Is it Time to Buy Coles and Woolworths?

Dale Gillham, Chief Analyst and Head Trainer of Wealth Within

By Dale Gillham |

There is a growing storm of controversy around Coles and Woolworths, as they faced intense scrutiny over price hikes and supplier pressures in a recent Senate inquiry. This raises an interesting question as to whether investors should cut ties with these corporate giants or whether there is the prospect of finding a gem that is waiting to be unearthed. Let me explain.

Is there a silver lining for Coles and Woolworths?

Australian households are grappling with the relentless surge in living costs through higher interest rates and the burden of inflated supermarket bills. While this weighs heavily on the average family, there could be a silver lining for investors. These escalated supermarket prices may translate into healthier profits and potentially signal a bright future for both Coles and Woolworths.

Flashback to August 2023 when Woolies and Coles announced profits of 4.6 per cent and 4.8 per cent, respectively, over the past year. Those numbers might not make your jaw drop, but here's the kicker: both Coles and Woolies have seen their earnings increase year on year since 2020. All of this has occurred during a pandemic recovery and inflation storm.

You would think that with shoppers spending less, earnings would decrease, but the opposite has happened. So, how did they pull it off? There can really only be two reasons: squeezing suppliers for lower costs while stacking the supermarket shelves with higher-margin products.

Interestingly, despite Woolworths' earnings uptick, its share price has taken a nosedive, with the stock down approximately 25 per cent from its peak in August 2021. Worse, from a technical perspective there is no indication the downward trend will halt anytime soon.

However, here's the silver lining I was talking about. Woolworths' share price has a track record of bouncing back splendidly after corrections in the range of 20 to 30 per cent. So, if the company can keep the profit train rolling despite a sluggish economy, this stock has the potential to outperform over the longer term.

Coles share price is also down about 20 per cent from its peak in August 2022. In contrast to Woolies, however, its share price has been rising since October 2023. If this trend can continue, I see the potential for the price to reach around $19 in the medium to long term, which provides a fantastic opportunity for savvy investors and traders.

What were the best and worst-performing sectors last week?

The best-performing sectors included Utilities, up 0.14 per cent followed by Consumer Staples down 1.79 per cent and Energy, down 2.07 per cent. The worst-performing sectors included Real Estate, down 3.80 per cent, followed by Healthcare, down 3.77 per cent and Information Technology, down 3.23 per cent.

The best-performing stocks in the ASX top 100 included Bank of Queensland, up 4.42 per cent followed by Lynas Rare Earths, up 3.90 per cent and Whitehaven Coal up 2.60 per cent. The worst-performing stocks included Block Inc, down 9.97 per cent followed by AMP, down 8.44 per cent and James Hardie down 7.17 per cent.

What's next for the Australian stock market?

Last week, the sellers took control to push the market down over 3 per cent, making last week the most significant weekly drop of the year. Regular readers will know that I have been anticipating a significant peak in the All-Ordinaries Index this month and that April would be volatile.

Initially, I expected the peak to occur closer to the end of the month, but it now seems the peak might have arrived early. If the sellers can keep up their commitment to driving prices down over the next few weeks, we need to expect a fall of 8 to 12 per cent from the all-time high of 8,168 points that occurred on the 2nd of April. This means that the All-Ordinaries Index could fall to 7,500 or even 7,200 points before finding support over the coming weeks.

While a market correction over 8 per cent can be intimidating, it's important to remember that these corrections are very normal and occur frequently. Further, they offer some of the best opportunities to buy into good stocks at cheaper prices. The market gives you these favourable situations each year, so it's essential that you prepare yourself to take advantage of them when they appear.

That said, I am not suggesting that you dive into stocks while the market is falling, as I am not a fan of dollar cost averaging, given there are much better ways to invest. I’m saying that you need to stay vigilant and keep watching the market and key stocks closely so you’re ready to pounce as soon as signs of a reversal appear. Right now, I still like the Energy, Materials and Utilities sectors, so start looking there for good stocks that will likely rise once the pullback has finished.

For now, good luck and good trading.

Dale Gillham is the Chief Analyst at Wealth Within and the international bestselling author of How to Beat the Managed Funds by 20%. He is also the author of the bestselling and award-winning book Accelerate Your Wealth—It’s Your Money, Your Choice, which is available in all good bookstores and online.

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