September 2nd, 2015
by Richard Stavros
In the wake of the most severe market correction since 2011, we believe the best deals for income-producing stocks can be found among U.S. companies.
This is one of the conclusions we reached in part one of a two-part Global Income Edge Special Report. My colleague Ben Shepherd and I will be presenting a review of various industry sectors, how they have held up, and for subscribers, what bargains they offer.
Of course, we cannot be sure that the bottom has been reached in the market correction, but the fact that U.S. GDP grew at 3.7% in the second quarter suggests U.S stocks are a good bet. We have been playing the U.S. recovery for some time now, unveiling a Buy American portfolio in February.
However, finding undervalued income investment opportunities, even after a market correction, is still going to be difficult for the following reasons:
- Flight to Quality: Specific companies could become overbought.
- Increased Volatility.
- Stimulus and Buybacks: Years of stimulus and corporate stock buybacks mean zombie companies are hiding among true performers
To cut through that noise we identified companies whose price-to-earnings ratios had fallen near their historical averages, and then applied other metrics, as well as our valuation model, to find income opportunities.
In our sector review, we have identified a number of companies that may be considered potential investments. We believe it is still too soon to begin adding to the portfolio as we believe markets still have not fully stabilized.
This exercise is mainly designed to offer guideposts to investors as to the companies and industries that GIE is tracking that may be added to the portfolio in the future.
Given its typical safe harbor status, on the surface it was surprising to see that utilities sector stock values fell by more than 4 percentage points, or as much as the broad market S&P 500 index on the worst days of the correction.
But when you looked closer, some names held their value better than others. The market favored companies with greater renewable energy exposure or utilities that were located in faster growing markets.
We have long been anticipating the implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, which regulated carbon emissions, and makes firms with greater exposure to renewables and natural gas more valuable.
We were a little disappointed by how few real undervalued opportunities there were in the consumer defensive sector when looking at PE ratios and which firms dropped to near their historical averages. This is no doubt because everyone has gone defensive.
Nevertheless, showing up on our screens, we can report that Conservative Holding Unilever (NYSE: UL) continued to be an undervalued opportunity after the correction.
Even the Campbell Soup Company (NYSE: CPB), the ultimate Consumer Defensive, was also slight overvalued in our dividend discount model. Though as previously noted it's likely a result of an investor flight to safety that has pushed valuations up.
We continue to view the entire REIT sector generally undervalued or oversold as many investors left the sector in anticipation of the Federal Reserve raising rates. But with most forecasts for gradual increases, we believe investors will be compelled to return to higher yielding REITs sooner rather than later.
In fact, a recent Credit Suisse Report supports this view, before the correction, they found that REITs traded at a 10% discount to NAV vs. an historical average of just 1%. The bank has said that rate fears are overblown and investors should buy REITS.