3 Unmissable Bear Market Bargains: Lloyds Banking Group PLC, Aviva plc And Rio Tinto plc?

Don’t you just love a good old market meltdown? Well, if you’re still in the net-buying phase of your investing career and still looking to pick up bargains, you should — because there are few times like today when top-quality shares are being sold far too cheaply.

Look at Lloyds Banking Group (LSE: LLOY). I thought Lloyds’ shares were too cheap a few months ago and bought some then, and they’ve since dropped even further — the price is down 12% since the end of 2015, to 64p as I write, and is way down on its mid-2015 highs.

Yet what’s actually happened to the company itself? Nothing. Lloyds has still easily passed the Bank of England’s latest stress test, is still looking at a steady future performance, and the government is still looking to sell off the remainder of its stake.

And the price fall has pushed the shares’ P/E multiple down as low as 7.6 for the year just ended, dropping to 8.2 on 2016 forecasts. The expected dividend yields for the respective two years now stand at 3.7% and 5.8%. Lloyds is firmly on my top-up list for next time I’m looking to invest.

Insurance bargain

Aviva (LSE: AV) is another I bought recently and which has subsequently fallen further, with the shares down 11% to 461p so far this year. Aviva suffered during the financial crash, but it slashed its dividend and embarked on a strategy of reconstruction, and it’s looking a lot more solid today. EPS is expected to still be a little shaky, with a predicted 8% drop in 2015 followed by an 11% rise. But Q3 highlights included a 25% rise in the value of new business, net new insurance premiums up 2%, and the firm’s assets under management performing ahead of target.

The share price fall has left Aviva on a forecast P/E of only 9.4 for 2016 (compared to a long-term FTSE 100 average of around 14), and dividend yields have been boosted too — the City is expecting 4.5% for the year just ended, followed by 5.2% this year, both well-covered.

Mining recovery

And finally, the big FTSE 100 miners like Rio Tinto (LSE: RIO) will bottom-out at some stage and will become great recovery picks, but is now the time? Rio shares are down 19% in 2016, to 1,597p, and down more than 40% since this time last year, as the extent of the likely fall-off in Chinese demand is becoming fully understood.

But demand for the iron, aluminium, copper, and other earthly riches that Rio produces is cyclical and it will pick up. The year just ended is expected to be pretty horrendous with a 50% drop in EPS on the cards, but a Q4 operations update showed that production of most commodities was still going strong. And chief executive Sam Walsh spoke of the firm’s focus on “disciplined management of costs and capital to maximise cash flow generation throughout 2016“.

Forecast dividends now exceed 9%, though 2016’s wouldn’t quite be covered by forecast earnings. But if this really is the point of maximum pessimism, is it a good time to buy? I can think of worse ideas.

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Alan Oscroft owns shares in Lloyds Banking Group and Aviva. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Rio Tinto. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.