I’m looking for the FTSE 100’s best value stocks to buy now. Have I found them?

If the UK stock market keeps on going up in 2024, we might soon run out of cheap value shares to buy and tuck away for the long term.

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The best value stocks aren’t always the ones on the lowest valuation measures. Sometimes, share prices are at rock bottom for a reason — and they can go lower.

But some of the FTSE 100 stocks with the lowest price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios look very tempting. At the end of 2023, Barclays, NatWest Group, HSBC Holdings, BP and Lloyds Banking Group were at rock bottom.

What do things look like today?

Lowest P/E stocks

P/E 2024P/E 2025P/E 2026
International Consolidated Airlines (LSE: IAG)177p4.74.34.1
HSBC Holdings694p6.77.67.1
Beazley (LSE: BEZ)674p6.75.85.3
Standard Chartered785p6.86.34.8
(Sources: ShareCast, Yahoo!, MarketScreener)

How about that — Barclays and HSBC are still down there. But at least their valuations are higher now. We’ve seen three of the cheapest five move out of the table altogether. And the remaining two are valued more highly.

So it turns out it would have been a good move to buy all five of December’s lowest, at least for the short time that’s passed since then.

We have a new bank in the list now, Standard Chartered. But I want to peek at the other two brand new entries.

Flying low

The International Consolidated Airlines share price has been rising since late 2022. But it’s still down 65% in the past five years. And those low P/E multiples of four to five almost cause me physical pain.

Is the stock really that cheap? Perhaps not when we account for debt. An investor buying now wouldn’t just be bagging a piece of the market-cap. They’d be taking on a slice of the debt too, and we need to factor that in.

At the last count, International Consolidated had £7.4bn in net debt. And the market-cap is £8.7bn right now. Allowing for that, I work out an adjusted P/E of 8.7 for 2024.

Is that still a buy valuation? It might be.

Cheap insurer?

The Beazley share price meanwhile, has been doing better. It’s gained strongly since the crash. And it’s up 30% so far in 2024, boosted by a strong Q1.

Unlike most insurance stocks, with their fingers in all sorts of financial pies, Beazley’s business is simpler. It’s a Lloyds of London insurer, and does speciality-risk insurance and reinsurance.

But it could be open to all sorts of global risk in the coming years. I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but large parts of the world seem to be lurching from crisis, to catastrophe, to calamity these days.

And while Beazley might look cheap on a P/E basis, the forecast dividend is low for the sector at only 2%. There are more general insurers offering 7% and more. But again, it does tempt me.

Best value stocks?

I’d never buy a stock just because its P/E is very low. People have tried automated strategies that just buy the cheapest — and they haven’t worked too well.

But I do think a check on the FTSE 100’s lowest P/Es can help us find good value buys… especially in today’s mixed-up and uncertain stock market.

Should you invest, the value of your investment may rise or fall and your capital is at risk. Before investing, your individual circumstances should be assessed. Consider taking independent financial advice.

HSBC Holdings is an advertising partner of The Ascent, a Motley Fool company. Alan Oscroft has positions in Lloyds Banking Group Plc. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Barclays Plc, HSBC Holdings, Lloyds Banking Group Plc, and Standard Chartered Plc. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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