Jefferies Says Value Stocks Are Very Cheap: 4 Top Picks to Buy Now

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For the past five years, we have been in a momentum-led growth stock rally and staying principally with big technology has been an easy trade to make money on. The problem is, the days of zero volatility and smooth sailing may be over, and it could be time to switch from growth to value stocks as the valuation difference between the two is stunning.

A new Jefferies research report notes that currently global growth is trading at a 55% premium to global value on a 12-month forward price-to-earnings metric. That is one of the highest spreads in the past 20 years. We screened the firm’s top value calls for the week and found four stocks, all rated Buy, that look like solid choices.

Freeport-McMoRan

This may be a compelling value at current trading levels, and it is one of the top picks at Jefferies in the sector. Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (NYSE: FCX) is the world’s largest publicly traded copper and molybdenum producer, and the eighth largest gold producer. Its key operating and development assets are in Indonesia, North and South America, and Africa.

Highly leveraged toward copper mining, the company could be a big player in a scenario of rebuilding and repairing old and battered projects and would clearly benefit from stronger demand and higher prices for industrial commodities.

The Jefferies price target for the shares is $26, and the Wall Street consensus target is $19.19. The stock closed Tuesday at $16.25 a share.

Kroger

This top grocer does almost all of its business in the United States. Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) is the second largest U.S. food supermarket retailer and generates $120 billion in annual sales. Kroger operates roughly 2,800 supermarkets throughout 35 states and under two dozen banners. Kroger also sells fuel at 1,450 supermarket fuel centers and operates 2,268 pharmacies and 274 jewelry stores.

The stock remains very cheap, as it has a market cap of under $21 billion despite $122.6 billion in sales during its most recent fiscal year, up about 6% from the previous year’s $115.3 billion. Kroger is also profitable, with net income of $1.9 billion last year, and it blew out earnings recently.

Kroger shareholders are paid a 1.72% dividend. Jefferies has a $33 price target, and the consensus target is $29.90. The shares closed Tuesday at $29.

Oracle

This top software stock was hit hard in mid-June and offers a very good entry point. Oracle Corp. (NYSE: ORCL) develops, manufactures, markets, sells, hosts and supports database and middleware software, application software, cloud infrastructure, hardware systems and related services worldwide.

The company licenses its Oracle Database software to customers, which is designed to enable reliable and secure storage, retrieval and manipulation of various forms of data. Its Oracle Fusion Middleware software aims to build, deploy, secure, access and integrate business applications, as well as automate their business processes.

The analysts noted this after the company reported results and got shellacked:

Oracle reported fourth quarter results beating expectations. That said, the company re-segmented revenue in the release, resulting in a discontinuation of Cloud disclosure, which appeared to increase investor caution. Looking ahead, we note that while current deferred revenue came in below consensus, this was partially due to the accounting change. However, non-GAAP operating margins increased 1.2% year over year to 47.1%, and we note that fiscal 2018 free cash flow grew 5%.

Shareholders receive a 1.7% dividend. The $61 Jefferies price target is well above the $54.35 consensus target. The stock closed Tuesday at $44.41.

Patterson-UTI Energy

This company remains a top oil services pick across Wall Street. Patterson-UTI Energy Inc. (NASDAQ: PTEN) is the second largest land driller in North America and a large pressure pumping provider. Its operations are particularly focused in the Marcellus and in Texas.

Patterson-UTI and its subsidiaries operate land-based drilling rigs in oil and natural gas producing regions of the continental United States and western Canada. Universal Pressure Pumping, and Universal Well Services provide pressure pumping services primarily in Texas and the Appalachian region.

The Jefferies analysts have stayed positive on the company:

We expect the company’s drilling fleet-wide EBITDA to improve over the next 12-24 months as the US rig count continues to move higher and high-end AC rig day rates continue to strengthen (Patterson and the wider industry is currently nearly fully sold out of such high-end “super-spec” AC drilling rigs).

Investors receive just a 0.4% dividend. The Jefferies price target is $25. The consensus price objective is $25.53, and the shares closed Tuesday at $17.91.

These are four top value plays for investors looking to take advantage of the huge gap between value and growth stocks. While not necessarily suited for ultra-conservative accounts, they make good sense for long-term investors worried by high valuations.