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Stocks  | March 19, 2020

After historic sell-off this month, the last thing many investors want to do is buy stocks. They’ve just ridden a wild roller coaster, and their tolerance for risk has fallen alongside their precious portfolios. After Monday’s devastating losses in the markets, the S&P 500 regained about half of Monday’s loss. It was a good sign, but investors will need to see more days like that in order to regain confidence. In the meantime, what they’ve gotten is today’s 5% loss.

Underneath it all, there are some hopeful signs. True, we’re in a genuine bear market now, but when markets make moves of this magnitude, there is opportunity – whether those moves are up or down. And finding the profitable chances is what investing is all about.

Following corporate insiders is a clear strategy for finding stocks that are upwardly mobile. Insiders – the company officers who manage the money and are responsible to shareholders for the fate of the stock – have a unique perspective on their companies’ stocks. They are privy to knowledge that the rest of us simply haven’t got, and they can use that knowledge when they make their own stock purchases. To keep a fair field, Federal requires such insiders to publicly report their stock transactions – both buys and sells.

The result is a record of stock acquisitions by the insiders – that can give investors signs about particular companies. We’ve used the TipRanks Hot Insiders’ Stocks tool to track these purchases, and have picked out three that show strong buy-side signals. Let's take a closer look.

TPG Specialty Lending (TSLX)

We’ll start our list with a company in the finance industry, TGP Specialty Lending. This company provides lending and financing support for a wide range middle market companies that have limited resources for capital access. TGP gives its customers solutions for funding complex business models.

In recent months, TGP insiders have bought up nearly $600K worth of company stock, skewing the insider sentiment here strongly positive. The largest single purchase was by Steven Pluss, a company VP, who spent $260,000 buying a block of 15,000 shares earlier this month.

The company has used its earnings to keep up its dividend payments. The annualized payment of $1.64 gives a yield of 10.9%, much better than can be found in the bond market, and more than 5x higher than the average dividend yield among publicly traded companies. TSLX has a history of interspersing regular dividends with special payments.

Covering this stock for Wells Fargo, analyst Finian O’Shea sees a strong upside in the near future. O’Shea writes, “The value-add provided though highly structured and idiosyncratic deals is still under-appreciated, and perhaps highlighted by TSLX’ best-in-class-peers now showing non-accruals. Moreover, we see that TSLX should receive a richer valuation for preserving a defensive and opportunistic financial position at this market stage.”

O’Shea’s $23.50 price target supports the Buy rating, implying an upside of 80% from current levels.

Christopher York, of JMP Securities, is another bull, rating TSLX shares a Buy with a $22.50 price target. In his comments on TSLX, York says, “We believe the historical track record, quality of the investment portfolio & platform, and shareholder governance and best practices should continue to result in superior total returns relative to benchmarks and the company's expansion in leverage could lead to a recurring return in the low teens.”

Overall, this stock holds a Strong Buy from the analyst consensus, based on 5 Buy-side reviews against a single Hold. Shares are priced at a bargain, only $14.95, and the average price target, $23.20, suggests that the stock has room for 78% growth in the coming year.

NCR Corporation (NCR)

Our next stock is NCR, a famous name in the business machine industry. The company started out in the 1880s making cash registers; in its modern incarnation, NCR produces business software, as well as ATMs, barcode scanners, check processing systems, point-of-sale terminals, and self-service kiosks. NCR sees more than $6 billion in annual revenue.

For its Q4 2019, NCR beat the Wall Street estimates. Earnings came in strongly positive, at $2.67 per share – a fine improvement from the year-ago net loss. Quarterly revenues grew by 5% yoy, to $1.89 billion. Management was pleased with the quarter, describing it as a “strong finish to the year.”

Those weren’t just words. In the past few days, NCR’s officers have made substantial purchases of company stock, totaling nearly $2.8 million. The single largest purchases, by Michael Hayford, CEO & President, was for $1.06 million covering 60,000 shares. The second largest purchase, of 45,000 shares, was by Board of Directors member Frank Martire, who shelled out $802,800 for the stock. Insider sentiment on NCR is strongly positive, based on the high-value purchases.

RBC Capital’s 5-star analyst Daniel Perlin describes NCR as a ‘Top Pick.' Backing this, he sets a $45 price target, implying a massive upside of 282%.

Perlin says of NCR, “Although impossible to know when the coronavirus concerns / impacts will abate, we believe the underlying core normalized growth of the business, financial model transition, improving long-term visibility, and ultimate valuation re-rating, all remain in NCR’s grasp. We believe the recent underperformance is overdone and represents an attractive entry point for the name... As the narrative continues to shift, coupled with consistent execution and higher recurring revenues we believe the stock can re-rate higher…”

Writing from Oppenheimer, Ian Zaffino upgraded NCR from Neutral to Buy. Zaffino set a price target of $20, not as bullish as Perlin’s above but still indicative of a strong 70% upside potential.

In his comments, Zaffino wrote, “We upgrade NCR, owing to its attractive valuation, expanding recurring revenue base (45%), and limited exposure to Hospitality end-markets (~12% of revenue with company-low segment margins). Further, NCR has little exposure to China (either end-market or production), ample liquidity ($1.2B), and modest leverage (2.9x net leverage); and its insiders recently purchased ~158K shares with personal funds."

All in all, NCR currently holds a Moderate Buy rating from the analyst consensus, based on an even split in the reviews: 2 Buys and 2 Holds. The stock is selling for a low $11.78, while the average price target of $34.50 suggests room for 193% upside growth this year.

Assured Guaranty (AGO)

We’ll wrap this list with a holding company controlling credit protection products. Assured Guaranty’s subsidiaries offer solutions for principal and interest payments on municipal and public infrastructure, and on structured financings. The company has offices in San Francisco and New York, as well as London and Bermuda.

In the first half of this month – and since the coronavirus epidemic has impacted markets – AGO’s Chief Information Office, Andrew Feldstein, has made no fewer than three major share purchases in the company. His buys have averaged $1.5 million each, and have totaled over 121,000 shares. These recent purchases have sent a strong positive signal on the stock, and boosted Feldstein’s total holdings to 627,466 shares.

Meanwhile, AGO pays out 20 cents per share quarterly, or 80 cents annualized, and the yield of 2.8% is almost 50% higher than the average stock dividend. The payout ratio is low – at just 24%, it indicates that the company can easily afford to sustain the payment at current income levels. AGO has raised the dividend three times in the past three years.

BTIG analyst Giuliano Bologna recently reiterated his Buy rating on this stock, setting a $66 price target for the coming year. His target implies room for 148% growth in the stock.

Bologna explains his optimism in his clear comments on the stock: “We believe shares of AGO are well positioned to outperform between the company’s ability to continue repurchasing ~$500M of shares at a discount, strong new business growth and potential earnings upside from the company’s asset management segment going forward.”

Also upbeat on AGO is 5-star analyst Harry Fong of MKM Partners: “As with the other financial guarantors that we follow, earnings in the short term is not all that significant to how we value the shares. The major surprise in the quarter was new business as represented by PVP which was the best it has been in the past 10 years. As long as interest rates remain low, new insurance business written will likely remain tepid, but over half of the company's new business came from the international side where there is an increase in project work.”

In line with his comments, Fong keeps his Buy rating on AGO shares. His $65 price target suggests 209% share growth in the coming 12 months.

Based on its three most recent reviews – the two above, plus the UBS rating in the graphic below – AGO shares have a unanimous Buy rating from the analyst consensus.

A revolutionary initiative is helping average Americans find quick and lasting stock market success.

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