Stock market investors should know by now that consumer spending woes have resulted in poor sales for many businesses. Americans are buying fewer new items and hanging on longer to older goods such as automobiles, TVs and homes.
Producers of durable goods have been hardest hit simply because of the big price tags associated with their items. Toyota (NYSE:TM) is off about 40% in five years despite the recent dominance of its Prius hybrid. Car sales just aren’t what they used to be. Home goods giant Ethan Allen Interiors (NYSE:ETH) is off 50% in five years for similar reasons. It’s hard to justify that new bedroom set when you might face foreclosure in a few months.
But it’s not all gloom and doom out there. Specifically, a concurrent trend in the stock market is favoring repair stocks and resulting in brisk sales for select companies. After all, it’s not like people are refusing to buy cars or sit on chairs. They are just using their older goods more — or opting for used items when they do need replacements.
Here are three such stocks that have seen red-hot runs lately based on this broader economic trend:
Tool maker Snap-on (NYSE:SNA) sells power tools and hand tools, along with diagnostics software and high-tech shop equipment for vehicle dealerships and repair centers. Last week, Snap-on’s earnings for the third quarter boasted a 46% jump in net income. That marks SNA’s fifth-straight quarter of double-digit growth.
Full-year earnings will be up almost 30% in fiscal 2011 compared with the previous year, and fiscal 2010 EPS numbers were up 38% over the year before that. Shares of Snap-on stock crashed in July and remain down about 20% from peak levels. But growth like this is difficult to argue with. Throw in a 2.6% dividend yield right now to boot, and SNA makes a compelling case to buy.
Fastenal (NASDAQ:FAST) is a quirky stock, focusing on fasteners, repair products and adhesives. You might think building your business on penny nails is a sketchy proposal, but 14% gains year to date and about 60% gains since 2010 make FAST stock look pretty good right now.
Part of the reason Fastenal is a hit is because it has a much bigger selection than big-box home improvement stores. Morningstar recently said Fastenal’s balance sheet is “impeccable,” as FAST has $76 million of working capital — and no debt. Third-quarter earnings last week saw Fastenal’s net income up 29% and sales up 20% year over year.
One of the biggest auto parts stores in the nation, AutoZone (NYSE:AZO) also is one of the biggest growth stories on Wall Street recently. The stock has almost tripled in the past five years, and it’s up 20% so far in 2011. AutoZone’s revenue is up almost 25% since 2008 numbers while many businesses have suffered in the wake of the financial crisis. AZO’s fiscal 2012 numbers are on pace to double 2009 EPS figures. And it’s all because of the simple fact that as new car sales have collapsed, maintaining older vehicles has become big business. Expect AutoZone to continue its success as long as this trend holds true.
Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP and become a fan of InvestorPlace on Facebook. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the aforementioned stocks.