The head of portfolio strategy at J.P. Morgan, Thomas Lee, has been a consistent bull this year. In fact, he stood his ground reasonably well during the May to June sell off prompted by the Federal Reserve chatter over tapering and eventually ending the quantitative easing (QE) bond purchasing program. In a new research report, Lee not only downplays the worries of an October market crash, he highlights top names to buy as we enter earnings season once again.
While two market crashes have happened during government shutdowns, most occurred during recessions and bear markets, two conditions we are not experiencing now. While growth is tepid, companies are making money. One alarming fact is that the third-quarter earnings warning ratio is the worst since 2001. That may be one reason the J.P. Morgan team is highlighting low beta “beat and raise” stocks to buy. These are stocks with a low beta, dividend yields above average and raised estimates in the first two quarters of 2013, as well as that beat second-quarter estimates. J.P. Morgan listed 12 stocks that meet these criteria. We spotlight the five that are rated as stocks to buy at the firm.
Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) recently announced that its commercial deliveries during the third quarter accelerated 14.1% from the year-ago period as the pace of deliveries for its 787 Dreamliner nearly doubled, despite a series of technical issues. During the third quarter, the 737 model continued to be the pillar of Boeing’s strength in the commercial airplane sector, with deliveries of 112 airplanes, followed by its 777 model with 26 deliveries. Both of these models continue to perform better than competing models, owing to their fuel efficiency and lower operating costs. J.P. Morgan has a $135 price target on the stock. The Thomson/First Call target is $130. Investors are paid a 1.6% dividend. Boeing closed Friday at $117.20.
Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD) is the world’s largest home-improvement specialty retailer, with more than 2,200 retail stores in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Its stores sell home improvement products, building materials and lawn and garden products, as well as provide installation, home maintenance and professional service programs to do-it-yourself, do-it-for-me and professional customers. Concerns of a housing market slowdown appear to be overblown as mortgage rates are still very low. J.P. Morgan has a $86 price target on the stock. The consensus target is posted at $87. Investors are paid a 2% dividend. Home Depot closed Friday at $75.78.
Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: CMCSA) recently announced it will increase the CBS content offered on both Xfinity Streampix and Xfinity On Demand, giving Xfinity TV customers even more opportunities to catch-up and stay current with a bigger selection of CBS’s hottest shows. The company has been hitting on all cylinders as its bundled services packages, which include programming, Internet and phone service, have become very popular. The J.P. Morgan price target for the nation’s largest cable company of $51 is the same as the consensus target. Investors are paid a 1.7% dividend. Comcast closed Friday at $45.64.
FirstMerit Corp. (NASDAQ: FMER) is a $23.5 billion assets institution based in Akron, Ohio, that managed throughout the financial crisis without a quarterly loss. With 416 banking offices and 452 ATM locations in Ohio, it also operates in Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Although slammed by the Great Recession, Ohio is in steady comeback mode, experiencing growth from the successes of the shale gas industry, steady repair of durable goods manufacturing and an increase in wholesale trade, giving FirstMerit a good footprint for its own growth. J.P. Morgan has a $24.50 price target for the stock, and the consensus is posted at $23. Investors receive a 2.9% dividend. The stock closed Friday at $22.23.
United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX) provides technology products and services to building systems and aerospace industries all around the world. The company operates in six segments: Otis, Carrier, UTC Fire & Security, Pratt & Whitney, Hamilton Sundstrand and Sikorsky. Air travel and defense have been on the rise over the past several years as governments around the world consistently demand improved aerial technology. Companies and consumers also demand improved efficiency and reduced prices, further fueling demand. J.P. Morgan has a $110 price target, and the consensus stands higher at $118. Investors are paid a 2% dividend. The stock closed Friday at $104.27.
While neutral-rated at J.P. Morgan, seven other top companies fit the “beat and raise” guidelines and may prove to be top investments as well. They include: Bemis Company Inc. (NYSE: BMS), Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO), Great Plains Energy Inc. (NYSE: GXP), Kimberly-Clark Corp. (NYSE: KMB), Microchip Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: MCHP), Motorola Solutions Inc. (NYSE: MSI) and Tanger Factory Outlet Centers Inc. (NYSE: SKT).
With a pricey market, earnings warnings, government shutdowns, looming debt ceilings and all the other walls of worry to climb, some may think now is not the time to buy stocks. The J.P. Morgan “beat and raise” stocks to buy, may present investors the best metrics of any stock recommendations out there. That could prove helpful if October proves to be scary after all.