Over the years, Wall Street always has at least one indefatigable equity strategist. Technical and market guru Ralph Acampora held that post for years, and rode the 1990s bull market higher. Currently, J.P. Morgan’s Thomas Lee holds that post, and to his credit, he has been much more right than wrong since the market turned in March of 2009. When markets experience the kind of meltdowns like the one we had 2007 to 2009, it does take somebody with guts and vision to step in and call a bottom.
In a new research report, Lee and his analysts at J.P. Morgan make yet another bullish bold call, this time laying down a bet that the American consumer is not dead. With the consumer providing almost 70% of GDP, if they are right, this year could be bigger than people thought. The J.P. Morgan team points out that equity markets recently have taken “bad news” in stride, shrugging off both the disappointing January payrolls report and January retail sales. More importantly, investors have de-risked, and stocks are not falling on bad news. That can set the stage for a consumer rebound.
Here are seven large cap consumer stocks to buy recommended by J.P. Morgan.
Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE: BBY) has been absolutely destroyed since announcing weak holiday sales numbers in January. The stock more than tripled last year as the company met its rivals head-on with price-matching policies that largely eliminated the advantages of its competitors. More importantly, its store-within-store formats for makers of popular mobile devices and computers have drawn interest from major manufacturers, letting Best Buy take advantage of its retail space to give it competitive advantages that online retailers cannot match. Investors are paid a 2.7% dividend. The J.P. Morgan price target is $34. The Thomson/First Call estimate is $33.64. Best Buy closed Thursday at $24.60. The stock is down more than 40% from its high.
Coach Inc. (NYSE: COH) got hit big when it missed earnings and investors have a chance to scoop up shares of this premium retail name at a bargain. Despite being hurt by the earnings miss, the company is projected to grow earnings huge in China, and this can get the growth right back on track. Investors receive a respectable 2.9% dividend. The J.P. Morgan price target is $55, and the consensus is at $53.62. Coach closed Thursday at $47.90.
Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) is well positioned to fight the original programming challenge and is the other top pick at J.P. Morgan. With perhaps the widest portfolio of entertainment on Wall Street, the fact that the lackluster programming at ABC is not as much of an earnings burden. The strength at sports powerhouse ESPN continues to drive revenue growth, and the stock looks poised for a solid 2014. Shareholders are paid a 1.1% dividend. The J.P. Morgan price target is $85. The consensus price target is $80.79. The stock ended trading Thursday at $77.90.
Lowe’s Companies Inc. (NYSE: LOW) is the home improvement company that ranks the highest with consumers and ranks high with the J.P. Morgan team. The company has been using short ads on social media heavyweights Facebook and Twitter featuring home improvement tips. This resonates well with Americans of all ages that spend time on these sites. The J.P. Morgan price target is posted at $54, the consensus price objective for the stock is $52.39. Lowe’s closed Thursday at $46.64.
Macy’s Inc. (NYSE: M) is a top retail name in the general merchandise area at J.P. Morgan. The company raised guidance last month but announced store closures and worker firings. Analysts at Wall Street firms applauded the great strides the company is making in improving its online sales ability. Investors are paid a 1.9% dividend. The J.P. Morgan price target for the stock is posted at $60, and the consensus target is $59.47. The stock closed Thursday at $53.14.
MGM Resorts International (NYSE: MGM) makes the list and is a top gaming name to own. With a strong presence in Las Vegas, and growing clout in Macau, MGM is poised to perhaps break out after years of so-so trading. While still burdened with high debt, at least some of that debt has been refinanced at lower levels. The J.P. Morgan price target is $29, and the consensus figure is $26.89. MGM closed Thursday at $25.58.
Viacom Inc. (NASDAQ: VIAB) is a top media stock to own at J.P. Morgan. During 2013, the company repurchased 69.2 million shares for an aggregate price of $4.8 billion. Viacom’s stock has surged due to the stock buybacks and dividend increases despite ratings and revenues from its cable networks declining earlier last year. From January 1, 2014, through January 29, 2014, the company repurchased an additional 2.2 million shares for an aggregate purchase price of $183 million, leaving $8.867 billion of remaining capacity under its program. This can continue to drive shares higher. The shareholders are paid a 1.5% dividend. The J.P. Morgan price target is $98, while the consensus is at $92.47. Viacom closed Thursday at $84.70.
Fortunately for all of us, the severe winter weather eventually will go away. When it does, the U.S. consumer may emerge even more ready to purchase items. With everything from cars to refrigerators, to other large consumer durable goods, aging at a historic level, the replacement cycle may be right around the corner. An improving economy would jump-start the replacement cycle.