Even though the market snapped backed nicely on Wednesday, the reality remains that much of the market is overbought and valuations remain high. The incredible aspect of the ongoing rally is S&P 500 operating margins were close to all-time highs last year, with the best earnings growth rate since 2011, and growth this year is expected to surpass 2017.
A new Jefferies research report documents those incredible statistics and also screens the analyst’s top picks for 2018 looking for stocks with estimated earnings growth, and margin expansion better than the respective sectors they reside in. The main criteria all the picks share is they all can do better operationally in 2018, which is a key for investors staying in the equity markets.
We chose five from the group with accelerating cash flow and earnings growth. All are rated Buy at Jefferies.
C&J Energy Services
This smaller cap company is well liked across Wall Street desks and is another top pick for 2018 at Jefferies. C&J Energy Services (NYSE: CJ) is a completion and production services company that provides well construction, well completions and well services to the oil and gas industry.
The company also manufactures, repairs and refurbishes equipment used in the oilfield services industry. It operates in various North American onshore basins. Its Completion Services segment includes the hydraulic fracturing services, cased-hole wireline services, coiled tubing services and other well stimulation services. Its Well Support Services segment includes services, including rig services, fluid management services and other special well site services.
The stock trades a full turn below ProPetro and a half turn below the average of the pressure pumpers. Top analysts believe its coiled tubing and cementing businesses could be higher returning than fracking and continue to generate healthy free cash flow generation for the company in 2018.
The Jefferies price target for the stock recently was raised to $40, which is in line with the Wall Street consensus target of $40.46. The stock closed Wednesday’s trading at $30.62 a share.
This online travel leader is poised for a potentially big 2018. Expedia Inc. (NASDAQ: EXPE) is the leading internet travel pure-play with exposure to online travel in the United States, Europe and Asia. The company’s portfolio of brands includes Expedia, Orbitz, HomeAway, Travelocity, Hotels.com, Trivago, Egencia, Hotwire, Wotif, Venere and Classic Vacations.
Top analysts see it as a story of improving execution, and they also think that the company is starting to finally match Priceline’s growth metrics. The company has raised its dividend and is buying back stock, both shareholder friendly actions.
Expedia investors are paid a 0.8% dividend. Jefferies has a massive $170 target price for the stock, while the posted consensus target was last seen at $151.86. Expedia shares closed on Wednesday at $128.01 apiece.