The 30 stocks comprising the Dow Jones Industrial Average combined to post a loss of just over 4.5% in January. Only four of the blue chip stocks managed to post a gain for the month, and the biggest gainer rose less than 6%. Of the losers, three posted declines of more than 10% in the month.
A large part of the reason for this is investor concern about emerging market economies. The Dow 30 companies, to one degree or another, have looked at emerging markets for growth. The companies are large, and relatively large numbers are necessary in order for them to move the revenue and profit needles. Barely better than stagnant growth in the developed economies will not do the trick, and now there is trouble in China and other emerging economies.
The four stocks that defied the DJIA January slide did so for different reasons, and it is useful to look at these four in a bit more detail.
United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX) posted January stock price growth of just 0.19%, but that is better than 26 other DJIA index members could do. The company reported mixed results about 10 days ago that sent the stock to a monthly low of $111.80. Then came a report that the company might sell its Sikorsky helicopter division, and the stock popped back to around $114. The stock’s 52-week range is $88.37 to $118.20, and analysts’ consensus price target is around $125.40. Based on Friday’s closing price of $114.02, the stock has a potential upside of 10% and a forward multiple of around 15.
Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) added nearly 3.2% to its share price in the final week of January to finish the month up 1.15%. The company appears to be at the end of its search for a new chief executive, apparently having settled on insider Satya Nadella. The company’s positive quarterly results got an unexpected jolt from hardware sales. Microsoft’s shares closed at $37.84 on Friday, in a 52-week range of $27.10 to $38.98. The consensus price target for the stock is around $38.10 and the forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio is just 13. Based on Friday’s closing price, Microsoft stock is essentially fully valued.
One could argue that Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) bought its 4.09% January share price gain with a new $10 billion share buyback program and an earnings beat on targets that had been lowered so far that missing them was pretty much impossible. Its forecast was none too impressive either, but that did not stop investors from adding nearly 9% to the share price in the final week of the month. The stock closed at $93.20 on Friday, in a 52-week range of $79.49 to $99.10, and the consensus price target is around $97.80. The forward multiple is 13.67, and the potential upside based on Friday’s closing price is around 4.9%.
The big gainer among the Dow 30 stocks in January was Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK), with a 5.83% gain. The company’s stock price rose nearly 27% last year and posted its 52-week high of $54.10 on January 27. The company has had good news on an anti-clotting drug approval, some analysts have boosted its ratings and price target, and there is even some talk that Merck will shed its consumer health division. All are positives for investors. The stock closed at $52.97 on Friday, and the 52-week low $40.83. Based on the closing price, the stock’s potential upside is about 2%, and it trades at about 15.4 times expected 2014 earnings.