I know that saying “This time could be different” is dangerous. But still, when it comes to U.S. stocks, I believe that this time could be different and that the long-awaited (by me, at least) bull market may have begun. As a result, I’m more sure than I’ve ever been during the current bear market that now is the time to find high-quality, cheap stocks to buy and hold for a long time.
Repeating a theme that has recurred throughout this bear market (and one that I identified early on and repeated several times), multiple bank CEOs recently noted that American consumers are still financially in good shape and spending a great deal. But this time, unlike in the past, the news sparked a steep rally in the stock market.
Additionally, based on what I have heard on Bloomberg and CNBC since the September inflation report last week, more commentators and market players are realizing that, despite the high CPI reading, actual inflation is slowing rapidly, and the Fed is not going to keep hiking rates for much longer.
Finally, we’ve reached Q4, which tends to be better for stocks, and even Morgan Stanley’s permabear, Mike Wilson, perhaps realizing that the bears are about to be burnt and his dire predictions won’t materialize, is becoming bullish.
Anyway, for those investors who think that “this time might be different,” here are seven quality stocks selling at a discount.
|BAC||Bank of America||$34.88|
|LOCO||El Pollo Loco||$11.24|
It’s a perfect time to invest in large banks, as the Fed’s interest-rate hikes are meaningfully boosting their net interest income (or NII) while their valuations are at bargain-basement levels. With their NII likely to remain higher than it has been for many years and fears of a recession overdone, large banks are among the best stocks to buy and hold at this point.
Despite the intense warnings delivered recently by JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon, the bank’s actual Q3 results, delivered on Oct. 14, were much better than expected. Specifically, its Q3 earnings per share came in at $3.12, well above analysts’ average outlook of $2.89, while its top line climbed 10.4% year-over-year to $32.72 billion, $840 million above the mean estimate.
Moreover, JPM hiked its 2022 net interest income guidance to roughly $61.5 billion, excluding investments, up from its previous outlook of approximately $58 billion.
The forward price-earnings ratio of JPM stock is a very low 9.13. Thus, it is one of the quality stocks selling at a discount.
Bank of America (BAC)
Unsurprisingly, Bank of America’s (NYSE:BAC) Q3 results also meaningfully beat analysts’ average estimates. Its Q3 EPS came in at 81 cents, above analysts’ mean outlook of 78 cents, and its revenue climbed 8% YOY to $24.5 billion, versus the average estimate of $23.5 billion.
The bank’s NII soared 24% YOY to $13.8 billion,” driven by benefits from higher interest rates and solid loan growth.” And CEO Brian Moynihan reported that the bank’s” consumer clients “…remained resilient.”
Further, the bank expects its NII to climb “at least” $1.25 billion in the current quarter versus Q3 levels. As a result, it anticipates that its NII for the year’s second half will come in at about $2.6 billion+, versus its previous outlook of $2 billion. And the bank expects its NII to rise still further in 2023.
The forward P/E ratio of BAC stock is just nine.
General Electric (GE)
General Electric’s (NYSE:GE) largest, most profitable business is its Aviation unit. It is heating up, while the company’s overall revenue is poised to surge. And the conglomerate’s Healthcare and Power units are poised to do very well this quarter. Despite all this, the valuations of GE stock are pretty low.
A few clues cumulatively indicate that the conglomerate’s Aviation business is taking off. First, as I’ve pointed out in previous columns, pent-up demand has caused spending on travel to surge, rapidly filling airlines’ coffers and causing them to buy new planes. Since GE sells and maintains planes’ engines, it should benefit from the airlines’ resurgence.
More directly, GE CFO Caroline Dybeck Happe last month reported that, in Q4, the company anticipates ” strong growth, organic growth, both from aerospace and healthcare.” Moreover, the CFO expects the company’s Power unit to generate a great deal of service revenue this quarter. And she said that the conglomerate’s overall revenue would climb at least 10% YOY this quarter while its profitability would be relatively strong.
Despite all this good news, the forward price-earnings ratio of GE stock is a low 14.9, while its trailing price-sales ratio is a very tiny one.
