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Is It Time to Buy This Year’s Worst-Performing Growth Stocks?

Many investors have never seen a year like this, as the S&P 500 index had its worst six-month start in over 50 years. Introduced to the stock market during a major bull market that ran for 14 years (ignore the pandemic-induced crash of 2020), it might have seemed that stocks could only go up.

Meme stocks, cryptocurrencies, and even marijuana stocks were trends that indicated many investors had never been through a bear market. Fundamental analysis was out, and whatever was the hot new thing was in. This year has brought many investors up short, but that doesn’t mean they should just go home and lick their wounds. 

Image source: Getty Images.

Market downturns are the time you should be putting your money to work because high-flying growth stocks that were previously out of reach have now been brought down to more reasonable levels, and some are downright bargains.

The following trio of growth stocks has fallen sharply in 2022, down anywhere from 38% to 89%, so let’s see whether any of them are worth buying.

1. Carnival

Cruise ship operator Carnival (NYSE: CCL)(NYSE: CUK) has sailed some rough seas since the pandemic. Although its stock is off the lows hit in the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak, shares are down 71% from the highs they achieved a year later and 80% below what they traded at before the crisis began.

The pandemic seems to be in the rearview mirror, with COVID becoming an illness we’ll just have to learn to live with, like seasonal flu. But the cruise industry now has monkeypox to worry about. The World Health Organization just declared it a global health crisis and is concerned that the same problems we saw with COVID will be repeated.

Carnival, though, is getting swamped by the rogue wave of needing more cash to remain afloat and needing it fast. It said it had to raise $1 billion by selling new shares into the market but did so at a significant discount of less than $10 a share. Investors responded by sending the stock even lower than that.

The clouds are thinning a bit on the horizon as more people return to cruising, and Carnival’s bookings are running well ahead of pre-pandemic rates, even though pricing is higher. So the cash grab was a bit of a setback, but at less than 10 times next year’s earnings estimates, with Wall Street looking for the cruise ship to grow per-share profits by 10% annually, Carnival may be a stock you want to book for your portfolio.

2. Carvana

Online auto dealer Carvana (NYSE: CVNA) has been nothing short of a car wreck this year, losing over 89% of its value as the market for new and used cars skidded off the road. Unable to get computer chips for cars, manufacturers are shipping autos without them, but including a promise to install them at a later date. It may be for non-safety-related features, like a missing chip for air conditioning. But after the heat wave we just went through, anyone who took delivery on a vehicle without it undoubtedly regrets it.

The new car shortage has led to a lack of used cars, too, as they were scooped up by buyers looking for a new set of wheels. But that caused pricing to soar as well, with industry site CoPilot reporting the average price of a used car is $33,341, only $172 below the record high set in March and over $10,000 above normal pricing levels. 

But like Carnival, the online auto dealer has its own problems. Carvana’s license to operate in Illinois was suspended again, something it’s gone through before in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and North Carolina.

Its stock is heavily shorted, with over 40% of the shares outstanding sold short, and while some may believe that could lead to a squeeze, it may just indicate Carvana’s prospects for the immediate future are that bad. So until it shows some sign of being able to navigate this rough road, I’d steer clear of its stock.

3. Warner Bros. Discovery

It may not be quite fair to put Warner Bros. Discovery (NASDAQ: WBD) on this list as it’s only been trading as a stand-alone stock since mid-April when Warner Media was spun off from AT&T (NYSE: T) and merged with Discovery. Still, a streaming service stock in a boom era for streaming services ought to be doing better, no?

Well, it’s not boom times anymore, as Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) and Disney (NYSE: DIS) are showing. Warner Bros. was also saddled with debt following the spinoff, which makes it difficult (or expensive, at any rate) to raise money if necessary in these high-inflation, rising-interest-rate times.

Yet Warner Bros.’ HBO Max service is seen as the streamer offering the most value to consumers over any other, and it’s also viewed as the second-must-have service behind Netflix, which happens to rank dead last in perceived value.

There is consolidation underway in the streaming service market as consumers will be shedding ancillary ones to get down to a core few, and HBO Max is likely to be one of them. It also has a portfolio of other top-notch brands, including Discovery+ and the elder statesman of the bunch, HBO. Plus, it has numerous broadcast offerings and movie studios, so Warner Bros. Discovery looks like a good stock to own for the long term.

Rich Duprey has positions in AT&T and Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Netflix and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Carnival and Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. and recommends the following options: long January 2024 $145 calls on Walt Disney and short January 2024 $155 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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