UBS Adds 4 Top Stocks to Buy to the Equity Focus List

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With the stock market possibly poised for a strong end-of-the-year run after the big Republican victory in the midterms, and a very positive earnings season that is winding down, many of the top firms on Wall Street are putting some finishing touches on their lists of top stocks to buy. In a new research report from UBS, the wealth management research team has made some additions to and deletions from the UBS Equity Focus List, as they present new ideas to institutional and high-net worth clients for the 2014 stretch run.

The stocks on this list are designed to outperform the broad U.S. equity market. Stocks that are chosen for the list are the ones the analysts feel are best aligned with the firm’s house view, fundamentals, technicals, thematics and quantitative metrics.

The stocks removed from the UBS Equity Focus List were Apache, Coca-Cola and Travelers Companies. The following four stocks were added to the list.

Centene Corp. (NYSE: CNC) has been on a roll and posted very strong third-quarter earnings for shareholders. The company is a leading multiline health care enterprise that provides programs and services to government-sponsored health care programs, focusing on underinsured and uninsured individuals. The UBS team sees the stock as a pure-play Medicaid managed care organization with a solid growth outlook driven by geographic expansion, health care reform and managed care penetration of Medicaid. The analysts like the stock despite the solid move this year.

The UBS price target for the stock is $107. The Thomson/First Call consensus target is $93.22, and shares closed Tuesday at $92.04.

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Marriott International Inc. (NYSE: MAR) is a company that the UBS analysts think gets an ancillary gain from the drop in oil prices, giving the travel industry a boost. They see lodging industry fundamentals staying very positive over the next few years, with pricing holding firm. They also cite a very shareholder friendly management team. In addition to the company’s branded hotel chains, it also licenses the development, operation, marketing, sale and management of vacation ownership and related products under the Marriott Vacation Club, Grand Residences by Marriott, Ritz-Carlton Destination Club, and Ritz-Carlton Residences brands to Marriott Vacations Worldwide.

Marriott shareholders are paid a 1.1% dividend. The UBS price target is $81, and the consensus is at $75.54. Shares closed on Tuesday at $74.57.

MetLife Inc. (NYSE: MET) is a top life insurance stock, and it trades at a low 8.9 times forward earnings. The company is a leading global provider of insurance, annuities and employee benefit programs. MetLife holds leading market positions in the United States, Japan, Latin America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The UBS team sees the insurer as a key beneficiary of higher interest rates and an improving labor market. They also note the stock is trading below book value.

MetLife shareholders are paid a very solid 2.6% dividend. UBS has a $62 price target for the stock. The consensus price objective is $62.50. MetLife closed Tuesday at $54.16.

Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX) dominates the retail coffee business in the United States, and the international growth is helping to boost earnings. In fact, the brand has become so ubiquitous that consumers often just say “Let’s grab a Starbucks.” Despite a pricing point that is higher than others, the company continues to add new items at its stores that have been received well. The UBS team loves the company’s global brand and huge customer awareness. They also point out that growth in China is just starting and could prove to be huge.

Investors in Starbucks are paid a 1.7% dividend. UBS has a $90 target price. The consensus target is $89.11. Starbucks closed Tuesday at $76.71.

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With the possibility of solid gains through the rest of the year and into 2015, investors may want to review their holdings for big gainers or losers and make some changes. The UBS additions all make very good sense for long-term growth investors.