Robert Baird’s Five Top Software and Services Stocks to Buy Now

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The software and services category was one area that had a much better January than the overall stock market. Rising 3%, versus the decline of 3% in the S&P 500, showed the kind of relative strength that nervous investors can feel very good about. This continues to be an area that investors may want to shift some of their technology capital to as other parts of the market weaken.

In a new research report, the team at Baird continues to like the market strength of the software and services area. Like many firms on Wall Street, Baird sees technology as one sector of the market that can continue to outperform. One area the team points to as a positive is that short interest is decreasing in some of their top stocks to buy. If the short sellers are reluctant to go after the stocks, that may be a sure sign for buyers to step in.

Here are five top software and services names to buy now from Baird.

Autodesk Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK) has benefited from a significant internal corporate transition, as the company shifts from predominantly indirect sales (85% of revenue) to predominantly direct sales on a recurring revenue basis. In addition to being a top name to buy at Baird, the stock also recently was upgraded to buy at J.P. Morgan. The Baird price target for the stock is $50. The Thomson/First Call estimate stands at $52.28. Autodesk closed Friday at $51.25.

Informatica Corp. (NASDAQ: INFA) is the world’s top independent provider of data integration software and it specializes in data masking for security. Gartner analysts wrote in the Data Masking Technology report that, “A growing number of enterprises are taking a strategic approach to adopting data masking,” and that “new use cases in data masking implementation have emerged and are evolving rapidly: DDM [dynamic data masking] and SDM [static data masking] for big data platforms, and the use of data masking in cloud access security brokers to address data security in the cloud platform.” Continued strength in business analytics bodes well for the company as it goes after IBM business. The Baird price target for the stock is $47, and the consensus target is $47.17. Informatica closed Friday at $40.36.

Qlik Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: QLIK) is a favorite at Baird and was recently upgraded to Buy at Jefferies. The company engages in the development, commercialization and implementation of software products and related services for user-driven business intelligence that enables customers to make business decisions primarily in the Americas, Europe, the Asia-Pacific region and Africa. It provides QlikView Business Discovery platform, which helps people create and share insights and analysis in groups and across organizations. Its strength in business analytics and financial services may bode well after the IBM issues. The Baird price target for the stock is $33, and the consensus number is at $32.25. The stock closed Friday at $27.02.

Salesforce.com Inc. (NYSE: CRM) is another top name on the list. The company’s 2013 portfolio expansion included the acquisition of ExactTarget, which rounds out its marketing automation capability, and the introduction of Salesforce1, a leap forward for developing applications that run natively on mobile devices. Baird has a $60 price target for the stock, and the consensus target is $60.48. Salesforce.com closed Friday at $60.53.

Workday Inc. (NYSE: WDAY) is another enterprise software name that has been on fire since its IPO and a recent secondary offering. Hedge Fund manager Jim Chanos, who is consistently bearish on almost everything, is actually long Workday stock. At the HR technology conference in Las Vegas last fall, the company stole the show, according to many analysts who attended. The company’s presentation included a survey by HR consulting firm CedarCrestone, showing product adoption could more than double from 5% today to 12% in the next year. The Baird price target for the stock is posted at $90. The consensus price target for the stock is $85.91. Workday shares ended Friday at $89.54.

With many of their price targets close to the current share prices, it is a good bet that the Baird team starts to lift them soon. Strong earnings and continued prospects for solid capital expenditure spending for 2014 keeps these top names to buy front and center for Wall Street. The sheer productivity gains that some of these companies provide big business justify the cost and investment quickly.

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