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All Contents © 2019The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Dan Burrows, Contributing Writer
| May 3, 2017
Your debts are under control, your emergency fund is fully funded, and you are maxing out your retirement savings. And, lucky you, you still have $1,000 left over to invest in stocks. There are options.
You could gain instant exposure to shares of hundreds of companies by plowing the money into a low-cost fund that tracks the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index fund such as the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (symbol SPY). Simple and cheap. Or, you could buy a single share of a high-priced stock like Amazon.com (AMZN) and you might not even have enough left over to cover your $99 Amazon Prime membership fee. But it’s risky putting all of your eggs in one basket. Another approach is to spread the money over several promising low-priced stocks.
The one wrinkle to buying shares of multiple stocks is trading commissions. Even at just $4.95 per online trade at Fidelity or Schwab, investing in 10 different stocks means your $1,000 investment is already down 5%. A workaround: Open a free Robinhood account and make no-commission trades on your smartphone using the brokerage’s app. (There's a monthly fee to upgrade to a Robinhood Gold premium account.) Here are nine good stocks under $20 to consider for your portfolio.
Data is as of May 2, 2017, unless otherwise indicated. Click on ticker-symbol links for current share prices and more.
(Stocks are listed in alphabetical order. Dividend yield is calculated based on the last four quarterly dividend payments. Analyst ratings are per Zacks and Thomson Reuters.)
Share price: $10.32
52-week range: $3.45 - $15.55
Shares in semiconductor manufacturer Advanced Micro Devices tumbled on May 2, a day after earnings for the first quarter failed to exceed analysts' expectations. That disappointed momentum traders who had bid up AMD nearly fourfold over the past year. But for long-term investors willing to take a risk, this setback affords a chance to bet on AMD's prospects at a considerably lower price level.
"Overall, though the stock will likely be weak in overreaction to the results, we believe a host of positive catalysts are still to come during the remainder of 2017 and our buy thesis remains very much intact,” said analysts at Canaccord Genuity.
AMD is concentrating on the market for graphics processing units (GPUs) -- the brains that allow computers to render images -- because of the growth prospects. GPUs are in heavy demand by rapidly expanding industries such as data centers, gaming and virtual reality. At the same time, AMD continues to compete with Intel (INTC) in the traditional business of making central processing units for computers.
The company is a leader in the gaming market, being the sole supplier of certain custom chips for both Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4. As such, AMD is set to benefit from Microsoft's launch of its new Scorpio gaming console later this year. Don't be surprised is a successful debut of the console system gives AMD stock a boost.
Analysts at Stifel, who rate shares at hold, say the company is on track for market-share gains and forecast a return to profitability on an adjusted basis this year. (AMD lost 4 cents a share on an adjusted basis in the first quarter.) More broadly, analysts who track AMD are split between high optimism and caution. Of the 18 analysts surveyed by Zacks, nine call it a strong buy, eight say it's a hold and one has it at strong sell.
Share price: $7.90
52-week range: $4.18 - $9.37
The world's largest steelmaker is expected to post big jumps in revenue and earnings this year, thanks in part to growing demand in Europe and emerging markets. Industry group the World Steel Association expects European demand for steel to inch up 0.5% this year and 1.4% in 2018, driven by better-than-expected economic growth. Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal derives nearly half its revenue from Europe.
The improving economic situations in Brazil, Russia and elsewhere are also adding to demand. Perhaps most importantly, China is slowing production in response to the global steel glut. The threat of tariffs in the U.S. also helps the outlook for prices.
Against that better fundamental backdrop, ArcelorMittal shares look attractively priced relative to growth prospects. Earnings per share are forecast to increase 30% this year on revenue growth of 17%, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters. However, the stock trades at just 9.5 times forward earnings, or about half the forward price-earnings ratio of the S&P 500.
Further, analysts at Credit Suisse say the global steel glut is actually a myth, and contend that the pressure on raw materials prices helps ArcelorMittal more than other industry players.
The analysts rate the stock at outperform (buy, essentially). Their price target of $11.71 implies a 50% gain in the next 12 months or so.
Share price: $18.08
52-week range: $12.13 - $18.49
CalAmp is a small technology company with big aspirations. It specializes in wireless communications products that allows machines to talk to each other, as well as collect, monitor and report data to their human operators. It acquired vehicle tracking company LoJack in 2016. Since the Internet of Things -- the movement to connect everyday devices from appliances to automobiles -- is growing at a brisk pace, CalAmp looks to be in the right place at the right time.
Equity research firm William Blair expects to see more cost savings from the LoJack deal. And further investments in the business should shift LoJack's "trajectory back to growth." Turning LoJack around won't be easy, analysts say, but William Blair applauds CalAmp's progress thus far, and believes the company can wring profits out of the technology.
Shares are up 25% year-to-date and could have more upside ahead, analysts say. Of the eight analysts surveyed by Zacks who cover the stock, four say it's a strong buy and four say it's a hold. Their average price target of $20 suggests the stock can rise 11% in a year's time.
Share price: $14.89
52-week range: $11.51 - $15.93
Shares in Darling Ingredients, a rendering and biodiesel fuel company, are enjoying a great start to 2017. The stock is up 17% so far this year versus a 7% gain for the S&P 500.
The company is riding momentum from its strong finish to 2016, and ongoing investments in its biofuels business should continue to carry it this year and beyond. Investors are optimistic about Darling's joint venture with Valero Energy (VLO), to operate a processing plant in Louisiana to turn animal fat and used cooking oil into diesel fuel. A plant expansion is slated to be completed by the second quarter of 2018.
Investors also like the fact that the company continues to pare its debt. As of Dec. 31, 2016, Darling had long-term debt of $1.73 billion, down from $1.89 billion in the same period a year earlier.
