My parents took me to Walt Disney World for the first time when I was five years old. One of the rides I most vividly remember, now long since gone, was Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
Based on Disney’s film adaptation of the classic book The Wind in the Willows, you recklessly “drove” an old fashioned (pre-Model T) car through a darkened, decrepit Victorian mansion. Sounds a little cheesy, I know. But for a small tyke in 1973, it was big adventure.
The market has felt a little like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride recently, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average posting its biggest one-day point drop ever at 1,175 points. While that is indeed significant, this chart of the S&P 500 is even more unnerving.
Since equities decided to roll over like my 13 year-old yellow lab does when she wants her tummy scratched, investors have experienced a 9.56% drawdown from what appears to be a market top. A wild ride indeed.
Southern Company (NYSE: SO)
An old go-to "widows and orphans" utility stock, Southern Company shares are down 18% from their 52-week high. The fear is that rising rates equal higher borrowing costs, resulting in compressed margins posing a clear and present danger to the stock's enviable 5.3% dividend yield.
Baloney! I’ve followed this stock for 22 years! The stock has followed the same pattern for the last seven years, basically, trading in a ten-point range.
Here's my strategy: buy when the stock pulls back to the mid 40s as the yield reaches 5% and the forward P/E hits 15. Sell when the stock approaches 55. If you want to hang on to it, that’s OK. It’s an extremely reliable, high-quality company. Just keep in mind when it rolls over you’re most likely to give up 10 points.
KBR (NYSE: KBR)
Though an under-the-radar name, KBR was the construction arm of oilfield services giant Halliburton (NYSE: HAL) before being spun off. With a consolidated market cap of $2.6 billion, KBR describes itself, per its website, as a "global provider of differentiated professional services and technologies… within the Government Services and Hydrocarbon sectors."
Translation: they're project managers for engineering and capital intensive construction projects. Big oil rig assembly? KBR. Expansion of an Air Force base? KBR. You get the picture. This stock is significantly timely with the coming American infrastructure revival. KBR is supremely equipped to handle just about any task involved in build out at that large of a level. At around $17.70, the stock looks dirt cheap with a forward P/E of just 12.1. The 1.8% dividend yield doesn’t hurt my feelings either.
CVS Health Corp (NYSE: CVS)
What does the integrated healthcare company of the future look like? CVS. With its already vast pharmacy and pharmacy benefit management footprint, the company is upping its game by acquiring healthcare insurer Aetna (NYSE: AET).
The combination will create a healthcare monolith that will be able to tackle costs, deliver value to consumers and, hopefully, earn a couple billion dollars in the process. The market pullback has knocked the stock off of its 52-week high by nearly 18%. Shares trade at around $69 with a 2.9% dividend yield and a bargain-basement forward P/E of 11.8.
Risks To Consider: In the immortal words of John Maynard Keynes: “The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.” Whether the current market turmoil is a correction or the beginnings of something more sinister, we don’t know. Buying when the market is down is a touch exercise emotionally. Prices can and do go lower. If you don’t have the stomach for it, don’t do it.
However, all three of these names are darned good at what they do and have solid operating histories. CVS and SO are also defensive in nature. That offsets the risk somewhat.
Action To Take: As a basket, all three stocks have a forward P/E of 12.8 (cheap!) and a blended dividend yield of 3.34%. Respectively, that’s almost a 30% discount to the S&P 500 on a P/E basis and a yield premium of 150%. If this is indeed just a correction, patient investors could see a total return of 17% to 20% when things settle down.