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Investors are always on the lookout for untapped opportunities, especially in stocks that have been heavily discounted and now present promising opportunities for those prepared to wager on a recovery.

As the new year looms, a seasoned strategy, known as the Laggards trade, is witnessing a revival.

In its recent analysis, Goldman Sachs has shone a light on stocks that have trailed the broader market significantly on a year-to-date basis. Despite their underperformance, these Buy-rated securities hold considerable potential for robust gains in the upcoming year.

Laggards can often represent contrarian investment opportunities, as they may not have garnered bullish sentiment from investors yet, or the prevailing analyst consensus might be so low that even minor positive changes in fundamentals could result in significant performance gains.

The Laggard Phenomenon: The year 2023 has been a turbulent one for many stocks, with some sectors witnessing declines reminiscent of the tumultuous years of 2007 and 2020. However, history suggests a silver lining the laggards of one year often emerge as leaders in the first quarter of the next.

Goldman Sachs equity strategists, Deep Mehta and Tarun Lalwani, CFA, explained that despite a 37% YTD underperformance relative to the S&P 500 index, 2023s laggards could be next years leaders, as the market rally in November suggests signs of an early reversal.

Sector Shift: This years laggards differ from those of 2022, with Healthcare, Financials, and Industrials taking the lead. These stocks align with several key investment themes: low financial returns, lower quality scores, affordable valuations, and high growth prospects.Goldman Sachs Unveils 5 Clusters Of Stocks In The Laggards Trade

1) Laggards with Differentiated Bullish Views: These are Buy-rated stocks by Goldman Sachs analysts, who hold a contrarian opinion compared to less than half of Wall Street analysts. They have at least a 10% upside potential. Some of the stocks included in this group are as follows: Moderna Inc. MRNA : Upside to target 189%, YTD underperformance vs. S&P 500 -75% Pfizer Inc. PFE : Upside to target 66%, YTD underperformance vs. S&P 500 -63% Enphase Energy Inc. ENPH : Upside to target 48%, YTD underperformance vs. S&P 500 -79% Loading… Loading…

2) Laggards with Consensus-Defying Estimates: These stocks have Goldman Sachs estimates that significantly diverge from the consensus, suggesting a potential surprise factor. Highlighted below are some key stocks within this group: Darling Ingredients Inc. DAR : Upside to target 86%, YTD underperformance vs. S&P 500 -47% Shoals Technologies Group SHLS : Upside to target 89%, YTD underperformance vs. S&P 500 -60% ANGI Homeservices Inc. ANGI : Upside to target 84%, YTD underperformance vs. S&P 500 -16%

Read also: Will Novembers Turkey Rally Set Stage For Decembers Santa Claus Rally For Stocks?

3) Growth at Reasonable Valuations: These are Buy-rated laggards projected to have double-digit topline growth in 2024 and 2025, with a Price-Earnings-Growth ratio below 1.0. Included in this group are the following notable stocks: Array Technologies Inc. ARRY : Upside to target 89%, YTD underperformance vs. S&P 500 -60% First Solar Inc. FSLR : Upside to target 72%, YTD underperformance vs. S&P 500 -13%

4) Laggards with Rebounding Margins: These stocks are expected to show positive sales growth and improving operating margins in 2024 compared to 2023. The following represents a selection of stocks categorized in this group: Bath & Body Works Inc. BBWI : Upside to target 45%, YTD underperformance vs. S&P 500 -39% Sensata Technologies Holding ST : Upside to target 45%, YTD underperformance vs. S&P 500 -37%

5) Laggards with Superior CROCI: These are stocks with a consistent Cash Return on Capital Invested (CROCI) greater than the Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC), indicating efficient capital use and profitability. Key stocks within this group are listed below: Aptiv PLC APTV : Upside to target 52%, YTD underperformance vs. S&P 500 -29% Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. BMY : Upside to target 38%, YTD underperformance vs. S&P 500 -50%

Read now: Golds Record High: Why Havent Gold Miners Followed Suit?

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