With consensus estimates projecting double-digit growth in corporate profits for all four quarters of 2021, finding stocks positioned for year-ahead earnings growth is easy, asserts quantitative investing expert Richard Moroney, editor of Upside.
But finding attractively valued growers is difficult, as the proportion of stocks with modest price/earnings ratios has rarely been lower.
In fact, only 45% of stocks in the broad S&P 1500 Index have expected current-year P/E ratios below 22 — up only slightly from the 17-year low of 41% reached in August, and well below the 17-year norm of 65%.
With valuations so rich, it’s tough to know how much of the bright year-ahead profit outlook is already reflected in stock prices. And the last thing you want in your portfolio are expensive stocks that fail to meet lofty profit expectations.
To protect yourself, look for projected growers already benefiting from solid results and rising profit estimates, and pay attention to valuations. With that in mind, we screened for stocks with:
➤ Quadrix® scores above 67 for Momentum (recent operating results), Value (P/E and other valuation ratios), and Earnings Estimates (trends in analyst estimates).
➤ Double-digit expected earnings growth in 2021.
➤ Positive revisions to consensus 2021 profit estimates over the last three months.
➤ Expected current-year P/E ratios of 18 or less.
Nine stocks passed this four-part screen, all of which earn Overall Quadrix scores above 82. In the following paragraphs, we review two especially appealing picks from the list.
A leading provider of semiconductor packaging and test services, Amkor Technology (AMKR) is positioned for strong growth.
The company is benefiting from a burgeoning chip industry, which is seeing surging demand with limited spare capacity. Amkor served roughly 250 customers last year, with Apple accounting for 14.5% of sales.
Considering its growth trajectory, Amkor seems cheap at 12 times estimated current-year earnings, below the industry median of 23. Amkor has surged 56% this year, spurred by strong December-quarter results and a wave of buying ahead of the stock’s addition to the S&P Midcap 400 Index on Feb. 16.
Interestingly, Amkor was not a member of the S&P SmallCap 600 Index. In the December quarter, the company delivered per-share earnings of $0.52, up 27% and above the two-analyst consensus of $0.38.
Sales advanced 16% and exceeded expectations, reflecting strong demand for smartphone and automotive products. For 2021, the two-analyst consensus calls for per-share earnings of $1.90, up 36%. Amkor is a Best Buy.
Netgear (NTGR) is seeing strong demand for its networking gear and routers amid the pandemic, as Americans now working and studying from home rely more than ever on the internet.
In addition, the amount time spent on streaming TV, gaming, and videoconferencing has exploded, helping Netgear deliver solid growth across multiple sales channels, including retailers like Amazon (AMZN) and Best Buy (BBY) and internet services providers like AT&T (T).
Finally, the rapid adoption of smart home devices has increased the need for robust networking solutions. The stock has returned 88% over the past 12 months, a surge that has coincided with strong operating results and an improved outlook.
In the December quarter, per-share earnings were $0.99, up from $0.34 and above the consensus of $0.84. Revenue increased 45%. Despite supply constraints that have weighed on inventories, management targets March-quarter sales of $300 million to $315 million, implying at least 30% growth.
Wall Street expects per-share earnings of $0.66, up 213%. Such heady growth is unsustainable, as full-year earnings per share are expected to increase 13%. But the stock’s valuation, at only 13 times projected profits, seems to discount the likely slowdown. Netgear is rated Buy.