Fears of an economic slowdown from the recent coronavirus outbreak have sent stocks tumbling into correction territory. As painful as that is to live through, if there's an upside to a market correction, it's that such corrections often overreact and put great companies on sale. Benjamin Graham, the man who taught investing to Warren Buffett -- created a market-beating strategy known as "value investing" around the concept of seeking out those types of discounts.
Graham called people who were willing to put the work into seeking out great values in the hopes of better returns "enterprising investors." By following Graham's strategy, you can buy more shares with the same dollars when the market is offering a sale. That enables your money to grow that much faster when the market returns to normal. If that's a title you're looking to share and a strategy you'd like to follow, then here are three stocks for your consideration that may very well be top value stocks to consider buying this March.
A travel company acutely affected by the coronavirus outbreak
Carnival (NYSE:CCL) saw its shares fall by around 20% in late February, on news that the virus is spreading around the world. Because of close quarters, wet environments, and high mobility, cruise ships often find themselves at the center of easily transmitted airborne illnesses.
While that means its business probably faces risks until a clear treatment or vaccine program is ready, it also means Carnival is likely to be one of the best prepared companies to deal with the virus. After all, taking steps to protect the health of its passengers and crew is already part of Carnival's regimen. That means that while there will probably be a near-term hit to its business, the company has a high probability of rebounding over time.
Looking past this year, Carnival is expected to earn around $4.82 per share in 2021. At a recent share price of $33.46, it trades at less than seven times those anticipated 2021 earnings. Given that the company is expected to show some growth over the next five or so years, that could very well represent a strong value for investors who can stomach the near-term risks.
An energy company less affected by oil prices than you might think
Valero Energy (NYSE:VLO) also saw its shares dip substantially in the back half of February, as oil prices plummeted on fears of a global economic and travel slowdown from the coronavirus. Unlike many energy companies, however, Valero Energy doesn't really make most of its money from the price of oil. Instead, as a refiner, Valero makes most of its money off something called the "crack spread" -- the difference between the price of oil and the price of products refined from it, such as gasoline.
The beauty of that model is that while the company may face some short-term hiccups if it's caught with expensive inventory in a time of falling prices, it's not generally tethered to the price of oil. As a result, it can make money even if oil prices remain stubbornly low for an extended period.
In 2021, analysts are expecting Valero to earn around $8.15 per share. At its recent price of $66.25, that prices Valero at around eight times it anticipated 2021 earnings. Despite the near-term risks, the company is expected to grow its earnings at a decent clip over the next five or so years. That makes now a decent time to consider picking up its shares at a potential value price.
A "rock solid" name in the insurance industry
Prudential Financial (NYSE:PRU) is so focused on maintaining a rock-solid financial position that it uses an actual rock -- the Rock of Gibraltar -- as its corporate symbol. This insurance company is in the business of dealing with disasters and crises. As one with a solid balance sheet, it should be well positioned to weather the near-term storm from an increase in any coronavirus-related claims among its insured.
Despite its obvious and well-publicized strengths, Prudential's shares didn't escape the late February meltdown. Looking past the near-term panic, analysts are expecting the company to earn around $13.68 per share in 2021. At a recent price of $75.45, it's trading at between five and six times those anticipated earnings. With modest earnings growth expected over the next five years, it's a value-priced stock unless things get so much worse that investments start looking like the least of our worries.
Are you ready to follow in Graham and Buffett's footsteps?
As scary as it may seem to put money to work in a time when the market has been panicking, that's exactly the sort of situation that makes value investing shine. If you have what it takes to run toward value while the rest of the market sprints away from it, then now may very well be a great time to go seeking out investments trading at a discount. These three stocks look like they may fit the bill, but for a true enterprising investor in Graham's style, the market could be offering up many other values as well.