In recent weeks, the coronavirus conversation has shifted. We’re starting to talk about the great reopening, the restart of the economy after months of enforced shutdowns. The practical effects will be played out in the various states, as some stay in lockdown while others move, in a range of ways, to restart the business of living.
The results will inform the national debate, whether we’ll see the grim path of a prolonged recession, the rosy case of a V-shaped recovery, or something in between. But a full recovery is for the long-term; closer in, the risks are greater. Writing on the markets for Goldman Sachs, chief US equity strategist David Kostin says, “Basically, all of the good and optimistic outlook is basically priced into the market today. So where the market’s trading now, I would say the asymmetry of upside [is] perhaps 2%, the downside maybe 15%.”
Referring to the risks, Kostin writes, “A single catalyst may not spark a pullback, but a number of concerns and risks exist that we believe… investors are downplaying.” Among the risks Kostin delineates for investors are a possible 15% unemployment rate, companies slashing dividends in the second half of the year, an uneven and dragged-out economic recovery, and the uncertainties of the November Presidential election.
So, coming from this background, it’s significant that the stock analysts at Goldman Sacks are finding bullish calls. Using a more selective, risk-averse approach, fitting for their firm’s general stance, they’ve found a series of compelling Buys in today’s markets. We’ve used the TipRanks database to pull up the details on three of Goldman Sachs’ recent stock picks.
Axalta Coating Systems (AXTA)
Perhaps best known to casual observers as a major NASCAR sponsor, Axalta is a stalwart of the automotive coatings industry. More than just paint and finishes, high-tech industrial coatings seal and protect the surface of the vehicle. Axalta develops and produces coatings for industrial and refinishing applications, as well as for light and commercial vehicles. The company boasts a market share of $4.94 billion, and a line-up of 10 product brands in six distinct niches.
Like many companies, Axalta saw hard times in the first quarter 2020, as EPS declined 8.8% to 31 cents. Looking forward, Wall Street expects to see further declines in Q2, to a net loss of 13 cents. The declines come as the coronavirus economy – with enforced shutdowns – has slowed or stopped both production and sales. AXTA shares have underperformed the broader markets in the current rally, and are still 30% below their late-February peak.
While Axalta is in a doldrums now, 5-star analyst Robert Koort from Goldman Sachs is optimistic that the company can bounce back quickly. He cites experience in China, were Axalta’s refinish business is already improving as that country implements economic restarts in hard-hit regions.
Koort writes, anticipating the US economic reopening, “…looking forward there is basis for optimism. The company is looking at three key variables: lifting of stay-at-home orders impacting the Reﬁnish business, the pace of Auto OEM production following ramp out of shut-downs, and broad consumer demand. Additionally, Axalta expects Reﬁnish customers to get out in front of the demand recovery following the lift of stay-at-home orders, which could drive a restocking-driven demand surge off of currently low inventory levels.”
In line with his upbeat outlook here, Koort has upgraded AXTA stock from Neutral to Buy. His $25 price target implies a 12-month upside potential of 19%. (To watch Koort’s track record, click here)
AXTA shares get a Strong Buy from the analyst consensus rating, based on not fewer than 12 Buy ratings outweighing 4 Holds. Shares are priced low at $19.20, while the $22.38 average price target suggests a modest 6.5% premium in the coming year. (See Axalta stock analysis on TipRanks)
The first stock on our list of Goldman Sacks recommendations is ConocoPhillips, a giant of the energy industry’s upstream (exploration and production) sector. COP, the world’s largest upstream hydrocarbon company, boasting a $47 billion market cap, finished last year with $7.2 billion in net income, or $6.40 per share.
The company beat earnings estimates in a difficult Q1 environment, despite a year-over-year decline. EPS came in at 45 cents, more than double the 21-cent forecast. Revenues were down heavily, at $4.8 billion, and missed the estimates by 26%. In revenues and share price performance, COP has underperformed the markets this year.
In a point of great interest to income-minded investors, ConocoPhillips raised its dividend in Q4 and has maintained the new, higher payment. At 42 cents per share quarterly, the dividend annualizes to $1.68 and offers a yield of 4.11%, more than double the average dividend yield found among S&P-listed companies. The payout ratio, at 93%, is high, but indicates that COP’s dividend remains affordable even after the drop in earnings.
Goldman Sachs analyst Neil Mehta believes that COP’s current low share price represents a buying opportunity. Mehta writes, “…we believe we are seeing micro/macro fundamentals bottoming and expect ConocoPhillips to be a strong participant in the upcoming oil price upcycle, given the level of underperformance relative to large cap US majors to date, as well as the company’s strong leverage to Brent.”
“As investors filter through the Energy sector looking for quality companies on sale, we believe that ConocoPhillips is one that will be able to emerge from the downcycle with its financial position still showing resilience,” Mehta added.
Mehta’s $51 price target supports his Buy rating, and implies a 17% upside to the stock. (To watch Mehta’s track record, click here)
In general, the rest of the Street is on the same page. 15 Buy ratings compared to 2 Holds assigned in the last three months give it a ‘Strong Buy’ analyst consensus. However, at the $46 average price target, shares could surge just 6% over the next twelve months. (See ConocoPhillips stock analysis on TipRanks)
Canadian Natural (CNQ)
Staying with the energy industry, we now take a look at Canadian Natural. This company is the largest landholder in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin, major oil- and gas-bearing formation. CNQ is the largest heavy crude oil producer in Canada, and a major player in the natural gas industry. The company has also diversified outside of Canada, and controls several offshore operations in the North Sea and off the West African coast.
CNQ reported a 2% increase in total production last year, showing 1.098 billion barrels of oil equivalent for 2019. The company also reported a free cash flow of $4.6 billion, giving a firm foundation going into 2020. That was a fortunate, as Q1 of this year saw a sharp drop in earnings, as CNQ posted its first net loss in 5 quarters. EPS came in at minus 33 cents, a far cry from the expected 4-cent profit.
Even though CNQ showed a net loss in Q1, the company maintained its dividend payment. Canadian Natural has a long history of keeping those payments reliable, and also of paying out a high yield. At 7.2%, the stock’s dividend yield is more than double the 3.04% sector average, and more than triple the S&P 500 average. And, it absolutely clobbers US Treasury bonds, which are yielding below 1%.
Goldman’s Neil Mehta notes four reasons to Buy this stock, but citing two will suffice to show his bullish stance: “First, as detailed here and here, we have shifted our more negative oil view and defensive Energy equities stance to a more positive/offensive one over the last three weeks. CNQ has strong leverage to an oil and natural gas price recovery that we anticipate. Second, we see sufﬁcient liquidity to make it through the 2020 downcycle and see the company well positioned in 2021-2022 to delever (sic).”
To this end, Mehta upgrades the stock to Buy, and his $21 price target indicates his confidence in a 12% upside potential from current levels.
With 14 recent review, breaking down to 11 Buys, 2 Holds, and 1 Sell, CNQ shares have a Moderate Buy rating from the analyst consensus. The stock sells for $18.74, and the $20.49 average price target implies an upside of 9%(See Canadian Natural stock analysis on TipRanks)
To find good ideas for stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.