December has historically been the best month for stocks over the last century. It is a time when uptrends generally resume after a rocky August through October. To avoid picking stocks at their highs, though, which runs against the buy-low-sell-high adage, and maximize December returns, it is often better to take a mix of stocks that look to be resuming their previous climbs but are not at all-time highs. And add in one or two bottom picks for reasonable leverage.
Here are 10 that taken together could outperform the index funds from now to early February.
Amaya Inc. (NASDAQ: AYA) is the gaming company that bought PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker early in 2014. It has the largest share of the global online poker market, far beyond any of its competitors. Back in 2014, the stock jumped from $5.60 to as high as $34 when the company announced the major acquisition, but recent cuts in guidance and delays in getting sports betting off the ground have cut the price in half since last year. More than a fundamental play, a stake in Amaya is a technical bet that the selloff is an overreaction and shares will rebound off general market momentum through December to the lower-middle end of the previous trading range — that is, between $17 to $30 a share. A move to $20 by mid-January is possible in a quick regression to the mean, which would constitute a 23% gain from current prices.
Bank of America
Bank of America Corp (NYSE: BAC) has historically had good Decembers three out of the last five years. Ironically, a small rise in interest rates could be good for bank stocks because rates won’t rise high enough to threaten major defaults, but they will earn banks a little more on loans. Any sign of accelerating inflation, however, and this one should be sold. It should be fine through February though.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) is basically the same play as Bank of America, except that JPMorgan has had more and better Decembers over the last five years. A small rise in interest rates should also do well for the banking giant’s loan income. From a technical perspective, the stock has a history of springing strongly off lows and continuing higher after sharp declines, which just happened up through October.
Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) is a bet on destruction and the military-industrial complex. It is also an attempt at redirecting some of your taxpayer dollars back at you by investing in the largest military budget in the world. Russia’s plans to resume uranium enrichment exports to Iran in defiance of the U.S. and the terrible Paris terror attacks should push military industrial complex stocks still higher. Boeing has been consolidating for two years now, and if anything can catalyze a new leg up, it is the current state of geopolitics and a good December for stocks in general.
Even in 2008, Aetna Inc. (NYSE: AET) rose 66% from late November to the first day of trading in 2009. It has consistently had good Decembers, sometimes great ones. The stock is way off its highs and management has reassured shareholders that it is not pulling out of Obamacare. As much as some politicians like to say otherwise, insurance costs will keep rising (this is generally what happens to services that people are forced to buy by law) and the insurance giants will keep making more and more money as long as the gravy train holds. The healthcare-industrial complex is not going away imminently, and Aetna’s 4.5% move on Friday could be indicating the start of a December move higher.
Delta Air Lines Inc. (NYSE: DAL) has had a great year, making four times more money in the last two quarters than it did in all of 2014. It is underperforming competing airlines that have not done nearly as well, and hasn’t moved at all year to date. There is little fundamental reason for the underperformance here. December has been good to Delta shares for five of the last seven years, and could be again this year.
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. (NYSE: VRX) has been in freefall since July, losing 74% of its hefty $90 billion market cap in a matter of weeks. Valeant first sparked the ire of politicians for its buy-and-raise strategy after Martin Shkreli of Turing Pharmaceuticals brought unwanted attention to this shady business model in late September. Then Valeant got kicked while it was down, and was accused of accounting fraud in October through a strange relationship with a firm called Philidor. Philidor may have booked fake sales for Valeant, but that has not yet been determined. Be that as it may, Valeant still makes plenty of money and is up 30% in two days. The rebound looks to have begun here, and a hold through the rest of the year could catch a nice portion of it. A small position is enough to get some leverage, as legal issues still make the company dangerous long term.
Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: GILD) is a biotech leader with huge margins, a growing hepatitis C business, low debt, and a very low price-to-earnings ratio. Biotech has led the market since 2012 and a resumption of previous trends will likely see that continue. That Gilead has been consolidating for a year gives it some fuel for the next leg up.
BlackRock, Inc. (NYSE: BLK) can be called a metapick. The stock of the world’s largest asset manager does well when the stocks it manages do well, and stocks tend to do well in December. BlackRock has had a good December for every year of the last decade, including 2008. Chances are it will again.
Glencore International PLC (OTCMKTS: GLNCY) is a pure bottom-picking play. Any leftover change can be placed here as a leveraged risk, but with potentially big upside. Glencore has been pummeled by falling energy prices and debt problems, losing 73% of its value from 52-week highs. Even a bear market rally in energy prices caused by international tensions could push Glencore shares up very fast, considering how far and fast they have fallen this year. Nothing may happen by February with Glencore, but if something does it could be an outsized gain. A small position is enough to play the risk/reward dynamics in this case.