UBS Makes Big Year-End Changes to Equity Focus List

November 19, 2015 by 247lee

Here they come. The avalanche of year-end portfolio changes is coming fast and furious from the top firms on Wall Street that we cover at 24/7 Wall St. With the markets mired just above the break-even level for 2015, many strategists and portfolio managers are trying to find just the right changes that can help squeeze out a 2015 victory. With most large cap portfolios bench-marked to the S&P 500, just a little extra alpha could make a big difference.

In a new research report, UBS makes some serious changes to its Equity Focus List. They add three top blue chip companies and remove two others.

Autodesk Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK) was removed from the list. It operates as a design software and services company worldwide. Its Platform Solutions and Emerging Business segment offers AutoCAD software, a computer-aided design application for professional design, drafting, detailing and visualization, as well as AutoCAD LT, a professional drafting and detailing software. The analysts cite a downgrade to Neutral as the reason. The shares closed on Wednesday at $61.25.

Also removed from the list was MetLife Inc. (NYSE: MET), a leading global provider of insurance, annuities and employee benefit programs. The company holds leading market positions in the United States, Japan, Latin America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The analysts point to a removal from the most preferred list. Shares closed on Wednesday to $51.08.

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The following are the three stocks added to the UBS Equity Focus List.

Accenture

This company was hit hard during the August sell-off, but it has roared back since. Accenture PLC (NYSE: ACN) is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. It combines unmatched experience and specialized skills across more than 40 industries and all business functions, underpinned by the world’s largest delivery network.

UBS notes that Accenture is a leader in information technology (IT) services and should deliver solid and consistent earnings growth over the next few years as it is well positioned to benefit from solid global IT spending trends and the migration of corporate and government IT infrastructure to the cloud.

Accenture recently announced it was launching five advanced analytics applications for the resources industries, which include utilities, oil and gas, chemicals and metals and mining companies, to enable insight-driven decision making for improved business outcomes. The new analytics applications are designed to support pricing, risk management, energy trading, credit collection and workforce planning decisions.

Accenture shareholders are paid a solid 2.15% dividend. The consensus price target for the stock is set at $106.68. The stock closed Wednesday at $107.88.

Bank of America

This true big money center bank has continued a methodical march back to financial health and also makes the list of top stocks at Jefferies. Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC) is a ubiquitous presence in the United States, providing various banking and financial products and services for individual consumers, small and middle market businesses, institutional investors, corporations and governments in the United States and internationally. Operating 5,100 banking centers, 16,300 ATMs, call centers, online and mobile banking platforms, the company continues to open new markets and expand share.

The Merrill Lynch brokerage arm has continued to supply the bank with outstanding revenues and growth as well. With the potential for strong commercial lending and credit card originations, and trading at just under 11 times 2016 estimated earnings, the stock makes good sense now.

Bank of America investors receive a 1.16% dividend. The consensus price target is $18.68. The stock closed on Wednesday at $17.84.

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Red Hat

This top technology stock also just made its debut on the UBS Q-GARP portfolio. Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT) is the world’s leading provider of open source software solutions, using a community-powered approach to reliable and high-performing cloud, Linux, middleware, storage and virtualization technologies. Red Hat also offers award-winning support, training and consulting services.

While the UBS team acknowledges that Red Hat trades at a high valuation of 37 times 12-month forward earnings estimates, which is way above the average P/E for stocks in the Q-GARP list of about 19 times, they go ahead and add the company to the list because they think that Red Hat is well positioned to benefit from market share gains of the “open source” Linux operating system over time.

The company recently formed a partnership with once bitter rival Microsoft that would bring more flexibility to hybrid cloud enterprise environments. Specifically, the partnership allows cloud products running under the Linux operating system to integrate with Microsoft’s cloud computing platform Azure, a huge move after years of competition.

The consensus price target is $84.23. The shares ended trading on Wednesday at $80.53 apiece.

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Strong growth ideas that aren’t overvalued are always among the most sought after on Wall Street, and UBS has done its due diligence to look for large cap winners with plenty of room to run.