While the past two years were all about getting the house back in order, the UBS equity strategy team thinks 2014 is all about earnings growth. That should be sweet music to the ears of investors. The team sees earnings growth of 14% in 2014 and 9% in 2015, as economic growth accelerates and global profit margins recover some of the 1.5% fall since 2010. They do caution that currently market and sentiment indicators look stretched. Investors may want to look for a correction to put new funds to work.
Financials and technology should both benefit from an upswing in growth and increased business investment. In fact, technology currently trades at the lowest price-to-earnings for close to 20 years. Top companies will have an estimated $570 billion of net cash by 2015 at current run rates. That is a ton of capital that can be used for acquisitions and expansion or returned to shareholders.
Here are some of the top U.S. stocks to buy for 2014 on the UBS Global top 40 stock list. We have broken out the list by sector.
General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) is the only domestic industrial to make the UBS list. Coming out of the recession period, GE has made it a priority to focus on its infrastructure business. The oil and gas equipment business is the fastest growing in the company, and it is expected that a major portion of its future growth will be sourced from this segment as well. Investors receive a 2.8% dividend. UBS has a $29 price target for the stock, and the Thomson/First Call is at $28. GE closed Tuesday at $26.85.
General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) is a top new consumer discretionary stock to buy that is added to the UBS list. The company is the number one car seller in China and the United States, and it posted an impressive 12% gain in October. UBS has a $52 price target on the stock. The consensus estimate is $48. GM closed Tuesday at $36.75.
Las Vegas Sands Corp. (NYSE: LVS) is another top consumer discretionary name to buy. Much of the company’s revenue is generated from their properties in Macau. China is building what is expected to be the world’s most expensive high-speed rail system to bring middle-class Chinese to the coastal tourist spot. Gambling revenue in Macau is on track for a 15% to 17% rise for the month of November, versus last year. Investors are paid a 2% dividend. The UBS price target for the stock is posted at $78. The consensus is also at $80. The stock closed Tuesday at $70.82.
Halliburton Co. (NYSE: HAL) is one of only three domestic energy stocks to make the list. The company also recently announced that it bought back roughly 68 million common shares during the third quarter, for a total consideration of $3.3 billion. The company is one of the largest oilfield service providers in the world, offering a variety of equipment, maintenance and engineering and construction services to the energy, industrial and government sectors. Investors receive a 1.1% dividend. The UBS price target for the stock is $70, while the consensus is at $65. Halliburton closed Tuesday at $43.02.
Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) is a top stock to buy in the bullish financials sector. With a strong domestic presence and a growing international footprint, the company continues to add new revenue streams to its strong banking and brokerage business. Investors are paid a tiny 0.1% dividend. The UBS price target for the stock is set at $63. The consensus is at $58, and Citigroup closed Tuesday at $48.89.
Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK) is one of only two domestic health care names to make the UBS list. The company now has a new HPV vaccine that offers protection not only against the four strains that the company’s previous vaccine covers, but also against five additional strains. With an impressive pipeline and a portfolio of top-selling drugs, this is a solid way for investors to stay involved in health care. Investors are paid a very solid 3.8% dividend. The UBS price target for the stock is posted at $53, while consensus is lower at $50. Merck closed Tuesday at $47.38.
Symantec Corp. (NASDAQ: SYMC) is a top new domestic technology name added to the UBS list. The president and CEO of the company recently made a strong 100,000 share insider purchase valued at $2,205,780. That is a strong commitment to the stock by a top executive. Investors are paid a 2.6% dividend. The UBS target for this top cyber security stock is $27, while the consensus is lower at $26. Symantec closed Tuesday at $22.70.
Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) is the networking leader and may be poised to have a monster 2014. In addition, the company has been looking to protect its core business from new competition. It recently bought out the remainder of its majority-owned data center technology start-up called Insieme, in a deal that could cost up to $863 million. Investors are paid a 2.9% dividend. The UBS price target for the stock is $28.50. The consensus estimate is at $27.75. Cisco closed Tuesday at $23.76
Duke Energy Corp. (NYSE: DUK) is the only utility stock on the UBS list to buy. It is one of the leading U.S. utilities companies, given its stable earnings base, as a significant portion of the company’s earnings are derived from regulated operations. Also, the company has delivered a healthy financial performance in the past and remains an attractive option for income-seeking investors. Investors are paid a very nice 4.3% dividend. The UBS price target for the stock is $77, and the consensus is lower at $75. Duke closed Tuesday at $71.55.
Equities are the favorite asset class at UBS and with good reason. If the earnings projections for next year and beyond are correct, multiples will have the ability to expand and still not be too high for safety. Overweighting technology and financials makes good sense for our readers looking for the best value in their portfolios for 2014.