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My Top Company for Income and Capital Gains

Why Every Investor Should Consider a Stock Like This One at This TimeOnce again, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) has come through for investors. The company just reported a very solid first-quarter earnings report.

Continued strength in the company’s pharmaceutical business is the big reason for the growth. Total global sales grew 3.5% to $18.1 billion, with domestic sales growing 2.2% and international sales growing 4.5%.

Notable in the company’s latest numbers was strength in European sales, which is an emerging trend this earnings season. Johnson & Johnson reported a nine-percent gain in sales to Europe, growing to $4.89 billion during the quarter.

Excluding some one-time items, first-quarter earnings were $4.4 billion, or $1.54 per diluted share, for an increase of 7.8% and 6.9%, respectively, over the same quarter of 2013.

The company boosted its full-year 2014 earnings guidance to between $5.80 and $5.90 per share, up from the previous $5.75 to $5.85 per-share range excluding special items.

After the stock market sell-off in January, Johnson & Johnson’s share price dropped to around $87.00 a share by early February. It has since made a full recovery, now trading close to $100.00.

I still view this company as a position worth considering for a long-term portfolio when it’s down. Typically, the stock isn’t down … Read More


Why Economic Growth Doesn’t Guarantee Rising Share Prices

Why Today's Earnings Are for Yesterday's Stock PricesTrading action in stocks has been all over the map so far this year, while investor sentiment remained generally positive. The fact that there was a bunch of profit-taking after the solid recovery in February and March is neither a surprise nor unnatural for a market at a high.

The Federal Reserve continues to be more than accommodative to Wall Street with its words of comfort and its willingness to provide continued monetary stimulus past previously stated benchmarks.

Near-term, geopolitical events in Ukraine are likely the biggest risk for stocks. It’s been a slow start this earnings season with unremarkable results, but the numbers aren’t that bad. Growth is growth.

The NASDAQ Biotechnology Index has just now crossed its 200-day simple moving average, if that’s meaningful. It’s done so several times over the last five years and recovered after a period of consolidation.

Biotechnology stocks aren’t worth paying a lot of attention to in terms of portfolio strategy. These risk-capital stocks trade on their own unique set of business fundamentals. They’ve been powerhouse wealth creators for sure over the last few years. They are due for an extended break.

I think the best plays in this market are still with … Read More


Stock Market Setting Up for Extended Break?

Soft Q1 Suggesting Market Set for Extended BreakThe S&P 500 index really hasn’t done much since the beginning of the year but churn…but then again, why shouldn’t it?

For stocks, 2013 was an exceptional year. If we get another positive year on top of dividends, then it’s total gravy.

The capital gains over the last several years have been highly unusual, representative of the gains often seen after a major financial crisis.

There are no bandwagons to jump on in this stock market. Investor sentiment finally had a bit of an awakening over the last several weeks. Big investors booked some profits after the big price recovery in February, which occurred because of verbal reassurances by the new Fed chair, Janet Yellen. If there wasn’t further hand-holding from the Fed, stocks likely would have continued January’s sell-off into a full-blown correction, helped by events in Ukraine.

I’m of the mind that the stock market may take an extended break over the next two quarters, as it’s so often done in the past—probably more of a price consolidation over a correction; top-line growth is still pretty modest.

I’m still a big fan of dividend income and also a higher weighting given to cash within a portfolio context. … Read More


Top Wealth-Creating Stocks Defying Stock Market Sell-Off?

What Stocks Are Defying the Near-Term Stock Market TrendWith the broader stock market selling off, it’s amazing to see a company’s share price defy the near-term trend and appreciate in value.

Time and time again, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) gets bid when the broader market faces convulsion. It’s a powerful signal, and there is still a great deal of angst among institutional investors; they still want those dividends and the relative safety of earnings that are predictable.

Johnson & Johnson has been—and continues to be—an excellent wealth creator. The stock’s been bouncing off $95.00 a share the last while and just recently, it seems to have broken past this price ceiling.

There’s not a lot new with this position. One Wall Street firm recently boosted its earnings expectations for the company in 2015. Sales growth is expected to be in the low single-digits this year, but annual earnings growth combined with dividends should be in the low double-digits once again. The company reports its first-quarter numbers on April 15.

There’s definitely been a change in investor sentiment regarding speculative positions. Biotechnology stocks, which have been the market’s multiyear winning sector have finally seen investors book profits. It’s been long overdue and from a market perspective, is a healthy … Read More


Blue Chip Stocks Expensive at This Point

With These Two Blue Chips Pushing HighsThere are a whole bunch of brand-name stocks that recently appreciated back close to their highs, many of which will soon be reporting their earnings.

Despite this fact, however, it still seems like a very difficult environment in which to be a buyer. Stocks just aren’t that attractively priced; in fact, many brand-name companies are priced for perfection. It’s still slow growth out there, and with equity prices at their all-time highs, this year’s returns may only be the dividends, which would just return the rate of inflation at best.

Colgate-Palmolive Company (CL) is a top-performing blue chip with an excellent track record of generating wealth for investors. The stock hit an all-time record-high last fall, and then backed off just like everything else did in January. It has since recovered.

The position boasts a forward price-to-earnings ratio of around 19.5, which makes it fully priced in my books. Sales growth in the first quarter of 2014 is expected to be minimal, and so are comparative earnings.

This year’s revenue consensus averages two percent among Wall Street analysts, rising to 5.4% in 2015.

