Total unadulterated crap -- that's how I'd describe a few specific corners of the market right now. But some of these crap stocks might just end up being the best performers for your portfolio in 2016.
Most smart investors wouldn't touch these stocks with a 10-foot pole. Flawed business models, slowing or negative growth and plummeting share prices are all characteristics of this set of names. But there's something important to remember about stocks that are so disliked that no one wants to own them: Sometimes the best bet is to be a contrarian.
Apple (AAPL) was the prototypical example of a crap stock in 1996, when the flailing computer company had to be bailed out by then-rival Microsoft (MSFT) to avoid bankruptcy. At the time, Michael Dell infamously said that Apple should shut down and give the money back to shareholders. But after bottoming in 1997, Apple rallied more than 150% in the 12 months that followed, handing investors about four times the return of the Nasdaq Composite over that timeframe.
We all know the Apple story since then.
Just last year, Keurig Green Mountain was another stock nobody wanted to own. In fact, the firm was one of the worst-performing S&P 500 components of 2015, up until the firm announced in December that it was being taken private in a deal that represented a nearly-90% cash premium for investors.
With history as my guide, I'm on the lookout for crap stocks today that have turnaround potential for 2016. As the broad market rebound picks up steam, these hated trades could be about to make up for lost time.
Today, we'll take a closer look at four crap stocks that the crowd has wrong. These beaten-down names could actually provide your biggest payday in 2016.
Up first is retail punch line Best Buy (BBY) . Best Buy is the biggest consumer electronics retailer today by virtue of the fact that all of its peers have basically gone out of business. Sales have been declining, and investors are understandably concerned that there isn't a lot of profit potential in what amounts to being Amazon.com's (AMZN) showroom -- but they're missing the bigger picture in Best Buy.
Best Buy's competitive advantage comes from the very asset that investors hate the most: its 1,731 brick-and-mortar stores. At the exact same time that top rival Amazon has been investing immense amounts of money to get merchandise to customers as quickly as possible (most recently by leasing 20 Boeing 767 freighter jets), Best Buy has a deep delivery infrastructure already in place in the form of its store footprint. And the firm is finally taking advantage of that asset by adding new distribution features like ship-from-store fulfillment from its Web site.
The "Renew Blue" turnaround plan has also been cutting substantial costs from Best Buy's operations. It's not nothing that, in the last four quarters, Best Buy has earned a profit of $2.2 billion -- nearly four times as much as Amazon has over that same period. Even better, nearly 14% of Best Buy's current market capitalization is paid for by net cash and investments on its balance sheet. Pull that cash out, and Best Buy trades for a measly 12.6 times trailing earnings.
This retailer may not have solved all of its operational problems just yet, but it's profitable and cheap, and it's a prime contender to be a crap stock turnaround.
Nobody liked energy stocks to begin with last year. But then, in December, energy infrastructure stock Kinder Morgan (KMI) committed the cardinal sin in the MLP world when it cut is huge 51-cent dividend payout. Well, more like it obliterated its payout. The firm smashed its dividend by 75% to 12.5 cents in an effort to get control of its balance sheet in an environment that has had energy prices in free fall.
But all isn't bad at Kinder Morgan right now. For starters, the firm is still the biggest midstream energy company on the continent, boasting more than 80,000 miles of pipeline and considerable additional infrastructure that transports, stores and processes oil, natural gas and other commodities. Because Kinder Morgan generates sales through fee-based contracts with commodity owners, the firm has more insulation from the ebb and flow in commodity prices than many casual observers realize.
In a lot of ways, Kinder's huge dividend cut was a lot like ripping off a band-aid -- a band-aid covered in duct tape and held to your skin with super glue, but you get the point. It was painful, but it was necessary. And with Kinder Morgan's financial footing restored without the need to resort to dilutive capital raises in the equity markets, the firm is likely to rally harder than peers as energy stocks rebound in 2016.
There's even some solace for dividend investors here. While Kinder Morgan's enormous payout is a thing of the past, the recent rout in its price action means that this stock still yields nearly 3% right now.
Watching Yahoo! (YHOO) has been a little like watching a train wreck in the last year. Well, a train wreck with a really cool holiday party. Since last March, shares have shed about a quarter of their market value as investors prayed for a turnaround plan to Yahoo!'s turnaround plan. Between notoriously bad employee morale and a track record of overpaying for terrible acquisitions, Yahoo! just can't seem to execute.
That's not totally surprising anymore, especially given the fact that Yahoo's main business has become a side business. It's real business has been acting as a holding company for huge investments such as Yahoo! Japan and Alibaba.
And that's not necessarily such a bad thing, now that management is finally realizing it. After the IRS put the kibosh on plans to spin off Alibaba in a tax-free deal, Yahoo! has started working to sell its Internet business instead. With investments on its balance sheet totaling approximately $39 billion as of the most recent quarter and equity prices rebounding (Alibaba's share price is up 20% in the last three weeks), Yahoo! is clearly a deep value story right now even if its legacy business was valued at zero.
Doubtless there are some big risks left here. Investors need to feel confident that management will actually be able to sell off the pieces without burning through its cash pile or harming the remaining brands that it overpaid for. That said, it's clear that investors are overestimating the black clouds over this dot-com holdover.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) have been char-grilled after an outbreak of food-borne illness in customers. Since the issues started,$15 billion restaurant chain has lost about a third of its market value.
Chipotle used to be a Wall Street darling. Its philosophy of high-quality fast casual has resonated with millennials, spurring rapid growth to more than 2,000 stores. That footprint is still relatively small for Chipotle -- the company believes that it could nearly double its existing restaurant count before becoming at risk of saturation. And that doesn't even count the growth impact of newer restaurant concepts like ShopHouse and Pizzeria Locale.
Make no mistake, the sales decline from the outbreak has been significant -- much bigger than expected, in fact, with comparable sales dropping about 36% in January. If the burrito didn't make you sick, those numbers should. But even so, Chipotle retains a strong brand that other segment peers haven't been able to replicate. Likewise, a fast and aggressive outbreak response from management -- and equally aggressive marketing since -- should go a long way in upping traffic to Chipotle locations this spring. Shares are already showing signs of strength, including yesterday's recovery from news that no illness was tied to the closing of a Billerica, Mass., store on Tuesday.
Chipotle's recent uptrend has been holding since January, and that's setting the stage for a return to outperformance in 2016.