Just when you think things can’t get any worse for global share markets, they do.
Thursday marked a new modern low for the FTSE 100. Then Britain’s blue-chip index put in its worst one-day performance since 1987. Not even the traditional safe havens are being saved right now. Imperial Brands (LSE: IMB) for instance is down 27% since selling fever set in three weeks ago.
I’ve recently argued that, with good stocks being panic sold alongside the bad, that eagle-eyed investors can pick up a bargain. I wouldn’t put cigarette maker Imperial Brands in that category though. Sure, the addictive nature of its products provide better revenues resilience in times of social, economic and political upheaval. But global smoking rates are dropping, and e-cigarettes sales growth is slowing sharply too. So this is a share whose long-term outlook remains swamped with uncertainty.
In fact, the spread of the coronavirus could actually be hampering demand for Imperial Brands’ goods today. Studies have suggested that smokers are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic. It why the UK’s chief medical offer Chris Whitty has said that “my recommendation is that [smokers] stop smoking.”
I don’t care about its 15.6% forward dividend yield or its low, low forward P/E ratio of 5.2 times. I’m not buying!
A better buy in these troubled times?
I’d also be encouraged to avoid dip-buying over at BP (LSE: BP) today. Its 11.2% dividend yield for 2020 looks mighty tempting. But the threat posed by diving oil prices on its profits and thus dividend prospects makes it a gamble too far.
Some analysts have just tipped that energy prices could drop further below the current four-year lows around $33 per barrel as OPEC+ nations ramp up production. And the supply/demand outlook for oil has deteriorated even more since those recent predictions.
President Trump’s decision to ban inbound flights from most of Europe threatens to take a large chunk out of jet fuel use. A rash of flight restrictions across other parts of the world — rules that are also growing in number — threaten to do the same.
Demand for crude is already toppling as the coronavirus hammers the global economy. Latest Energy Information Administration figures on Wednesday showed US stockpiles jumped by a massive 7.7m barrels in the week to March 6.
Cheap but risky
BP looks highly attractive from a value perspective, sure. As well as that mighty dividend yield, recent share price weakness leaves it trading on a bargain-basement forward P/E ratio of 7.3 times.
The threat of more significant weakness means that I won’t be dip-buying here any time soon, though. The Footsie firm’s currently at its cheapest since 1996 around 285p per share. This is reflecting rising government restrictions in the face of booming infection rates, and the detrimental impact of such actions upon global output. Until the news flow begins to improve, this is a share that, like Imperial Brands, should be avoided at all costs, I feel.
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Royston Wild has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Imperial Brands. 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.