The stock market has been falling lately, driven by two big changes to the outlook.
Optimism about an early end to the pandemic is fading. This isn’t just hurting reopening plays, but the big tech winners. Companies can’t spend big on tech if they’re out of business. Even if they survive, technology’s efficiency means competition will be intense.
Then there is the election. Most people on Wall Street support President Donald Trump. Optimism over his reelection, even of a Republican Senate, began fading this month.
Whatever else a Trump defeat would bring, it would certainly mean a change in economic policy. That creates uncertainty and selling pressure.
I’m a Democrat. I won’t pretend that former Vice President Joe Biden will prioritize the health of the stock market as Trump has. Investors have been given tremendous gifts over the last few years. Our share of the national wealth has jumped. Some catching up is indicated to maintain social cohesion. A stock market that rises while the economy is collapsing is unhealthy for everyone.
All this makes it difficult to pick winners. But let’s try anyway. Here are five election stocks to buy:
- General Motors (NYSE:GM)
- Kroger (NYSE:KR)
- Bank of America (NYSE:BAC)
- Bed, Bath & Beyond (NASDAQ:BBBY)
- Intel (NASDAQ:INTC)
Election Stocks: General Motors (GM)
If any company on this list of election stocks looks set to benefit from a Biden victory, it’s General Motors.
Biden’s campaign has been boosting a theme of “buy American,” aimed at union households, like the people who work at GM.
Then Tesla punched GM in the mouth. Today Tesla could buy GM with the equivalent of seat cushion money. Even with its recent precipitous fall, Tesla is worth more than 6 times General Motors.
To boost the stock price, Barra has decided to join Tesla.
For supplying parts and assembly services to Nikola (NASDAQ:NKLA), a fledgling electric truck maker, GM is getting $2 billion in Nikola stock and a board seat. General Motors has launched a plan with Uber (NYSE:UBER) to finance drivers’ purchases of the Chevrolet Bolt EV.
Importantly, this is not last year’s GM. Last year’s company had $6.7 billion in profit on $137 billion of sales. This year’s company, through June, had lost $465 million on sales of $49.6 billion. Operating cash flow for 2020 so far is negative. GM also has about $127 billion in debt, against about $12.3 billion for Tesla.
Hope may come from the U.S. military, which recently gave GM a $214 million contract to outfit its Colorado truck as a military vehicle. The contract means GM Defense could drive the company’s results for years to come.
Kroger stock has been a big pandemic winner.
Before Covid-19 hit, I pounded the table for this stock. If you bought shares then, you have done very well.
But Kroger still isn’t an expensive stock. The price-earnings multiple is 13.2 times, and the dividend now yields 2%. Also, Kroger still sells for less than it did five years ago, after a 2-for-1 stock split and $500 million buyback authorization.
While I have described Kroger as a muddle, with over a dozen different market brands like Ralph’s in California, Fred Meyer in Oregon and Harris Teeter in the Carolinas, Kroger has finally created a unified brand, “Fresh for Everyone.” It has begun putting Kroger signs on poor-performing chains, like Owens in Indiana. It sold its gas stations, always an awkward fit, for $2.15 billion.
Kroger also launched digital initiatives, including a mobile app, pick-up services and a deal with England’s Ocado for automated delivery warehouses. The Kroger Ship delivery service will soon expand through a marketplace including third-party goods. Mirakl, a French company, will run the market.
There remains enormous potential in Kroger. If Kroger were valued like Walmart (NYSE:WMT), that is close to its annual sale rate, it would rise 400%.
Election Stocks: Bank of America (BAC)
Bank stocks are still in bad odor because money remains free. The Federal Reserve has said it will pour money into the economy even if inflation rises. A three-month Treasury bill now yields 0.13%, a 30-year bond 1.42%.
On the other hand, Bank of America’s 18-cent dividend rate, even if it seems modest, yields 2.8%. It was a nice ballast to have when Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) fell recently.
