For those scared by the drama in Washington, you might be missing one of the best buying opportunities of the past decade. Stocks sold off dramatically last week as negotiations to raise the debt limit stalled. Our dysfunctional federal government looked like it could very well fail to avoid a default, and investors sold their stocks en masse.
The Dow was down more than 4% last week, taking most of the market down with it, and stocks sunk lower again Monday. There were few safe havens. The action was frankly hard to believe. Wall Street was busy during the week, bringing several initial public offerings to market, including the widely followed and quite successful public sale of Dunkin' Brands (NASDAQ: DNKN ) stock.
This is important to note, because IPO activity generally is a sign of strength in the market and signals more gains ahead. But DNKN is only part of the story.
In addition, corporate earnings remain strong. Actually, strong is an understatement: the better word for earnings would be stunning .
S&P analyst Howard Silverblatt says the S&P 500's earnings are now the highest in four years, and he says the second half of the year will be even stronger. So far, 75% of the companies reporting their second-quarter results have exceeded analysts' expectations, with many companies issuing positive guidance for the future.
The market reaction to this news is to sell stocks aggressively. It really makes no sense from a numbers standpoint, but the Chicken Littles of the world are in control at the moment. I can assure you the losses in the market will be temporary.
With an agreement in place to cut the deficit and raise the debt ceiling, I expect stocks to recover quickly. The basis for that claim is simple: It's all about earnings. Not only are the numbers strong looking back, but they will continue to be strong. There are three reasons for this: (1) a weak U.S. dollar that creates windfall earnings for international business, (2) continued strong growth in emerging markets because of a rising middle class, and (3) relentless corporate buybacks that are boosting earnings per share.
As long as those conditions persist - and I believe they will for some time to come - stocks will increase in value not matter what transpires in Washington. Here are four stocks to consider buying now:
Never doubt the power of strong earnings. Before releasing earnings results Friday, Jazz Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: JAZZ ) was down more than 8% during the week of July 25. That loss evaporated in a hurry when the company reported operating results that exceeded forecasts. Jazz made adjusted net income of 82 cents per share in the period ending June 30, beating the mean estimate of 69 cents per share. Revenues also beat expectations. Shares of Jazz jumped more than 15% after the report Friday, a down day in the market.
Looking forward, I rate Jazz a buy. In addition to the strong numbers reported, the company raised guidance for the future. It now sees a profit of $2.68 to $2.79 per share in 2011. Analysts had been looking for a profit of $2.68 per share.
The company is likely to grow profits in the next year by more than 25%. Considering shares trade for only 15 times 2011 expected profits, there are more gains ahead for this stock.
Patterson UTI Energy
Another stock hijacked by the nonsense last week was Patterson UTI Energy (NASDAQ: PTEN ). Shares traded lower in advance of its earnings report Thursday. That report was strong, and shares rebounded Thursday only to sell off Friday thanks to the bearish sentiment in the market.
This oil and natural gas onshore driller is poised to make big profits down the road. With cheaply priced shares, this one is an easy buy, in my opinion. In the period just reported, PTEN generated a profit of 52 cents per share, compared to the Wall Street mean estimate of 49 cents per share. That makes it six straight quarters of estimate-beating performance.
During that time, shares have increased greatly, but not without hiccups. Any time PTEN sold off, shares rallied. These sell-offs are to be bought aggressively. Given the tepid response to the recent report last week, I expect a similar scenario for PTEN during the coming quarter.
PTEN is growing profits at a fast rate. Analysts expect the company to make $2.18 in the current year, growing 29% to $2.82 in the following year. Investors can buy that impressive growth for just 15 times earnings. That is a steal. I would buy PTEN aggressively today.
Companhia de Bebidas Das Americas (AMBEV)
If you like the idea of owning stocks before they pop, consider Latin American beverage company AMBEV (NYSE: ABV ). With shares down 11% in July, this growth stock is outrageously cheap. Add in the fact that this cash-producing machine pays a dividend of nearly 5%, and you have a stock set to deliver double-digit returns irrespective of the nonsense in Washington. Buy this one before it releases earnings this month.
Analysts expect AMBEV to make 23 cents per share in the period ending June 30. Given that the company has beaten estimates in the two quarters prior, a similar result can be expected this period. For the year, analysts are calling for a profit of $1.73 per share, growing 10% to $1.91 per share in 2012. Shares currently trade for 17 times 2011 estimates.
My expectation is for AMBEV to beat estimates in the current period. Expectations are too low, as evidenced by the performance of the S&P 500 against Wall Street estimates. As such, this stock is cheaper than it looks. The huge dividend only makes the deal more attractive.
Online travel reservation company Priceline (NASDAQ: PCLN ) has been on quite the run. Shares have more than doubled in value this year thanks to impressive profit growth. With shares priced over $500, some might think the run is over. I disagree and would refer you to the happenings at another higher flyer, Green Mountain Coffee, as prime evidence of what can happen to companies with fast-growing profits.
We could be in for a similar pop at Priceline when the company reports earnings after the market closes Thursday. Analysts are looking for a profit in the second quarter of $4.87. Given that the company has exceeded estimates in each of the last four quarters, another earnings win is the likely outcome here.
For the full year, Wall Street is calling for a profit of $20.29 per share, growing an impressive 27% to $25.71 per share in 2012. Investors can buy that growth for 26 times 2011 estimated earnings. To the extent you can buy growth at a multiple below the growth rate, profits usually follow. I would not be surprised to see Priceline move 15% higher next week. I would buy shares in advance of the run.
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