Back to top

Image: Bigstock

Add These 5 Low P/B Stocks to Your Portfolio in March

Read MoreHide Full Article

The task of spotting a discounted stock is quite difficult. Value investors have tried various ways to identify stocks trading at a discount to their actual value.

When you are a growth investor, you buy a share with tremendous growth potential. However, value investing is different and involves picking stocks priced below their intrinsic value. Ironically, it requires investors to embrace stocks that are under the radar. Price-to-earnings (P/E) and price-to-book value (P/B) ratios are the favorite tools of value investors.

Though P/E is a more popular financial metric, the P/B ratio is also emerging as a convenient tool for identifying low-priced stocks that have high growth prospects. The ratio is used to compare a stock’s market value/price to its book value.

The P/B ratio is calculated as below:

P/B ratio = market price per share/book value of equity per share

Now let us understand the concept of book value.

The P/B ratio helps to identify low-priced stocks that have high-growth prospects. Celestica (CLS - Free Report) , ASE Technology Holding (ASX - Free Report) , KB Home (KBH - Free Report) , Group 1 Automotive (GPI - Free Report) and Hillenbrand (HI - Free Report) are some such picks.

What’s Book Value?

There are several ways by which book value can be defined. Book value is the total value that would be left over, according to the company’s balance sheet, if it goes bankrupt immediately. In other words, this is what shareholders would theoretically receive if a company liquidates all its assets after paying off all its liabilities.

It is calculated by subtracting total liabilities from the total assets of a company. In most cases, this equates to common stockholders’ equity on the balance sheet. However, depending on the company’s balance sheet, intangible assets should also be subtracted from total assets to determine book value.

Understanding P/B Ratio

By comparing the book value of equity to its market price, we get an idea of whether a company is under-or overpriced. However, like P/E or P/S ratio, it is always better to compare P/B ratios within industries.

A P/B ratio of less than one means that the stock is trading at less than its book value, or the stock is undervalued and therefore a good buy. Conversely, a stock with a ratio greater than one can be interpreted as being overvalued or relatively expensive.

For example, a stock with a P/B ratio of 2 means that we pay $2 for every $1 of book value. Thus, the higher the P/B, the more expensive the stock.

But there is a caveat. A P/B ratio less than one can also mean that the company is earning weak or even negative returns on its assets or that the assets are overstated, in which case the stock should be shunned because it may be destroying shareholder value. Conversely, the stock’s price may be significantly high — thereby pushing the P/B ratio to more than one — in the likely case that it has become a takeover target, a good enough reason to own the stock.

Moreover, the P/B ratio isn't without limitations. It is useful for businesses — like finance, investments, insurance, and banking or manufacturing companies — with many liquid/tangible assets on the books. However, it can be misleading for firms with significant R&D expenditure, high debt, service companies, or those with negative earnings.

In any case, the ratio is not particularly relevant as a standalone number. One should analyze other ratios like P/E, P/S, and debt to equity before arriving at a reasonable investment decision.

Screening Parameters

Price to Book (common Equity) less than X-Industry Median: A lower P/B compared with the industry average implies that there is enough room for the stock to gain.

Price to Sales less than X-Industry Median: The P/S ratio determines how much the market values every dollar of the company’s sales/revenues — a lower ratio than the industry makes the stock attractive.

Price to Earnings using F(1) estimate less than X-Industry Median: The P/E ratio (F1) values a company based on its current share price relative to its estimated earnings per share — a lower ratio than the industry is considered better.

PEG less than 1: PEG links the P/E ratio to the future growth rate of the company. The PEG ratio portrays a more complete picture than the P/E ratio. A value of less than 1 indicates that the stock is undervalued and investors need to pay less for a stock that has bright earnings growth prospects.

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

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

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 equal to A or B: Our research shows that stocks with a Value Score of A or B, when combined with a Zacks Rank #1 or 2, offer the best opportunities in the value investing space.

Here are our five picks out of the 20 stocks that qualified the screening: 

Celestica is one of the largest electronics manufacturing services companies in the world, serving the computer and communications sectors.

Celestica has a Zacks Rank #1 and a Value Score of A. Celestica has a projected 3-5-year EPS growth rate of 14.5%.

You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

ASE Technology Holding is a provider of semiconductor manufacturing services in assembly and testing.

ASE Technology Holding has a projected 3-5-year EPS growth rate of 26.9%. ASE Technology Holding currently has a Zacks Rank #2 and a Value Score of A. 

Group 1 Automotive is a leading automotive retailer. Through its dealerships, the firm sells new and used cars and light trucks. Apart from selling new and used vehicles, Group 1 Automotive offers vehicle financing and insurance and service contracts.

Group 1 Automotive has a projected 3-5-year EPS growth rate of 12.1%. It currentlyhas a Zacks Rank #2 and a Value Score of A.

KB Home is a well-known homebuilder in the United States and one of the largest in the state. KB Home has a Zacks Rank #1 and a Value Score of A.

KBH’s Homebuilding operations include building and designing homes that cater to first-time, move-up and active adult homebuyers on acquired or developed lands. KB Home also builds attached and detached single-family homes, townhomes and condominiums. KB Home has a projected 3-5-year EPS growth rate of 17.2%.

Hillenbrand is a global diversified industrial company with multiple market-leading brands that serve a wide variety of industries across the globe. Hillenbrand's portfolio comprises two business segments: the Process Equipment Group and Batesville. 

Hillenbrand has a projected 3-5-year EPS growth rate of 12%. Hillenbrand currently has a Zacks Rank #2 and a Value Score of A.

Get the rest of the stocks on the list and startputting this and other ideas to the test. It can all be done with the Research Wizard stock picking and back testing software.

The Research Wizard is a great place to begin. It's easy to use. Everything is in plain language. And it's very intuitive. Start your Research Wizard trial today. And the next time you read an economic report, open up the Research Wizard, plug your finds in, and see what gems come out.

Click here to sign up for a free trial to the Research Wizard today.

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