The second-quarter earnings parade has all but come to a end. One conclusion that is painfully obvious to the equity strategy team at Credit Suisse is that many companies beat earnings only by using some accepted tricks of the trade. In fact, 35% of all Russell 1000 companies that beat earnings took a special charge in the second quarter.
Companies that took special charges or were buying back large amounts of their own stock made up an astonishing 50% of the companies that beat earnings expectations. Here is another worrying statistic to the Credit Suisse team: only 62% of companies that beat earnings estimates were able to surprise on revenue as well. The bad news is that investors may be getting hoodwinked on earnings reports, which may be lulling them into a false sense of security. The good news is that Credit Suisse has a list of top stocks to buy that reported outstanding, quality earnings reports. By sector, here are the names on that list that had the largest percentage earnings per share beats.
Consumer Discretionary: CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS) beat earnings estimates by a solid 5.3%. The company is still locked in a dispute with Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) over fees, and the problem seems to have no end in sight. With the NFL season quickly approaching, it seems that cooler heads may want to prevail. The Thomson/First call price target for the network ratings leader is $63. Investors receive a 0.9% dividend.
Consumer Staples: CVS Caremark Corp. (NYSE: CVS) surprised by a small 1%. However on almost every metric that stock is extremely cheap and continues to gain share across the United States. The forward five-year price-to-earnings/growth (PEG) ratio is an extremely low 1.05, which bodes well for patient investors. The consensus price target is $66. Shareholders are paid a 1.6% dividend.
Energy: Schlumberger Ltd. (NYSE: SLB) crushed earnings by an astonishing 50.9% last quarter. With Mexico changing its policy on oil exploration, the oil field services leader may see continued strong earnings growth in the years ahead. The consensus price target for the stock is posted at $96. Investors are paid a 1.5% dividend.
Financials: Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) mauled earnings estimates by a strong 29.6%. The Wall Street powerhouse announced yesterday that it put four senior technology specialists on administrative leave after a programming error caused the investment bank to send faulty stock-options orders last week. The consensus price target for the stock is $165, and investors are paid a 1.4% dividend.
Health Care: Eli Lilly & Co. (NYSE: LLY) posted earnings that beat expectations last quarter by 14.4%. The drug giant is also one of the top holdings in billionaire Jim Simons’ Renaissance Technologies hedge fund, which currently holds more than 12 million shares of the company in its portfolio. The consensus price target for the stock is placed at $59. Investors are paid a solid 3.7% dividend.
Industrials: Deere & Co. (NYSE: DE) smashed earnings expectations by a stellar 17.8% and continues to see strong growth, especially on its growing overseas markets. With companies around the world increasing their borrowing for industrial and agricultural equipment, Deere looks to be in a sweet spot. The consensus price target is at $87, and investors are paid a 2.4% dividend.
Information Technology: MasterCard Inc. (NYSE: MA) beats earnings expectations in the second quarter by a strong 10.9%. The stock has been on fire in 2013 and may be a candidate for a stock split. The Thomson/First Call price target for the credit card giant is $695. Investors are paid a small 0.4% dividend.
Despite the strong market rally this year, some investors wanting to stay invested may feel that they are at a crossroads. Do they continue to hold stocks and risk a market sell-off, or sell some stock now to cash in some profits while looking for a better entry point. The Credit Suisse stocks that boasted quality earnings may be good additions to portfolios looking to swap or add new names.