Cheap Gas Could Give Consumers Up to $80 Billion This Year: 4 Stocks That Could Benefit


Face it, unless you live in California, it’s almost been a pleasure to go fill up your vehicle these days. With prices dipping as low as $1.25 in some areas, consumers are banking tons of extra cash, and there is a good chance that money will go elsewhere.

In a new research report, Jefferies analysts believe that consumers will save between $65 billion and $80 billion this year. The data also show that the individuals they surveyed are saving less and spending slightly more than they were a year ago, and they cited dining out, entertainment and shopping at retail stores as higher year over year. While paying down debt and adding to savings still leads the pack, there is still a lot of fresh cash headed toward discretionary spending.

The Jefferies team pointed to numerous companies that may benefit, but we picked four that are rated Buy at Jefferies.

Fogo de Chao

This had a hot summer initial public offering last year, and the stock has been cut in half since coming public. Fogo de Chao Inc. (NASDAQ: FOGO) is a leading Brazilian steakhouse, or churrascaria, which has specialized for more than 36 years in fire-roasting high-quality meats utilizing the centuries-old Southern Brazilian cooking technique of churrasco.

Fogo delivers a distinctive and authentic Brazilian dining experience through the combination of high-quality Brazilian cuisine and a differentiated service model known as espeto corrido (Portuguese for “continuous service”) delivered by gaucho chefs. The Jefferies team loves the unique concept and feels like the stock has been hammered to some degree by issues in Brazil. With the business growing, new restaurants being opened, and the tough comparisons over, the stock offers tremendous value at current levels.

The Jefferies price target for the stock is $24, and the Thomson/First Call consensus price target is $20.33. Shares closed Friday at $16.12 apiece.


This top retailer could be poised to benefit from the extra consumer spending. Gap Inc. (NYSE: GPS) is a leading global retailer offering clothing, accessories and personal care products for men, women and children under the Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Athleta and Intermix brands. Fiscal year 2015 net sales were $15.8 billion. Gap products are available for purchase in more than 90 countries worldwide through about 3,300 company-operated stores, more than 400 franchise stores and e-commerce sites.

The company reported that its net sales for the four weeks ended February 27, 2016, were $888 million, which compared with net sales of $918 million for the four-week period ended February 28, 2015. On a constant currency basis, February 2016 net sales decreased 2% compared with last year. Company executives are encouraged by the initial customer response to Gap brand’s spring collection and they remain focused on improving results across the Gap portfolio.

Gap shareholders are paid a solid 3.14% dividend. The $34 Jefferies price target is higher than the consensus target of $26.03, and the stock closed above that on Friday at $29.29.
Home Depot

This company remains the undisputed leader in the home improvement retail category and its stock recently was upgraded to Buy from Hold at Jefferies. Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD) is the world’s largest home improvement specialty retailer, with 2,270 retail stores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, 10 Canadian provinces and Mexico. In fiscal 2014, Home Depot had sales of $83.2 billion and earnings of $6.3 billion. The company employs more than 370,000 associates.

With this year’s mild winter, due to the El Niño, and spring right around the corner, consumers are busy on projects at home, and that remains a benefit to Home Depot and other home improvement companies. In addition, the continued strength in the housing market could also bode well for the company. Earnings gains consistently have been in the 15% to 20% range, and a consensus of analysts is forecasting earning increases to continue to grow at about 15% annually for another two to three years.

Home Depot investors are paid a 2.2% dividend. Jefferies has a $140 price target, while the consensus price objective is set at $142.19. The stock closed Friday at $125.56 per share.


This top consumer staples stock fits the bill. PepsiCo Inc. (NYSE: PEP) products are enjoyed by consumers one billion times a day in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. PepsiCo generated more than $66 billion in net revenue in 2014, driven by a complementary food and beverage portfolio that includes Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Pepsi-Cola, Quaker and Tropicana. PepsiCo’s product portfolio includes a wide range of enjoyable foods and beverages, including 22 brands that generate more than $1 billion each in estimated annual retail sales.

The company released solid fourth-quarter results as higher sales of snacks and non-fizzy beverages such as Gatorade in North America helped reduce the impact of a strong dollar. PepsiCo increased its annual dividend to $3.01 per share from $2.81 and said it would return about $7 billion to shareholders this year, with about $3 billion through buybacks. However, the company forecast 2016 adjusted earnings below many analyst estimates, citing a strong dollar and the exclusion of its Venezuelan business from its financial statements. While this is a short-term headwind, the stock still makes good sense for conservative accounts.

PepsiCo investors are paid a 3.12% dividend, based on the new increase. The Jefferies price target is posted at $110. The consensus target is $105.20, and the stock closed Friday at an even $100.

While the increased cash could support sales increases, all these companies make good sense for growth portfolios. Despite the market finally firming some, they also are available to buy at reasonably attractive prices.

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