John Reese is founder and CEO of Validea.com and Validea Capital Management, and portfolio manager for the Omega American & International Consensus funds. Globe Investor has a distribution agreement with Validea, a premium Canadian stock screen service. Try it.
In 1897, when rumours that he was gravely ill surfaced, a very-much-alive Mark Twain is said to have declared, "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."
Today, U.S. consumers might well say the same. The 2008 stock market crash, the bursting of the housing bubble and the Great Recession were supposed to have given American shoppers a debilitating one-two-three punch that would keep them down for years, if not decades. But they've shown surprising resilience.
Since bottoming in March, 2009, U.S. retail sales have jumped more than 25 per cent, far eclipsing pre-recession highs. The SPDR S&P Retail exchange-traded fund has more than tripled since the beginning of March, 2009, with many individual retailers' shares far surpassing those gains.
And there are signs that consumer stocks aren't done. Home Depot Inc. climbed 3.6 per cent on Tuesday after reporting earnings that beat expectations and raising its outlook. Consumer confidence jumped to a five-year high last month, thanks to a job market that has bounced back after a summer slowdown, as well as a rebounding housing market. The U.S. private sector added nearly 200,000 jobs in October, while home prices have now risen for seven straight months.
Canadian consumers have also been raising their spending. According to Moneris Solutions, spending rose nearly 5 per cent in both the second and third quarters, with modest growth in retail apparel spending but strong growth in specialty retailers, such as pet shops and sporting goods stores.
Of course, many investors fear that retailers could be jolted if the U.S. economy goes off the fiscal cliff (automatic tax hikes and budget cuts that will go into effect if officials don't act) at year end. But, if the post-election market declines were any indication, some pretty bad scenarios are already baked into the valuations of retailers. If elected officials finally get their acts together and address the fiscal issues, retail stocks could get a big boost.
With that in mind, here are a handful of retailers from the U.S. and Canada that get approval from my Guru Strategies, each of which is based on the approach of a different investing great.
Bed Bath & Beyond Inc.
This New Jersey-based home goods and furnishings retailer is a favourite of the model I base on the writings of mutual fund great Peter Lynch.
Its long-term earnings-per-share growth rate is a stellar 22.4 per cent. Mr. Lynch also liked to look at a stock's price-earnings ratio in comparison to its growth rate – the so-called PEG ratio – and Bed, Bath and Beyond has a bargain-priced 0.61 score in that regard.
In addition, the retailer gets high marks from my Warren Buffett-inspired strategy. Its earnings per share (EPS) have increased in all but one year of the past decade, it has no long-term debt and its 10-year average return on equity (ROE) is north of 20 per cent – a sign it has the "durable competitive advantage" that Mr. Buffett is known to cherish.
Based in California, this apparel and home goods store is one of the largest U.S. off-price retailers. Ross's 31.3 per cent long-term earnings growth rate is one reason it gets strong interest from my Lynch-based model.
It also has a solid PEG of 0.57, and a debt/equity ratio of just 9 per cent.
My growth model, based on the work of stock market researcher James O'Shaughnessy, also likes Ross, in part because the firm has hiked its earnings per share in each year of the past half-decade.
Finally, Ross gets high marks from my Buffett model.
Its EPS have dipped in just one year of the past decade, it has nearly five times as much in annual earnings as it does long-term debt, and it has averaged an ROE of more than 30 per cent over the past decade.
TJX Companies Inc.
Another discount retailer, Massachusetts-based TJX gets approval from my Buffett-inspired model. The firm has upped earnings per share in each year of the past decade, has more than twice as much in annual earnings as it does long-term debt, and has averaged ROE of 37.7 per cent over the past decade.
TJX also gets strong interest from my Lynch-based model, thanks to its 21.5 per cent long-term growth rate and 0.85 PEG.
Montreal-based Dollarama sells merchandise for $3 or less. This retailer gets strong interest from my Momentum Investor model, which likes its strong long-term earnings growth of 23.3 per cent a year. And Dollarama's financials look good, too. The firm has a debt/equity ratio below 30 per cent, and a return on equity over 20 per cent.