Deep Dive

These 20 stocks in the S&P 500 are expected to soar after rising interest rates have pushed down valuations

Rising rates and falling stocks can spell bargains for patient investors

Shares of Delta Air Lines Holdings are trading at a relatively low valuation to expected earnings; analysts see 67% upside potential for the stock over the next 12 months.

Getty Images

Two things investors can be sure about: Nothing lasts forever and the stock market always overreacts. The spiking of yields on long-term U.S. Treasury securities has been breathtaking, and it has led to remarkable declines for some sectors and possible bargains for contrarian investors who can commit for the long term.

First we will show how the sectors of the S&P 500 have performed. Then we will look at price-to-earnings valuations for the sectors and compare them to long-term averages. Then we will screen the entire index for companies trading below their long-term forward P/E valuation averages and narrow the list to companies most favored by analysts.

Here are total returns, with dividends reinvested, for the 11 sectors of the S&P 500, with broad indexes below. The sectors are sorted by ascending total returns this year through Monday.

Sector or index 2023 return 2022 return Return since end of 2021 1 week return 1 month return
Utilities -18.4% 1.6% -17.2% -11.1% -9.6%
Real Estate -7.1% -26.1% -31.4% -3.0% -8.8%
Consumer Staples -5.4% -0.6% -6.0% -2.2% -4.4%
Healthcare -4.2% -2.0% -6.1% -1.7% -3.3%
Financials -2.5% -10.5% -12.7% -2.5% -4.7%
Materials 1.3% -12.3% -11.2% -1.9% -7.0%
Industrials 3.5% -5.5% -2.1% -1.8% -7.3%
Energy 4.0% 65.7% 72.4% -1.9% -1.4%
Consumer Discretionary 27.0% -37.0% -20.0% -0.6% -5.2%
Information Technology 36.5% -28.2% -2.0% 0.8% -5.9%
Communication Services 42.5% -39.9% -14.3% 1.1% -1.3%
S&P 500 13.1% -18.1% -7.4% -1.1% -4.9%
DJ Industrial Average 2.5% -6.9% -4.5% -1.7% -4.0%
Nasdaq Composite Index COMP 28.0% -32.5% -13.7% 0.3% -5.1%
Nasdaq-100 Index 36.5% -32.4% -7.7% 0.5% -4.2%
Source: FactSet

Returns for 2022 are also included, along with those since the end of 2021. Last year’s weakest sector, communications services, has been this year’s strongest performer. This sector includes Alphabet Inc. GOOGL and Meta Platforms Inc. META, which have returned 52% and 155% this year, respectively, but are still down since the end of 2021. To the right are returns for the past week and month through Monday.

On Monday, the S&P 500 Utilities sector had its worst one-day performance since 2020, with a 4.7% decline. Investors were reacting to the jump in long-term interest rates.

Here is a link to the U.S. Treasury Department’s summary of the daily yield curve across maturities for Treasury securities.

The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes jumped 10 basis points in only one day to 4.69% on Monday. A month earlier the 10-year yield was only 4.27%. Also on Monday, the yield on 20-year Treasury bonds rose to 5.00% from 4.92% on Friday. It was up from 4.56% a month earlier.

Market Extra: Bond investors feel the heat as popular fixed-income ETF suffers lowest close since 2007

The Treasury yield curve is still inverted, with 3-month T-bills yielding 5.62% on Monday, but that was up only slightly from a month earlier. An inverted yield curve has traditionally signaled that bond investors expect a recession within a year and a lowering of interest rates by the Federal Reserve. Demand for bonds pushes their prices down. But the reverse has happened over recent days, with the selling of longer-term Treasury securities pushing yields up rapidly.

Another way to illustrate the phenomenon is to look at how the Federal Reserve has shifted the U.S. money supply. Odeon Capital analyst Dick Bove wrote in a note to clients on Friday that “the Federal Reserve has not deviated from its policy to defeat inflation by tightening monetary policy,” as it has shrunk its balance sheet (mostly Treasury securities) to $8.1 trillion from $9 trillion in March 2022. He added: “The M2 money supply was $21.8 trillion in March 2022; today it is $20.8 trillion. You cannot get tighter than these numbers indicate.”

Then on Tuesday, Bove illustrated the Fed’s tightening and the movement of the 10-year yield with two charts:

Odeon Capital Group, Bloomberg

Bove said he believes the bond market has gotten it wrong, with the inverted yield curve reflecting expectations of rate cuts next year. If he is correct, investors can expect longer-term yields to keep shooting up and a normalization of the yield curve.

This has set up a brutal environment for utility stocks, which are typically desired by investors who are seeking dividend income. In a market in which you can receive a yield of 5.5% with little risk over the short term, and in which you can lock in a long-term yield of about 5%, why take a risk in the stock market? And if you believe that the core inflation rate of 3.7% makes a 5% yield seem paltry, keep in mind that not all investors think the same way. Many worry less about the inflation rate because large components of official inflation calculations, such as home prices and car prices, don’t affect everyone every year.

We cannot know when this current selloff of longer-term bonds will end, or how much of an effect it will have on the stock market. But sharp declines in the stock market can set up attractive price points for investors looking to go in for the long haul.

Screening for lower valuations and high ratings

A combination of rising earnings estimates and price declines could shed light on potential buying opportunities, based on forward price-to-earnings ratios.

