looks quite tempting after an earnings-based sell-off.
Last week Core Laboratories reported a profit of $1.53 per share, up 12.5% from the $1.36 it reported in the year-ago period and $0.02 ahead of the Street's projections. Revenue, however, rose by just 1% to $276.1 million and missed Wall Street's estimates by $9 million.
But current-quarter revenue wasn't the problem. Looking ahead, Core Labs warned that lower profitability from Russia and reduced activity in Southern Iraq would push Q4 sales to $275 million-$280 million and EPS to a range of $1.53-$1.56. This is down from a prior projection of $1.56-$1.61 in EPS and below the $285 million in revenue that the Street expected.
Still, I see plenty of potential for this reservoir optimization specialist that helps oil and gas companies improve their production efficiency from sampling through recovery and production. Keep in mind that even though global economic growth may ebb and flow, the need for oil and gas is only going to rise over the long run as emerging markets become more industrialized and their energy needs grow. This puts Core Labs at the forefront of the oil and gas recovery process, especially in the tougher-to-reach deepwater asset recovery projects, where it's poised to benefit around the globe.
Core Labs' value is also quite reasonable after falling more than 40% since April. With a forward P/E now below 20, a dividend yield that's jumped to 1.4%, and a long-term growth rate that I suspect will average 10% or better, this recovery optimizer could be ripe for the picking.
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.
The Motley Fool owns shares of, and recommends Core Laboratories. It also recommends Chevron. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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