Wall Street has been waiting around on a rally like Linus waiting around for the Great Pumpkin. But the rally refuses to show, just like the Great Pumpkin. Nine straight quarters of double-digit growth have not been enough to counter high energy prices, terror fears, and the Federal Reserve's rate hikes. However, have faith the Great Pumpkin will eventually come; maybe Friday was the preview. Until he arrives for sure, there are still a couple of treats this Halloween season. So far, these two stocks have tricked the market. That is about to change.
The Great PumpkinWhen the Great Pumpkin shows up, Bank of America ( BAC) will be there. Bank of America has made two significant acquisitions in the last couple of years. It bought Fleet Boston last year to increase its presence in the Northeast. Through that acquisition it now has a true nationwide presence with the largest banking network and 5900 banking centers. This year it agreed to buy MBNA to increase its presence in the consumer credit card market. The stock took a hit last year with the announcement of the purchase of Fleet Boston, and it has taken a hit this year in the wake of the MBNA deal. The flattening yield curve has also hurt financial stocks, and in case you hadn't noticed, the market stinks (Friday's big rally notwithstanding). Bank of America is deposit rich; it needed to put some of that money to use, just like a factory operating at only 50% capacity needs to find a way to use its idle capacity. Buying a credit card company allows it to use money that was just lying there doing nothing. Bank of America stock has been dead money for the last year, and is near its 52-week low after closing at $43.98 on Friday. The bank has a trailing price-to-earnings multiple of around 10. If you put a more traditional bank-stock multiple of 12, you get a $53 price target based on next year's consensus estimate of $4.42 per share.
This is the cheapest stock among the big banks when you consider its growth opportunities. The yield curve will remain flat for a while due to demand for our debt. The Japanese 10-year yields only 1.5%, the German 10-year only 3.4%. The best value is in America at 4.5%. The flattened yield curve is largely a matter of foreigners' insatiable demand for U.S. Treasuries, which explains the "conundrum" of why long-term rates have remained relatively low despite the Fed's tightening campaign. Bank of America has been hurt by this but, like most big banks, it is not as affected by the yield curve as the regional banks. It makes a lot of its money in fees, and with the acquisition of MBNA, through consumer credit. Bank of America has a dividend yield of 4.6%. With a yield like that, one can buy this stock and afford to wait on the Great Pumpkin.
Hold the Ball, LucyCharlie Brown believed Lucy would hold the ball for him to kick. Wrong. Boston Scientific ( BSX) investors thought that Boston Scientific had cornered the market on drug-eluting stents. Wrong. Johnson and Johnson's ( JNJ) Cordis unit developed the first drug-eluting stent, Cypher. This was a breakthrough for angioplasty procedures. The first stents used in catheters to open up arteries created scar tissue, and about 40% of the patients had to be reopened. But drug-eluting stents prevented scar tissue from forming. Johnson & Johnson was first on the scene with a drug-eluting stent. Boston Scientific was second with Taxus, which soon dominated the market in Europe and captured two thirds of market share in the U.S. In sum, Boston Scientific built a better mousetrap that was also cheaper. Then, J&J commissioned its own study, which Boston Science disputes, showing that J&J's Cypher was more effective than Taxus. The J&J marketing machine kicked in and J&J took market share from Boston Scientific.
Boston Scientific still has around 50% of the stent market share in the U.S. and did its own study, which showed no significant difference between Taxus and Cypher. Nevertheless, Boston Scientific shares have plunged from a high in the mid-$40s to $24.59 as of Friday's close. Investors now have a great opportunity in Boston Scientific. With a forward P/E of 13 and a P/E-to-growth ratio of just over 1, the stock is cheap. J&J trades at a forward P/E of 16.5 based on 2006 estimates of $3.77 per share; Boston Scientific would be valued at more than $31 if given the same multiple, based on its 2006 consensus estimates of $1.90 per share. As a potential catalyst for that multiple expansion, the company is coming out with a second-generation stent, the Taxus Liberte, that has already added to its market share in Europe. Boston Scientific has a third-generation stent that will come into the market in 2009. This is not a one-trick pony. Boston Scientific has a tremendous amount of cash flow from stent sales that will fund its already large research and development effort. It has several devices coming out, including a leadless defibrillator, vascular closure devices, and disposable endoscopes. Boston Scientific will enter the Japanese market in 2007, and it still has around a 50% market share in the U.S. With a renewed marketing campaign, an aging population that fuels stent industry growth, and new products emerging, Boston Scientific is a buy right here. Potential pitfalls are current patent litigation and an overhaul of the Medicare system as most patients are mature adults. I do not believe either of these will be a problem. The trick is over, it's time for a treat. Charlie Brown may never get to kick that football, but Boston Scientific investors will soon be scoring points again. Happy Halloween.