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Investing Ideas to Tap into Consumer Trends

By: Fidelity Institutional Asset Management
Harvest Exchange
May 21, 2018

Investing Ideas to Tap into Consumer Trends

MAY 17, 2018

Fundamentals improved, and there may be opportunities in travel and gaming.

Key Takeaways

  • Fundamentals for the consumer discretionary stocks have improved and the sector has had strong performance relative to the market so far this year.
  • Fidelity managers have been looking for opportunities tied to consumer trends, including spending on travel, gaming, and other experiences.

With unemployment down, tax bills dropping, and some signs of wage inflation, there are several tailwinds to help drive consumer spending. Stocks in the consumer discretionary sector have also seen some fairly good times. This sector is composed of industries such as automobile producers and auto components, household durables, hotels and leisure, media, retail, and textiles.

The sector has shown improving fundamentals and relative strength this year, while posting the best performance of any sector other than technology in 2018. What's next? Viewpoints checked in with a number of Fidelity investment professionals for their views on where the sector may be headed, and what trends might drive performance. Among their best ideas: travel and gaming.

Denise Chisholm, Sector Strategist

Strong fundamentals and technicals

Consumer discretionary fundamentals have been incredibly strong. The sector's corporate profit margin, measured by earnings before interest and taxes, has been trending higher since the 1960s. As of March 2018, it was above 11%.

Also, the relative earnings yield for the sector is well above that of the S&P 500. Since 1926, when the sector's relative earnings yield was in the top quartile of its historic range (as it currently is), that has meant consumer discretionary stocks as a group were more likely to outperform the S&P, with a 4% average outperformance over the subsequent 12 months, according to data from FactSet.

S&P 500 consumer discretionary sector
S&P 500 consumer discretionary sector.

Source: S&P and FactSet, data shows January 1, 1996 to March 31, 2018. For illustration only.

Additionally, there have been almost 1,000 net positive earnings revisions so far this year. Since 1926, when that number was greater than 500, the sector has outperformed the S&P 67% of the time over the following 12 months, compared to 53% of time periods overall.

Lastly, after trading in a sideways range for 2 years, the sector seems to be breaking out and resuming the uptrend seen after 2008 (see S&P 500 consumer discretionary sector chart).

Katie Shaw

Portfolio Manager
Consumers are willing to pay for recreation and vacations

I'm bullish on consumer discretionary trends, especially as expectations for the economy have improved following several years of slow growth. Low unemployment and rising wages remain supportive of consumer spending. Also, the tax reform passed in December could add to US GDP (gross domestic product) over the next few years and further help spur consumer spending.

US consumers continue to spend less on household equipment, home furnishings, and automobiles relative to prior years, but are still opening their wallets for recreation and vacations. The percentage of households planning vacations has grown sharply in the past year.

The growing spending on travel could benefit specific firms that offer unique experiences for consumers in segments such as travel, skiing, and gambling. I believe a number of hotel chains and companies that cater to skiers and gamblers could benefit from the "experiences" trend in 2018 and beyond, as may several social media firms that cater to travel, sports, and leisure.

I am particularly positive on cruise lines, where industry fundamentals have been better than they've been in years. Cruise operators have overcome many challenges related to passenger safety in recent years. In 2017, several major cruise lines began to book trips further out into the future, and also have been carefully managing add-on services—excursions, massages, photo packages, and more—to pull in additional revenue.

Another consumer trend I think looks bullish is housing and home improvement, mainly because millennials may be in a better position to purchase houses. I also like companies with improving profit margins and shareholder dividend rates, as well as reasonable valuations, because I believe these types of stocks should outperform over time, regardless of the backdrop.

Mark Notkin

Portfolio Manager
Gaming stocks are still well-positioned

I think the gaming stocks category is still well-positioned to benefit from global economic growth and positive consumer spending trends. Demand for casinos tends to be steady throughout the business cycle, which helps gaming companies generate free cash flow from operations. Within the US, I expect a limited number of new casinos to come online. That may benefit existing operators.

Macau, an autonomous coastal peninsula territory of China with many casinos and hotels, may offer comparatively more growth as there's still a lot of untapped demand among potential visitors from mainland China. There is a new bridge to get to Macau that decreases visitors' travel time and could result in increased tourism and higher profits.

Jean Park

Portfolio Manager
Millenial spending trends

Millennials—US citizens born between 1980 and 1996—now surpass baby boomers as the largest living generation.

Not all companies that stand to benefit from consumer spending deal directly with consumers. While I tend to build my fund based on bottom-up, stock-by-stock analysis, I recently positioned it in areas where I see secular growth trends, such as millennials' reliance on technology. I believe this generation is more technologically adept and more likely than any other to trust technology in their everyday lives.

For example, as of the end of February 2018, I saw various long-term opportunities among semiconductor companies that could benefit from millennials' adoption of technology and connectivity, even though some of these companies may have a less certain outlook in the shorter term.

Information presented herein is for discussion and illustrative purposes only and is not a recommendation or an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities. The views and opinions expressed by the Fidelity speaker are his or her own as of the date of the recording and do not necessarily represent the views of Fidelity Investments or its affiliates. Any such views are subject to change at any time based on market or other conditions, and Fidelity disclaims any responsibility to update such views. These views should not be relied on as investment advice and, because investment decisions are based on numerous factors, may not be relied on as an indication of trading intent on behalf of any Fidelity product. Neither Fidelity nor the Fidelity speaker can be held responsible for any direct or incidental loss incurred by applying any of the information offered. Please consult your tax or financial advisor for additional information concerning your specific situation.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Stock markets are volatile and can decline significantly in response to adverse issuer, political, regulatory, market, or economic developments.
Because of its narrow focus, sector investing tends to be more volatile than investments that diversify across many sectors and companies. Sector investing is also subject to the additional risks associated with its particular industry.
The consumer discretionary industries can be significantly affected by the performance of the overall economy, interest rates, competition, consumer confidence and spending, and changes in demographics and consumer tastes.
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Originally Published at: Investing Ideas to Tap into Consumer Trends