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Pick These 5 Low P/CF Stocks for a Balanced Portfolio

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If you have been following the market for long, you know by now that September is the worst month for Wall Street in terms of investment. This time too, the market has been quite volatile. Investors have been spooked by China’s Evergrande crisis and its impact on the wider economy as well as concerns over the outcome of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting. So, as investors rebalance their portfolios to beat September blues, market pundits are placing their bets on value stocks.

Investment in stocks made on diligent value analysis is usually considered one of the best practices. In value investing, investors pick stocks that are cheap but fundamentally sound. There are a number of ratios to identify value stocks but none alone can conclusively determine their inherent potential.

Each ratio helps an investor to understand a particular aspect of the company’s business. One such ratio, Price to Cash Flow (or P/CF), can work wonders in stock picking, if used prudently. This metric evaluates the market price of a stock relative to the amount of cash flow that the company is generating on a per share basis – the lower the number, the better.

You must be wondering why we are considering this when the most widely used valuation metric is Price/Earnings (or P/E). Well, one of the important factors that makes P/CF a highly dependable metric is that operating cash flow adds back non-cash charges such as depreciation and amortization to net income, truly diagnosing the financial health of a company.

Analysts caution that a company’s earnings are subject to accounting estimates and management manipulation. Then again, cash flow is quite reliable. Net cash flow unveils how much money a company is actually generating and how effectively management is deploying the same.

A positive cash flow indicates an increase in the company’s liquid assets. This gives the company the means to settle debt, shell out for its expenses, reinvest in its business, endure downturns and finally undertake shareholder-friendly moves. Negative cash flow implies a decline in the company’s liquidity, which, in turn, lowers its flexibility to support these endeavors.

However, an investment decision solely based on the P/CF metric may not fetch the desired results. To identify stocks that are trading at a discount, you should expand your search criteria and take into account price-to-book ratio, price-to-earnings ratio and price-to-sales ratio. Adding a favorable Zacks Rank and a Value Score of A or B to your search criteria should lead to even better results as these eliminate the chance of falling into a value trap.

The Bargain Hunting Strategy

Here are the parameters for selecting true value stocks:

P/CF less than or equal to X-Industry Median.

Price greater than or equal to 5: The stocks must all be trading at a minimum of $5 or higher.

Average 20-Day Volume greater than 100,000: A substantial trading volume ensures that the stock is easily tradable.

P/E using (F1) less than or equal to X-Industry Median: This parameter shortlists stocks that are trading at a discount or are equal to its peers.

P/B less than or equal to X-Industry Median: A lower P/B compared with the industry average implies that there is enough room for the stock to gain.

P/S less than or equal to X-Industry Median: The P/S ratio determines how a stock price compares to the company’s sales — the lower the ratio the more attractive the stock is.

PEG less than 1: The ratio is used to determine a stock's value by taking the company's earnings growth into account. PEG ratio gives a more complete picture than P/E ratio. A value of less than 1 indicates that the stock is undervalued and that investors need to pay less for a stock that has robust earnings growth prospect.

Zacks Rank less than or equal to 2: Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or 2 (Buy) stocks are known to outperform irrespective of the market environment.

Value Score of less than or equal to B: Our research shows that stocks with a Style Score of A or B when combined with a Zacks Rank #1 or 2 offer the best upside potential.

Here are five of the 21 stocks that qualified the screening:

Boise Cascade Company (BCC - Free Report) , which manufactures wood products and distributes building materials in the United States and Canada, sports a Zacks Rank #1. It has an expected EPS growth rate of 10.2% for three-five years. The company has a trailing four-quarter earnings surprise of 61.6%, on average. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Encompass Health Corporation (EHC - Free Report) , which provides facility-based and home-based post-acute healthcare services in the United States, flaunts a Zacks Rank #1. It has an expected EPS growth rate of 18% for three-five years. The company has a trailing four-quarter earnings surprise of 14.8%, on average.

Hibbett, Inc. (HIBB - Free Report) , which is an athleisure and footwear retailer, has a Zacks Rank #2 and an expected EPS growth rate of 22.4% for three-five years. The company has a trailing four-quarter earnings surprise of 124.6%, on average.

Celestica Inc. (CLS - Free Report) , which provides hardware platform and supply chain solutions, has an expected EPS growth rate of 10.2% for three-five years. This Zacks Rank #2 company has a trailing four-quarter earnings surprise of 15.5%, on average.

Flex Ltd. (FLEX - Free Report) provides design, engineering, manufacturing, and supply chain services and solutions to original equipment manufacturers. It has a Zacks Rank #2 and an expected EPS growth rate of 11.9% for three-five years. The company has a trailing four-quarter earnings surprise of 30.4%, on average.

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Disclosure: Officers, directors and/or employees of Zacks Investment Research may own or have sold short securities and/or hold long and/or short positions in options that are mentioned in this material. An affiliated investment advisory firm may own or have sold short securities and/or hold long and/or short positions in options that are mentioned in this material.

Disclosure: Performance information for Zacks’ portfolios and strategies are available at: https://www.zacks.com/performance.