3 Growth Stocks to Buy in December

By Markets Fool.com


Image source: Getty Images.

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Based on a recent analysis by Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, growth stocks have averaged a return of 12.6% annually since 1926. Since growth stocks tend to perform well in low interest rate environments (it allows them to borrow cheaply and reinvest) like the extended one we've been in for about eight years, it only makes sense for investors to focus their efforts on growth in December.

With this in mind, we asked three of our Foolish contributors to offer one growth stock each that they believe is a bargain at its current price. Yamana Gold (NYSE: AUY), Zoe's Kitchen (NYSE: ZOES), and Hain Celestial (NASDAQ: HAIN)were the companies that made the list.

A quick shine is all this growth stock needs to glitter once more

Sean Williams (Yamana Gold): Precious metal mining stocks have been hammered since the election, with a number of pundits predicting that Donald Trump's surprise victory could lead to higher GDP growth and possible interest rate hikes. Since low rates have been a key growth driver for gold stocks, this could mean the opportunity cost of owning gold could rise. This is why midcap gold miner Yamana Gold shed 41% over the trailing quarter.

However, Yamana's recent swoon could be the perfect opportunity to buy this exceptional growth stock in the mining sector.

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Whereas most precious-metal miners have been cutting costs (and don't get me wrong, Yamana has been actively working to make its operations more efficient), Yamana has been aggressively snatching up mining assets and looking to expand its operations. Expansion is ongoing at the Cerro Moro and C1 Santa Luz mines, which are both expected to begin commercial production in 2018. Cerro Moro should offer a nice boost in gold and silver ore grade while pushing down all-in sustaining costs, while C1 Santa Cruz is expected to contribute more than 130,000 ounces of gold in year one, with an average of 114,000 gold ounces over the first seven years of production.


Image source: Getty Images.

Yamana also acquired Riacho dos Machados from Carpathian Gold, a mine which is expected to grow from about 55,000 ounces of gold production in 2016 to approximately 100,000 ounces of annual gold production by 2018. The end cost of the mine was less than $50 million to Yamana, and its byproducts should help keep its gold-mining costs relatively low.

This expansive production should work well with the still solid fundamentals behind physical gold. Demand has been strong, supply growth has been constrained, and there's still plenty of uncertainty with Trump heading into the Oval Office. Plus, even if the Federal Reserve raises interest rates, the opportunity cost of gold should still be low relative to interest-bearing assets.

With Yamana's full-year EPS expected to quadruple between 2016 and 2019, my suggestion this December is to consider adding this lustrous growth stock to your portfolio.

A restaurant chain with room to grow

Tim Green (Zoe's Kitchen): Shares of fast casual restaurant chain Zoe's Kitchen have been hammered over the past year, down about 44% since peaking in mid-2015. The company has been delivering positive comparable sales growth and rapidly expanding its store base, but its valuation may have gotten ahead of its fundamentals. The stock now trades for about 1.8 times the company's revenue guidance for this year, a more reasonable multiple.

Image source: Shashi Bellamkonda via Flickr.

Zoe's doesn't produce much in the way of profits, but there's plenty of growth potential. The company operates around 200 restaurants, and management believes that it can double its store count by the end of 2020. Comparable sales growth has also been impressive, clocking in at 4.9% during the first nine months of 2016.

There's plenty of risk involved when it comes to fast-growing restaurant chains. For every Chipotle, there are many more chains that try and fail to reach that level of success. The numbers that Zoe's is putting up are impressive, but the company will need to keep growing for many years for an investment to pay off.

Zoe's stock is a lot more attractive today than it was a year ago. Investors who believe the concept has legs can take advantage of the knocked-down stock price in December.

The accounting scandal that wasn't

Evan Niu, CFA (Hain Celestial): It's been a rough couple of months for Hain Celestial since the company disclosed an accounting scandal in August. For investors, there are perhaps no two scarier words to put together, and shares naturally plunged as shareholders feared that Hain was cooking the books or somehow otherwise misrepresenting its financial results. The issue related to concessions that were given to certain distributors within the U.S., and the company said it was trying to figure out if those concessions were accounted for properly as it evaluated its broader internal financial reporting controls.

Image source: Hain Celestial.

Well, the company recently announced that its Audit Committee has concluded an independent review alongside external counsel, and determined that there was "no evidence of intentional wrongdoing," while also enacting a plan to strengthen its internal controls. You can't really overstate how important it is for investors and regulators to have accurate financial data, and Hain is committed to transparency. The company will not release fiscal fourth quarter results until it completes its auditing and internal accounting review, but the biggest overhang should now be cleared.

Even without knowing precisely when Hain will release fiscal fourth quarter results, which were initially due in August, the long-term thesis is still intact and this episode is now in the rearview mirror. Shares are still 30% lower than before the scandal was announced, providing prospective shareholders with a compelling entry point for the organic lifestyle company that owns dozens of brands.

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Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill and Hain Celestial. Sean Williams owns shares of Bank of America. Timothy Green has no position in any stocks mentioned.

The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Chipotle Mexican Grill, Hain Celestial, and Zoe's Kitchen. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.