Let’s look at the sectors again, in the same order, this time to show their forward P/E ratios, based on weighted rolling 12-month consensus estimates for earnings per share among analysts polled by FactSet:

Sector or index Current P/E to 5-year average Current P/E to 10-year average Current P/E to 15-year average Forward P/E 5-year average P/E 10-year average P/E 15-year average P/E
Utilities 82% 86% 95% 14.99 18.30 17.40 15.82
Real Estate 76% 80% 81% 15.19 19.86 18.89 18.72
Consumer Staples 93% 96% 105% 18.61 19.92 19.30 17.64
Healthcare 103% 104% 115% 16.99 16.46 16.34 14.72
Financials 88% 92% 97% 12.90 14.65 14.08 13.26
Materials 100% 103% 111% 16.91 16.98 16.42 15.27
Industrials 88% 96% 105% 17.38 19.84 18.16 16.56
Energy 106% 63% 73% 11.78 11.17 18.80 16.23
Consumer Discretionary 79% 95% 109% 24.09 30.41 25.39 22.10
Information Technology 109% 130% 146% 24.20 22.17 18.55 16.54
Communication Services 86% 86% 94% 16.41 19.09 19.00 17.43
S&P 500 94% 101% 112% 17.94 19.01 17.76 16.04
DJ Industrial Average 93% 98% 107% 16.25 17.49 16.54 15.17
Nasdaq Composite Index 92% 102% 102% 24.62 26.71 24.18 24.18
Nasdaq-100 Index 97% 110% 126% 24.40 25.23 22.14 19.43

There is a limit to how many columns we can show in the table. The S&P 500’s forward P/E ratio is now 17.94, compared with 16.79 at the end of 2022 and 21.53 at the end of 2021. The benchmark index’s P/E is above its 10- and 15-year average levels but below the five-year average.

If we compare the current sector P/E numbers to 5-, 10- and 15-year averages, we can see that the current levels are below all three averages for four sectors: utilities, real estate, financials and communications services. The first three face obvious difficulties as they adjust to the rising-rate environment, while the real-estate sector reels from continuing low usage rates for office buildings, from the change in behavior brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Your own opinions, along with the pricing for some sectors, might drive some investment choices.

A broader screen of the S&P 500 might point to companies for you to research further.

We narrowed the S&P 500 as follows:

  • Current forward P/E below 5-, 10- and 15-year average valuations. For stocks with negative earnings-per-share estimates for the next 12 months, there is no forward P/E ratio so they were excluded. For stocks listed for less than 15 years, we required at least a 5-year average P/E for comparison. This brought the list down to 138 companies.
  • “Buy” or equivalent ratings from at least two-thirds of analysts: 41 companies.

Here are the 20 companies that passed the screen, for which analysts’ price targets imply the highest upside potential over the next 12 months.

There is too much data for one table, so first we will show the P/E information:

Company Ticker Current P/E to 5-year average Current P/E to 10-year average Current P/E to 15-year average
SolarEdge Technologies Inc. SEDG 89% N/A N/A
AES Corp. AES 66% 75% 90%
Insulet Corp. PODD 18% N/A N/A
United Airlines Holdings Inc. UAL 42% 50% N/A
Alaska Air Group Inc. ALK 51% 57% N/A
Tapestry Inc. TPR 39% 49% 70%
Albemarle Corp. ALB 39% 50% 73%
Delta Air Lines Inc. DAL 60% 63% 21%
Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc. ARE 59% 68% N/A
Las Vegas Sands Corp. LVS 96% 78% 53%
Paycom Software Inc. PAYC 61% N/A N/A
PayPal Holdings Inc. PYPL 33% N/A N/A
SBA Communications Corp. Class A SBAC 27% N/A N/A
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. AMD 58% 39% N/A
LKQ Corp. LKQ 92% 44% 78%
Charles Schwab Corp. SCHW 75% 54% 73%
PulteGroup Inc. PHM 94% 47% N/A
Lamb Weston Holdings Inc. LW 71% N/A N/A
News Corp Class A NWSA 93% 73% N/A
CVS Health Corp. CVS 75% 61% 67%
Source: FactSet

Click on the tickers for more about each company or index.

Click?here?for Tomi Kilgore’s detailed guide to the wealth of information available for free on the MarketWatch quote page.

News Corp NWSA is on the list. The company owns Dow Jones, which in turn owns MarketWatch.

Here’s the list again, with ratings and consensus price-target information:

Company Ticker Share “buy” ratings Oct. 2 price Consensus price target Implied 12-month upside potential
SolarEdge Technologies Inc. SEDG 74% $122.56 $268.77 119%
AES Corp. AES 79% $14.16 $25.60 81%
Insulet Corp. PODD 68% $165.04 $279.00 69%
United Airlines Holdings Inc. UAL 71% $41.62 $69.52 67%
Alaska Air Group Inc. ALK 87% $36.83 $61.31 66%
Tapestry Inc. TPR 75% $28.58 $46.21 62%
Albemarle Corp. ALB 81% $162.41 $259.95 60%
Delta Air Lines Inc. DAL 95% $36.45 $58.11 59%
Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc. ARE 100% $98.18 $149.45 52%
Las Vegas Sands Corp. LVS 72% $45.70 $68.15 49%
Paycom Software Inc. PAYC 77% $260.04 $384.89 48%
PayPal Holdings Inc. PYPL 69% $58.56 $86.38 48%
SBA Communications Corp. Class A SBAC 68% $198.24 $276.69 40%
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. AMD 74% $103.27 $143.07 39%
LKQ Corp. LKQ 82% $49.13 $67.13 37%
Charles Schwab Corp. SCHW 77% $53.55 $72.67 36%
PulteGroup Inc. PHM 81% $73.22 $98.60 35%
Lamb Weston Holdings Inc. LW 100% $92.23 $123.50 34%
News Corp Class A NWSA 78% $20.00 $26.42 32%
CVS Health Corp. CVS 77% $69.69 $90.88 30%
Source: FactSet

A year may actually be a short period for a long-term investor, but 12-month price targets are the norm for analysts working for brokerage companies.

Don’t miss: This fund shows that industry expertise can help you make a lot of money in the stock market