Warren Buffett famously said one should be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful. Right now, there is a lot of fear around stocks, with an 18% year-to-date loss on the S&P 500 index – and that’s after gaining 3% in recent trading sessions.
Does that mean it’s time to get greedy? Perhaps a hint is coming in from Oppenheimer. The firm is less pessimistic than most, and in recent note, chief investment strategist John Stoltzfus lays out a bull case for gains on a mid-term time scale.
Stoltzfus doesn’t back down from the current headwinds. He acknowledges inflation, the lingering difficulties of COVID lockdowns and supply disruptions, and the recessionary pressures brought on by the Federal Reserve’s switch to an anti-inflationary regime of increasing interest rates. But in Stoltzfus’ view, “Even in the face of uncertainty and palpable risks of recession, our longer-term outlook for the US economy and the stock market remains decidedly bullish. We believe US economic fundamentals remain on solid footing. US growth should remain well supported by consumer demand, business investment, and government spending.”
Stoltzfus sees a 23% upside to the S&P 500 by year’s end, from its current level near 3,900. A gain of that magnitude would put the index at 4,800.
Against this backdrop, we’ve used the TipRanks database to pull up the details on two stocks that Oppenheimer analysts have tapped as Top Picks for 2022 and beyond. Are these the right stocks for your portfolio? Let’s take a closer look.
American Express (AXP)
First up is one of the most recognizable names in finance, American Express. This New York City-based company has a world-wide reach and a reputation for offering financial services to a higher-end clientele. The company’s products include credit access and financing, which customers can use via credit cards and charge cards, business and corporate checking accounts and credit programs, and business lines of credit.
Even though the corona pandemic put a damper on consumer spending in 2020, Amex still saw more than $8 billion in revenues at the height of the crisis in 2Q20. Since then, the company’s top line has generally increased, topping out at $12.44 billion in 4Q21.
The most recent quarterly report, for 1Q22, showed $11.7 billion in revenues, which despite a 6% sequential drop was still up 29% year-over-year. The company’s earnings were in-line with the previous year’s 1Q, at $2.73, but 12% above the analyst forecasts.
This stock gets ‘top pick’ status from Oppenheimer, where analyst Dominick Gabriele explains why: “We see tailwinds still mounting at AXP vs. peers given the return of T&E spend and pent-up demand among the affluent consumer. Loan growth is likely to stay elevated vs. the industry and AXP isn’t seeing any inflationary impacts to discretionary spend among their customer base. We think the average ticket size could continue to increase at AXP and be a boon to volumes in coming quarter vs. peers. We expect continued OP of AXP vs. peers. Structural changes materializing pushing LT revenue growth expectations higher.”
To this end, Gabriele quantifies his position with an Outperform (i.e. Buy) along with a $212 price target. Investors stand to pocket a 50% gain, should all go according to plan over the next 12 months. (To watch Gabriele’s track record, click here)
Overall, the stock has 14 recent analyst reviews, split down the middle on Buys versus Holds for a Moderate Buy consensus rating. The shares are priced at $141.03 and their $185.15 average price target suggests a 31% upside in the next 12 months. (See AXP stock forecast on TipRanks)
Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG)
The next Top Pick we’re looking at is Chipotle Mexican Grill, a recognizable brand in the fast food industry. Chipotle has been expanding its network over the past few years, and in 12 months between March 31, 2021 and March 31, 2022 the chain grew from 2,803 locations to 3,014. New location openings per quarter have ranged from 40 to 78; the 51 new openings in 1Q22 was well within that range.
In other positive metrics, Chipotle’s $2 billion in 1Q revenue was up 16% year-over-year. Drilling down, we find several positive data points supporting that gain, including a 9% increase in comp store sales and a 33% increase in in-restaurant sales. The company’s digital sales came to nearly 42% of food and beverages. Getting to the bottom line, adjusted earnings came to $5.70 per share, up nearly 6% from the year-ago quarter.
Chipotle’s management was particularly pleased with the 51 new locations opened during the first quarter. Of these, 42 include a drive-thru Chipotlane, a feature which, according to the company, has shown solid performance since the onset of the pandemic crisis.
Covering this restaurant chain for Oppenheimer, 5-star analyst Brian Bittner writes: “CMG remains a top pick owing to its unique pricing power, robust traffic drivers, and ongoing margin/EPS upside path. We also believe its accelerating unit growth (to the 10% range) with higher-return Chipotlanes is underappreciated.”
Bittner has also taken a broader look at the fast food sector in general, and continues to place Chipotle at the top relative to peers. Of that broader view, Bittner looked at the last cyclical recession, and said of Chipotle, “With investors focused on a potential recession, we carefully analyzed industry-wide and company-specific data points during the ’08/’09 economic downturn. In a nutshell, restaurant industry sales were surprisingly resilient (despite 8.6M jobs lost) and significantly outperformed overall retail sales trends. On a bottom-up basis, CMG and MCD were the only brands in our coverage where quarterly same-store-sales never turned negative.”
In-line with his upbeat view of CMG, Bittner rates the stock an Outperform (i.e. Buy), and sets a $1,925 price target that shows his confidence in 42% growth going forward. (To watch Bittner’s track record, click here)
All in all, this restaurant chain has picked up 20 analyst reviews in recent months, and these include 16 Buys against 4 Holds, for a Moderate Buy consensus rating. The average price target of $1,777 and change implies a 12-month upside potential of ~32% from the current trading price. (See CMG stock forecast on TipRanks)
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.