The stock market is closing in on its all-time high. The S&P 500 is up over 20% in 2023, with less than three weeks to go in the year. Yet those gains were not distributed equally. Three beaten-down stock picks are ready for a rebound in 2024.
For a good part of the year, virtually all of the broad market index’s gains were due to just seven stocks: Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL), Meta Platforms (NASDAQ:META), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA) and Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA). These were the so-called Magnificent 7. Without them, the popular index would be flat.
Because the S&P 500 is a weighted index, these stocks’ heavy footprint causes an undue influence on the whole. Several companies were even beaten down this year for good or ill. Whatever the reason for their fall, they remain good businesses with excellent long-term growth prospects.
Dollar General (DG)
Deep discount chain Dollar General (NYSE:DG) should be in its prime. A sagging economy weighed down by inflation and high interest rates ought to have consumers flocking to its stores to save money. Instead, they’ve avoided the dollar store and headed to Walmart (NYSE:WMT).
Dollar General’s problems come from misreading consumer demand. When people were flush with government stimulus checks from the pandemic, they bought up consumables left and right. The deep discounter apparently thought that was the new norm and overstocked on such goods. Yet today’s high cost of living has consumers shopping primarily for basics and everyday essentials, so they’ve turned to Walmart.
While the dollar store has held the line on pricing, it hurt profit margins. That’s not a bad strategy to lure customers in, but it exacerbated the problem of having the wrong products on its shelves. It suffers from falling sales and narrowing margins. Today, Dollar General is correcting course. It shed the excess inventory and is focusing on essential goods. It also brought back former CEO Todd Vasos, who oversaw Dollar General’s decade-long rise, to oversee the reversal.
Although the retailer is nominally a dollar store, most products it sells are above that price point. That’s okay, too, because it allows the retailer to offer customers a broader selection of higher-quality products. Having realized the problem and taken corrective action, expect Dollar General to come roaring back next year.
Occidental Petroleum ()
Oil prices are down from their pandemic highs even though what you’re paying at the pump is still historically high. But that’s helping depress Occidental Petroleum‘s (NYSE:OXY) stock, down almost 12% this year.
It’s also doing itself no favors by jumping on the industry consolidation trend underway. Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) and Chevron (NYSE:CVX) both announced multi-billion-dollar acquisitions in recent weeks, and now Occidental is spending $12 billion on privately held CrownRock. It will make Occidental Petroleum the second biggest producer in the Permian basin behind Exxon.
But Occidental is taking on debt to fund its all-cash deal. It already had $18.5 billion in long-term debt due to its previous acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum and now will add another $9.1 billion worth. It’s also issuing $1.7 billion in stock. The market is concerned because the oil stock’s cash position has been whittled away, and at the end of September, Occidental had $611 million in the bank.
Still, Occidental says the deal will increase free cash flow to $1 billion in the first year of the transaction if oil is at $70 a barrel. West Texas Intermediate currently trades just under that threshold. Warren Buffett took a 25% stake in Occidental stock because of its position in the Permian. This deal only solidifies it. Look for the market to eventually come around to the oil producer’s thinking and send its shares higher accordingly.
Chinese online retailer Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) went in the opposite direction of the S&P 500. Its shares are down almost 20% this year, though it’s been a roller coaster ride. The latest dip in price that began in August resulted from new U.S. export control regulations. It limits China’s access to U.S. chip technology, particularly in artificial intelligence ( ) and supercomputing. Controls on computer equipment are also imposed.
Although Alibaba had planned to split into six separate companies, the export controls put the separation of its cloud services on hold. Alibaba said it will retain the business because “these new restrictions may materially and adversely affect Cloud Intelligence Group’s ability to offer products and services and perform under existing contracts, thereby negatively affecting our results of operations and financial condition.”
Alibaba is still growing, albeit at slower rates, and is still incredibly profitable. The crackdown on tech companies like the e-commerce giant by Beijing is largely over. And though China no longer appears on the verge of overtaking the U.S. economy as the world’s largest, it can still expand considerably, a bullish catalyst for the e-tailer.
With the decline in BABA stock, a downdraft in valuation followed. Alibaba trades at less than eight times next year’s earnings when Wall Street forecasts it will grow profits at a 12% clip long-term. That’s orders of magnitude larger than it grew over the past five years. That makes Alibaba a cheap, beaten-down stock primed for growth next year and beyond.
On the date of publication, Rich Duprey held a LONG position in XOM and CVX stock. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.