It’s like the old investment adage. You don’t diversify your portfolio to make money. You diversify it to keep the money you have.
Bank of America analysts admit value stocks are “broken” (subscription required). While tech has been flying, stocks like Bank of America remain in neutral.
At its Sept. 15 opening price of about $25.80 per share, Bank of America is selling at less than 13 times earnings, and there’s that dividend. The bank’s market capitalization is $220 billion. That’s roughly the value of Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX).
Despite the caution there are analysts saying buy Bank of America. In fact, they’re saying you should buy it because of the caution.
When fear rises, as it did early this month, big banks start looking attractive. The bank got through the pandemic panic of the second quarter in good shape. An improving economy into next year means it could soon start buying back its stock again. Even a rumor of buybacks’ return will boost the stock price.
Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A, NYSE:BRK.B) is still Bank of America’s largest shareholder. It’s his second biggest position, after Apple. He says, “banking is a good business if you don’t do dumb things.” Bank of America isn’t doing dumb things.
Bed, Bath & Beyond (BBBY)
I pounded the table for Bed, Bath & Beyond early this year. Those with patience have been rewarded.
This is thanks to the man I praised in January, Mark Tritton. Before taking his job with Bed, Bath & Beyond last year, Tritton was chief merchandising officer at Target (NYSE:TGT). There, he helped spearhead a move into quality “store brands,” like the Cat & Jack clothing line for kids.
Tritton was expected to replicate Target’s strategy of store brands, starting first in bedding and bath items. Before the pandemic, he let the old managers go, laid off 500 people and saved $85 million.
Then came the pandemic. This created doubt the company could stave off bankruptcy. At its bottom in early April, shares fell below $4, the market cap to $500 million.
Tritton decided to close 200 poor performing stores in July. The hit would have been worse had he not already sold the real estate. In August he announced 2,800 layoffs, saving $150 million. He adopted a face mask requirement to keep stores open.
In July, Tritton said sales from reopening stores were “positive,” and estimated he could get $350 million to $450 million from asset sales and another $500 million by reducing inventory. The stock’s march higher was underway.
Election Stocks: Intel (INTC)
While other tech stocks have made billions of dollars for investors in 2020, Intel has gone nowhere. The failure to keep up with Taiwan Semiconductor (NYSE:TSM), making chips whose circuit lines are just 7 nanometers apart, shaved nearly 20% off the stock price.
In a world where clouds want commodity chips and PCs don’t have to be great to be good, Intel’s cost structure gives it an advantage.
Intel’s new Tiger Lake processors have graphics integrated into them, along with WiFi 6 support and longer battery life. This means cheaper, and better, mass market PCs. The next generation, a 10-nanometer chip dubbed Jasper Lake, will continue the trend toward low power, a design that works in computers without fans. Intel is also rolling out a new line of Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FGPAs), key components for the Machine Internet.
Intel recognizes it needs to do a better job in manufacturing, and it is bringing the changes. The biggest change is on the manufacturing side, where Daniel Benatar, who had been running Israeli operations, was named assistant general manager for all manufacturing. This comes just months after chief engineer Murthy Renduchintala, once a candidate for the CEO position, was shown the door. Jim Keller, vice president of the silicon engineering group, also left during the summer.
These moves, and the stock’s low price, have some analysts pounding the table for Intel. They point to the company’s R&D budget, its success in data centers and the break up of its technology group, which now has five executives competing to be the next chief engineer. As the second-quarter report showed, Intel is still making money.
The low-margin businesses Intel still dominates are going to grow, giving Intel the time needed to save itself on the manufacturing side.
On the date of publication, Dana Blankenhorn held a long position in BAC, AAPL, TSM, NVDA and INTC.
Dana Blankenhorn has been a financial and technology journalist since 1978. His latest book is Technology’s Big Bang: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow with Moore’s Law, essays on technology available at the Amazon Kindle store. Follow him on Twitter at @danablankenhorn.