Cyclical stocks are beating the market, and should continue to outperform in 2020 as the U.S. economy rebounds, Goldman Sachs forecasts. Since late August, the S&P 500 is up by 9%, cyclical stocks have advanced by 12%, but defensive stocks have lagged with an 8% gain, per Goldman's current US Weekly Kickstart report.

"The relative performance of Cyclicals vs. Defensives suggests the equity market is anticipating an acceleration in US economic growth during the coming months," Goldman says. "Investors who want to capture further cyclical upside can improve risk-reward by narrowing their focus to select cyclical stocks," they add.

Among the 24 stocks that passed Goldman's Cyclically-Attractive Risk-Reward screen are these 10, which are expected to post a sharp acceleration in their EPS growth in 2020 compared to the previous year. Goldman for example, forecasts that CommScope Holdings Co. Inc. (COMM) will post 2020 earnings growth that's 17 percentage points (pp) higher than this year. Other companies include Lincoln National Corp. (LNC), 79 pp higher, Harley-Davidson Inc. (HOG), 38 pp, Urban Outfitters Inc. (URBN), 30 pp, Kohl's Corp. (KSS), 11 pp, 3M Co. (MMM), 17 pp, MetLife Inc. (MET), 12 pp, Lear Corp. (LEA), 42 pp, Prosperity Bancshares Inc. (PB), 35 pp, and Evercore Inc. (EVR), 18 pp.

Key Takeaways

  • Goldman Sachs forecasts accelerating U.S. GDP growth in 2020.
  • They identified cheap cyclical stocks with significant upside potential.
  • These stocks are highly sensitive to economic data surprises.

Significance For Investors

Goldman screened the Russell 1000 Index for stocks with high historical share price sensitivity to economic data surprises, but whose current valuations, as measured by forward P/E ratios, are significantly below both their own 5-year averages and the average for the index. Goldman excluded energy stocks, based on their forecast of flat oil prices, and semiconductor stocks, given that shipments have recovered to trend. Among the stocks listed above, Urban Outfitters and Prosperity Bancshares are the most economically-sensitive.

The median stock in the basket has a forward P/E of 11 times projected earnings over the next 12 months, versus a 5-year average of 14 times, and a current figure of 19 times for the median Russell 1000 stock. While the median stock in the basket has a projected EPS growth rate in 2020 of 7%, versus 8% for the median Russell 1000 stock, its growth rate is forecast to improve by 9 percentage points from 2019 to 2020, versus an improvement of only 3 percentage points for the median stock in the index.

Goldman sees signs that the U.S. economy is rebounding, which should give cyclical stocks additional upside. They cite recent positives in non-farm payroll growth, home sales, retail sales, the ISM Manufacturing Index, and the ISM Non-Manufacturing Index. They forecast U.S real GDP to grow by 2.1% in 2020, versus the consensus projection of 1.8%.

Motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson appears to have huge upside, according to Goldman's analysis. It has a forward P/E of 11 times, slightly below its 5-year average of 12 times. The consensus calls for 21% EPS growth in 2020, up 38 percentage points from 2019. While Q3 2019 revenue was down by 5% year-over-year (YOY) and shipments dropped by 6%, Harley beat estimates and the stock surged, Barron's reported. About 40% of total bikes sold were overseas, with sales in Asia up by nearly 9%.

Insurance company MetLife has a forward P/E of 8 times, slightly below its 5-year average. The consensus calls for 9% EPS growth in 2020, up 12 percentage points from 2019. Revenue and EPS in Q3 2019 were up 15% and 161%, respectively. Revenues from premiums rose by 5.3%, and total revenues beat the consensus estimate by 14%, per The Wall Street Journal. However, more than half the beat was due to a gain on derivatives contracts used to hedge against lower interest rates.

Looking Ahead

To be sure, many of these companies have posted poor results in the past few years. And Goldman's bullish view depends on an imminent economic rebound seen by few other strategists on Wall Street. If Goldman is wrong and the economy stalls or goes south, these stocks will follow close behind.