Speaking of heating up, InMode (NASDAQ:INMD) is clearly in that category. As I reported in an April column, InMode’s “technology enables medical procedures that traditionally require surgery to be done non-invasively in doctors’ offices,” and INMD focuses on providing products that improve individuals’ appearance.
I theorized that the resurgence of travel would boost InMode’s results this year. It looks like that theory is proving to be correct, as the company recently reported much better-than-expected preliminary Q3 results.
Specifically, INMD now expects to generate Q3 revenue of $120.5 million to $120.9 million, versus analysts’ average estimate of $106 million. And on the bottom line, the company noted that its EPS, excluding one-time items, would set a quarterly record of 64 cents to 65 cents.
Based on its expected Q3 EPS, the company’s EPS annual run rate would be roughly $2.56 (64 cents x4). That means the shares, trading around $36, are changing hands at a price-earnings ratio of just 14 times (36/2.56). That’s a very low valuation, considering that, on average, analysts expect its top line to jump to $508 million next year from $441 million this year. Which makes it one of the top quality stocks selling at a discount.
Interest in Splunk (NASDAQ:SPLK), which provides data-analysis tools, is clearly surging. Private equity firm Hellman & Friedman began buying SPLK stock in November 2021 and now has a 7.87% stake in the company. And according to multiple reports, Starboard Value, known as an “activist investor,” has accumulated a little less than a 5% stake in SPLK.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Starboard intends “to push the software maker to take action to boost its stock price.” Starboard tends to invest in companies that can take action to raise their profits or sell themselves, the newspaper noted.
Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) earlier this year tried to buy SPLK for over $20 billion, the journal noted. The current market capitalization of SPLK stock, even after its recent gains, is just $12.4 billion.
Given Cisco’s earlier interest in buying the company, along with Starboard’s stake in it, there’s a good chance that Splunk will be acquired for somewhere around $15 billion to $18 billion, making SPLK stock very attractive at its current levels.
And even if the company doesn’t get acquired, Starboard is likely to find ways of meaningfully boosting its bottom line. The shares are currently trading at a reasonable forward price-earnings ratio of 37x.
El Pollo Loco (LOCO)
El Pollo Loco (NASDAQ:LOCO) is another one of my picks that has “made good” recently. In a column last month, I theorized that the grilled chicken maker would benefit from increased health consciousness in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. I noted that the company had launched a successful promotion of its “Shredded Beef Birria dish.”
Recently, LOCO announced the news that shows that it has a great deal of confidence in its own outlook. Specifically, on Oct. 12, the company stated that it would pay a special $1.50 per share dividend and spend as much as $20 million on buying back its own shares.
The Street has loved LOCO’s news, as the stock has soared about 25% (2.16/9.10) since the market close on Oct. 11. Yet the name is still trading at a low forward price-earnings ratio of 14.85 (.76/11.3), while its trailing price-sales ratio is a tiny 0.89.
Also, encouragingly, LOCO recently hired Maria Hollandsworth as its COO. Hollandsworth was “Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Operations Services from 2013 to 2018” for Jack in the Box. The fact that an executive with such a prestigious resume would join LOCO is another indication that its prospects are very strong at this point. Therefore, I consider LOCO to be one of the quality stocks selling at a discount.
Recently, drug maker GSK (NYSE:GSK) has received good news about a few vaccine candidates. On Oct. 13, it reported that its RSV vaccine candidate was 83% effective against the disease, reaching its primary endpoint.
On Oct. 7, the FDA approved the drug maker’s “Boostrix vaccine for pregnant women in their third trimester to prevent pertussis, or whooping cough, in infants,” Seeking Alpha noted. And finally, on Oct. 17, the one-dose version of its Menveo shot, a vaccine for three varieties of potentially deadly meningococcal bacteria, was given the nod by the agency.
Vaccines are lucrative for companies because they are often administered to tens of millions rather than just sick individuals.
Also worth noting is that, on Oct. 5, GSK announced that its Jemperli drug, a treatment for non-small cell lung cancer, had met the primary endpoint “in a Phase 2 trial.”
GSK stock has a trailing price-earnings ratio of just 12.2 and a huge 7.1% dividend yield. Thus, making GSK among the top quality stocks selling at a discount.
On the date of publication, Larry Ramer owned shares of INMD and GE. His wife owned LOCO stock. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.