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Chicago, IL – August 2, 2023 – Today, Zacks Investment Ideas feature highlights AT&T T, Apple AAPL, Verizon VZ and Occidental Petroleum OXY.
In Wall Street circles, a "value trap" refers to a situation where investors are drawn to a particular stock because its price appears to be very low, often with seemingly attractive metrics such as a low price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio or price-to-book (P/B) ratio. However, more times than not, many amateur investors fail to understand that there is often a good reason for the low price, such as poor fundamentals or slowing earnings growth.
In a value trap, though the price seems low already, the fundamental issues continue to erode value over time, though they once appeared to be a bargain. Avoiding value traps requires an investor to look beyond a low valuation ratio and consider other factors.
When a company has a long and successful past, management may fall into the "caretaker" trap. In other words, the company has so much cash on hand, and executives get paid such large salaries that there is little motivation to grow the business. For example, in 2022, AT&T CEO John Stankey hauled in more than $20 million in total compensation. Meanwhile, AT&T's EPS fell from 2.63 to 2.57 per share during the same time. In fact, AT&T's earnings have stagnated for years.
Stick to companies that are constantly innovating, such as Apple. Though Apple is a massive company, management is always searching for opportunities. Since 2016, AAPL has nearly tripled its annual EPS by innovating and unveiling new products such as the Apple Watch and the wildly popular AirPods. In the long run, the price of a stock is directly correlated to earnings growth.
Stocks like Verizon pay healthy dividends (7.7%). While a 7.7% dividend may be attractive to income-focused investors, investors need to remember that dividends are not paid out in a vacuum. In other words, if a stock is plummeting, even a high dividend will not lead you to profitability. For example, though Verizon's dividend has increased over the past five years, the stock is down 42%.
Not only would you be lagging if you were in a stock like VZ over that period, you would also have the added insult of injury of opportunity cost. For instance, the Nasdaq 100 is up 44.3% over the same time.
A GARP (Growth at a Reasonable Price) Strategy can help investors avoid value traps by balancing growth potential and valuation. Warren Buffett holding Occidental Petroleum is a great example – the company has a history of strong earnings growth and a reasonable valuation.
Sometimes, when you pay for a "cheap stock," you get what you pay for. Caretaker management, slow growth, and the wrong environment could mean you're in a classic "value trap." Use a GARP strategy to balance growth and value and get the best of both worlds.
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Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Inherent in any investment is the potential for loss. This material is being provided for informational purposes only and nothing herein constitutes investment, legal, accounting or tax advice, or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold a security. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. It should not be assumed that any investments in securities, companies, sectors or markets identified and described were or will be profitable. All information is current as of the date of herein and is subject to change without notice. Any views or opinions expressed may not reflect those of the firm as a whole. Zacks Investment Research does not engage in investment banking, market making or asset management activities of any securities. These returns are from hypothetical portfolios consisting of stocks with Zacks Rank = 1 that were rebalanced monthly with zero transaction costs. These are not the returns of actual portfolios of stocks. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index. Visit information about the performance numbers displayed in this press release.
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AT&T Inc. (T) : Free Stock Analysis Report
Apple Inc. (AAPL) : Free Stock Analysis Report
Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) : Free Stock Analysis Report
Occidental Petroleum Corporation (OXY) : Free Stock Analysis Report
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Zacks Investment Research
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