Great companies like this tend to command higher multiples, as institutional investors pay for the certainty. But … Read More


Old Economy Strikes Again: Why Investors Need to Keep a Close Eye on This Rail Stock

This Old Economy Stocks the Best Indicator for the EconomyIt’s kind of odd to think about the railroad business providing such great returns to investors, but that’s what they’ve been doing. The old economy strikes again.

Union Pacific Corporation (UNP) just bounced off a record-high (again) on the stock market and the company reports April 17.

This company’s earnings are material, even if you have no interest whatsoever in the business of freight by rail. For the most part, Wall Street estimates have been going up for the company, for this year and next.

I don’t see the U.S. economy coming apart without some sign from Union Pacific. The company’s declining shipments of coal have been usurped by solid growth in oil railcars, construction materials, and automobiles.

If you’re inclined, check out the statistical data released by the Association of American Railroads (www.aar.org); it’s a treasure trove of economic conditions related to goods transported by rail and more useful than a lot of other data or commentary.

According to the association, for the first three months of 2014, U.S. railroads had cumulative volume of 3,301,422 carloads, up 0.4% over the first quarter of last year, and 2,937,811 intermodal units, up three percent comparatively.

Total combined U.S. … Read More


Does Risk Trump Returns in This Stock Market Environment?

Why Risk Now Trumps Stock Market ReturnsGoing by the choppy trading action this year, investment risk with equities is going up.

Recent shocks to the system include events in Ukraine and Crimea, Chinese economic data, and Citigroup Inc.’s (C) failed stress test.

This is a very uneasy stock market, and because the main indices are right around their highs, any shock has the potential to deliver a serious haircut to asset prices. The choppy, trendless action combined with full valuations is the reason why I’ve been advocating taking profits from speculative positions. This stock market is just plain tired out.

First-quarter earnings season is just around the corner, and while it’s looking like we’ll get more of the same from corporations (a meet-or-beat on only one financial metric, revenues or earnings) the stock market needs more than dividends and share buybacks in order for share prices to keep appreciating.

Blue chips, especially, have been coasting along, providing single-digit earnings growth on modest sales. The icing on the cake has been the rising dividends and share repurchases, which the stock market has eaten up over the last two years.

But sentiment is slowly changing regarding share repurchases. Big investors want to see more than these financial … Read More


What These Two Large-Cap Techs Are Saying About the Upcoming Quarter

What These Two Companies Signal for Tech Stocks This QuarterYou know another earnings season is right around the corner because Oracle Corporation (ORCL) and Adobe Systems Incorporated (ADBE) always report their fiscal results just ahead of the calendar quarter end.

Both technology stocks are bellwethers, and while they are mature enterprises, they do help set the tone in sentiment. It’s exactly what the marketplace needs now so investors can have something else to worry about over geopolitical events.

Oracle’s been going through its own issues trying to generate top-line growth. Revenue and earnings the last several quarters have been very modest.

And so have Adobe’s numbers, but Wall Street analysts have been boosting their earnings estimates for the company in 2015 and the stock has doubled over the last 18 months.

Oracle is definitely more of a value play, and the company pays a dividend. Adobe is expensively priced and while much smaller, still boasts a stock market capitalization of approximately $34.0 billion.

In previous quarters, it was pretty obvious what the Street was looking for in terms of earnings results. At the beginning of 2013, investors just wanted to know that corporate earnings would hold up. Then they were happy with modest growth so long as dividends were … Read More


Analyst Downgrade on This Retailer Creates Opportunity?

Top Retailer Surprises the Street with Great NumbersRetail is a tough business to be in and always difficult as an investor. Williams-Sonoma Inc. (WSM) took off after the company beat Wall Street consensus and increased its quarterly dividend by six percent on the back of 4.3 million repurchased shares in fiscal 2013.

The stock moved 10% higher on the day of the company’s earnings report, and it broke out of an eight-month price consolidation.

Williams-Sonoma also operates the “Pottery Barn” and “West Elm” retailers, and is pretty much a unique story in specialty merchandising in terms of its operational success.

Over the last month, a number of Wall Street analysts reduced the company’s earnings expectations for this fiscal year and next. But the company did have good operational success in its fiscal fourth quarter of 2013, with a 10.4% gain in comparable revenue growth among its five retail divisions, with particular strength at West Elm.

Earnings per share increased 8.7% in the fourth quarter, and the dividend increase really pleased investors.

Operationally, Pottery Barn is the company’s largest revenue generator, about double the revenues generated from Williams-Sonoma-branded stores at $1.9 billion last year.

In the fiscal first quarter of 2014, the company expects comparable total sales to … Read More


This Blue Chip Keeps Bouncing Back

This One Stock Keeps Bouncing BackAmong blue chips, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) remains one of the most attractive enterprises for long-term investors.

As a benchmark stock within the entire equity universe and a conglomerate itself of healthcare businesses, it’s reasonable to expect a stock like this to provide a normalized annual return of approximately 10% including dividends.

Johnson & Johnson isn’t typically down for long on the stock market, and most recently, the stock popped higher after dropping to $86.00 a share.

The position’s been toying with $95.00 a share, and this is a ceiling for the stock, according to its recent trading action over the last couple of quarters. If the broader market holds firm, $100.00 a share by year-end would be a fair and attainable price target.

While not robust, earnings have caught up to share prices for many blue chips and countless positions are not overpriced.

Johnson & Johnson has a trailing price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of approximately 19.5 and a forward P/E ratio of around 15. Because of the company’s stellar long-term returns to shareholders, it’s kind of like a golden blue chip, as very few companies have been able to produce such decent and consistent operational growth in their businesses…. Read More


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