Analysts expect more strong gains for the stock in the months ahead. All three analysts covering Darling rate shares a strong buy, according to Zacks. Their average price target of $17.17 implies a gain of 15% for Darling stock in the next year. With expected earnings-per-share growth of 9% this year and 21% next year, per Zacks, the stock looks reasonably priced as it trades at 21 times expected earnings.
Share price: $18.90
52-week range: $11.31 - $19.03
HP is another technology company benefitting from a better market for PCs. The world's second-largest maker or PCs enjoyed year-over-year shipment growth of nearly 7% in the final quarter of 2016, IDC says. It was the third consecutive quarter of increased shipments, which topped 15 million units for the first time since the end of 2014. IDC further notes that HP added to its share of the U.S. market. It now accounts for 31% of domestic PC sales.
HP is in about as mature an industry as you can get, but that doesn't mean value can't be found in its stock. Indeed, the market appears to have figured this out. Shares in HP are up 27% year-to-date versus a 7% gain for the S&P 500. And yet they remain reasonably priced. The stock trades at 12 times future earnings, according to a survey by Zacks. That's cheaper than the S&P 500, which goes for 17.6 times expected earnings for the next 12 months, according to FactSet.
HP stock has appreciated so much this year that some analysts are becoming more cautious. According to Zacks, five say it's a strong buy and one rates it at buy, but five call it a hold. Shares are currently trading near the top of the 52-week price range, but keep in mind that at a yield of 2.7% HP does offer a decent dividend based on the last four quarters of payments.
Share price: $12.95
52-week range: $8.05 - $14.74
Huntington Bancshares is a regional bank based in Columbus, Ohio. A recent merger with FirstMerit Bank expanded operations to Michigan, Wisconsin and Indianapolis. That expansion across the Rust Belt could prove to be beneficial if the White House gets its way on trade protectionism, corporate tax cuts and support for the coal industry.
Cost saving from the acquisition could also help Huntington get a grip on its expenses. The bank missed analysts' average earnings forecast for the first quarter because of higher costs. Investors should be reasonably confident that it will. The company is projected to produce per-share profit growth of 8.5% this year and 15% next year, according to Zacks.
Of the 15 analysts covering the stock, seven say it's a strong buy, one rates it at buy, and seven call it a hold. A recent upgrade to Buy from Hold at Jefferies could be the first of many if Huntington can bounce back with a better second-quarter showing.
The earnings report won't come out until this summer, however. In the meantime, investors will have to make due with a dividend yield of 2.3%. That's more than competitive with the regional bank average, which stood at just 1.63% at the beginning of 2017.
Share price: $18.48
52-week range: $10.21 - $19.53
KeyCorp, the Cleveland-based regional bank, is starting 2017 on the right foot by delivering better-than-expected revenue and earnings for the first quarter. The happy surprise was due to cost savings from its 2016 acquisition of First Niagara Bank and lower losses on credit.
Analysts at Wedbush said KeyCorp is "firing on all cylinders" and has a lot of momentum going forward. "The first quarter tends to be seasonally the weakest and momentum usually builds throughout the year," Wedbush notes. "Additionally, the First Niagara acquisition is performing better than expected."
Wedbush rates shares at Outperform with a $22 price target. That gives the stock implied upside of 18% over the next year or so. The wider research community is split, but it also sees solid gains ahead. Six analysts say KeyCorp is a strong buy, one rates it at buy and nine call it a hold, according to Zacks. However, their average target price of $20 still calls for price appreciation of 9% over the next 12 months.
In another positive for the bank, rising interest rates will ease pressure on its profit margins, analysts note. The improved outlook for banks and the fruits of the First Niagara acquisition look to make shares a winner this year.
Share price: $8.59
52-week range: $5.60 - $9.50
United Community Financial Corp. is the holding company for the Home Savings and Loan Company of Youngstown, Ohio. It's a small bank, but it's getting big praise from the analyst community. Boenning & Scattergood says its transformation into a "formidable" commercial banking operation is "nothing short of impressive." B&S rates the stock at outperform, and it's not alone. The three analysts tracked by Thomson Reuters all say it's a buy.
The bank has been active in the mergers and acquisitions markets, which could spur a big jump in operating profits, B&S says. Companies often need to bolster their funding when interest rates are moving up.
Shares in United Community appear to be taking a breather after a strong 2016. The stock gained more than 50% last year and is currently down about 3% year-to-date. The pause shouldn't last long, if analysts are correct. Indeed, they're looking for the stock to rise 16% in the next 12 months.
Be forewarned that this is a very small stock. The company’s market capitalization – share price times number of shares outstanding – is just $424 million. The aforementioned regional bank KeyCorp has a market capitalization of more than $20 billion. Small stocks tend to be more volatile than large ones.
Share price: $16.25
52-week range: $11.68 - $17.60
Analysts are hardly united in their view on Vishay Intertechnology, but the stock is cheap enough to merit a closer look from bargain hunters. Like AMD, Vishay manufactures semiconductors and is at the mercy of the cyclical market for computer chips. Fortunately, the market appears to be in an upswing, Stifel notes.
In light of solid demand, especially in Asia, Vishay's profit margins should rise off depressed levels as the market for semiconductors improves. And market researcher International Data Corporation notes that global shipments of personal computers are stabilizing after five years of declines.
Despite rising on strong quarterly earnings, it's not a sure thing that this brighter outlook is fully reflected in the share price yet. Vishay’s stock trades at 15 times expected earnings for next year, according to Thomson Reuters, or less than half the forward price-earnings ratio of AMD. That's an attractive valuation for a company forecast to increase its per-share earnings by 22% this year. It's also attractive given that analysts think earnings can deliver annualized gains of 17% over the next half-decade.
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