J.P. Morgan's Four IT Hardware Stocks to Buy Ahead of Earnings

The first-quarter earnings season is starting to wind down, but the information technology (IT) analysts at J.P. Morgan are focused on four names that will be releasing numbers soon. The team suggests that it is a very good idea to buy these stocks ahead of the earnings releases. Overall, they think the earnings reports this month should exhibit steadier trend-lines, which would be a nice improvement from the mixed results last month.

In a new research report, the J.P. Morgan team points out that the December quarter earnings season last month was mixed, disappointing investors looking for a strong start to 2014. While some of the headwinds were company-specific, they think the U.S. government shutdown in October had a disproportionately larger impact on the earnings for companies that reported for periods that ended in December, than those that ended their quarter in January. As a result, the analysts think the January quarter earnings season stands to exhibit sturdier results, which may bode very well for investors.

J.P. Morgan highlights four top stocks to buy in front of earnings that could post outstanding results.

Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: BRCD) is a top name to buy at J.P. Morgan and was recently upgraded to Overweight at Merrill Lynch. The company also made our list of top technology stocks to buy trading under $10. The analysts at J.P. Morgan think the company’s model has established firmer footing, and there is potential for incremental upside to revenue, earnings and free cash flow over the next 12 months, starting with the current quarter. The J.P. Morgan price objective is $11. The Thomson/First Call consensus estimate is $9.12. Brocade closed Friday at $9.45.

CDW Corp. (NASDAQ: CDW) came back from private equity land last year with a highly anticipated initial public offering. The company provides IT products and services to business, government, education and health care customers in the United States and Canada. It offers discrete hardware and software products to integrated IT solutions, such as mobility, security, data center optimization, cloud computing, virtualization and collaboration. Investors are paid a small 0.7% dividend. The J.P. Morgan team is very positive on their earnings prospects. They also think the company’s exposure to the mid-range storage market is a positive. The J.P. Morgan price target is $25, and the consensus is at $26.50. CDW closed Friday at $23.55

Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) could be a company that shows a nice upside surprise when its earnings hit the tape. With strong sales in personal computers, printing and storage, thy J.P. Morgan team thinks the company is poised for solid growth. While higher compensation expenses may detract slightly, the overall quarter should be very positive. The iconic Silicon Valley stock pays investors a 2% dividend. The J.P. Morgan price target is $35. The consensus estimate is $29.27. The stock closed Friday at $29.07.

NetApp Inc. (NASDAQ: NTAP) is also expected to benefit from the mid-range storage sector. The analysts at J.P. Morgan think the company’s ONTAP 8.2 (introduced in June 2013) has provided an incremental catalyst, particularly boosting adoption of c-mode for scale-out Networked Attached Storage (NAS). They also think that NetApp’s outlook could be in-line to slightly better than current consensus estimates. The J.P. Morgan price objective is $45, and the consensus target is $44.76. NetApp closed Friday at $42.82.

Needless to say, a binary catalyst like an earnings release can go either way. As the J.P. Morgan research points out, the further away companies get from the government shutdown, the less impact on their business is felt. One thing is for sure; all four companies have a solid business model. Even if the reports are only in line, the rest of the year looks solid.