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3 Top Stocks Wall Street Is Overlooking

Rich Duprey, Daniel Miller, and Steve Symington, The Motley Fool

Following the crowd may feel comfortable, but it's only when you break the mold do you really have a chance to outperform the market. Because many investors intensely watch what analysts say and act accordingly, we asked three Motley Fool contributors to identify three stocks that Wall Street is overlooking but that offer a good chance of breaking through.

Aptiv (NYSE: APTV), Boston Beer (NYSE: SAM), and Vista Outdoor (NYSE: VSTO) are seen as being able to do just that, so read on to find out why.

Man activating self-driving mode on car

Image source: Getty Images.

Overlooked driverless car stock

Daniel Miller (Aptiv): When investors think of driverless cars and the companies developing the technology that powers them, many think of tech companies such as Alphabet's Google. If you don't think of Silicon Valley companies first, the next best bet is a global automaker such as General Motors, which made headlines recently with its GM Cruise subsidiary. Alphabet and GM are two great places to start when thinking of driverless vehicle stocks, but one overlooked name is Aptiv PLC and it appears well positioned to turn into a top stock for investors. 

Just recently, Aptiv released second-quarter results that included "record double-digit revenue growth, operating income, earnings per share and free cash flow," according to Aptiv CEO Kevin Clark. Aptiv, which produces electrical architecture components and systems, as well as safety solutions, isn't done making moves, either. It announced an agreement in July to acquire Winchester Interconnect, which Aptiv calls "a leading provider of custom-engineered interconnect solutions for harsh environment applications," a move that will help Aptiv expand its product offerings outside of the automotive industry and into adjacent markets such as aerospace. 

The company is also setting itself up for the future with partnerships such as the recent announcement with The Hertz Corporation that calls for the latter to help Aptiv operate and maintain driverless fleets in Las Vegas. As companies continue to develop driverless vehicle technology at a breakneck pace, it will be critical for Aptiv to make strategic acquisitions a long the way to boost its business footprint and innovative products, while also partnering with companies such as Hertz, among many others, that could one day operate fleets of driverless cars across the globe -- with its recent list of acquisitions and partnerships, Aptiv is doing just that. 

Currently, business is good for Aptiv, and if the company continues to innovate in high-growth technologies such as advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) and other driverless vehicle solutions, it's likely a stock that won't be overlooked too much longer.

Draft of Samuel Adams beer being poured

Image source: Boston Beer.

This craft brewer is still delicious

Steve Symington (Boston Beer): Things were looking up for Boston Beer company only a few weeks ago. The craft brewer's turnaround appeared to be gaining steam, as shares had more than doubled over the previous year with trends for its core Samuel Adams and Angry Orchard brands taking a turn for the better in the first quarter. But then shares plunged 13% in a single day last week after rising costs ate into Boston Beer's profits, causing it to fall far short of earnings expectations for the second quarter.

Interestingly enough, Boston Beer blamed its rising operating expenses on the timing of planned brand-building investments, including capacity increases and brewing and packaging capabilities. As a result -- and keeping in mind those trends are still positive -- the company reiterated its full-year outlook for adjusted earnings per share to arrive in the range of $6.30 to $7.30.

The problem? Consensus estimates predicted Boston Beer would boost its 2018 earnings outlook to nearly $8.00 per share, indicating that Wall Street was drastically -- and incorrectly -- overestimating Boston Beer's earnings despite its prior outlook. Now, thanks to its dramatic post-earnings decline, it seems many investors are wrongly assuming Boston Beer's turnaround is all but derailed.

When it becomes evident that this is not the case, and if Boston Beer proves as much in its next quarterly reports, I think the stock should have no trouble resuming its upward trajectory.

Father and son sitting in a tent

Image source: Getty Images.

Envisioning a more stable future

Rich Duprey (Vista Outdoor): Like other gunmakers, Vista Outdoor was hurt by the downdraft the election of President Trump created in the industry. Now Vista wants to unload its firearms division, believing it will create a less volatile environment as firearms sales tend to surge in the aftermath of tragedy and cool off, like now, when there's apparently little chance of legislation being passed that would limit the right to own firearms.

While Vista plans on keeping its ammunition business, selling its rifle and shotgun division could be a missed opportunity as the gun industry has returned to a more normal sales cycle rather than being in a white-hot market. And that means the industry is still growing, just not at the torrid pace it was beforehand.

Even Vista's fiscal fourth-quarter results showed higher gun sales when the rest of the business, ammunition included, was down. The gunmaker beat analyst revenue estimates, but fell way short of profit forecasts as lower prices beat back earnings, suggesting analysts didn't properly gauge the depth of the discounting that was necessary to move product.

But shooting sports are only half of Vista's business and the outdoor recreation market remains a large $887 billion opportunity that is seeing tremendous growth. By offering investors a less volatile performance devoid of gun's highs and lows, the market will be able to more accurately value the business.

At 36 times next year's earnings estimates, Vista Outdoor looks expensive, but it also trades for less than five times the free cash flow it produces, and that valuation should markedly improve as Wall Street forecasts earnings to grow 60% this year and more than double the next. Vista Outdoor should be able to regain the high ground once more.

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Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Daniel Miller owns shares of General Motors. Rich Duprey has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Steve Symington has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), and Boston Beer. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.