— “Ahead of the Street” Column, by Mitchell Clark, B. Comm.
One of the best ways to find attractive stocks in which to invest is to constantly review the changes in earnings expectations that Street analysts make to the companies they cover. I’m always looking for companies whose earnings expectations are being revised upward, and you can easily do this by perusing free financial web sites.
At the same time that Wall Street is upgrading its research ratings on a number of large-cap companies, analysts are also increasing their earnings estimates. Some of the companies that are currently experiencing upward revisions to earnings are Kraft Foods, ConAgra Foods and General Mills. There is a real investment theme developing in this specific sector of the market.
While consumers are spending less eating out, they are spending more at the grocery store. And grocery stores are also doing great selling their own brands of food products, which tend to be cheaper. And, guess which companies are in the business of producing, packaging and selling these kinds of food products? Kraft Foods, ConAgra Foods and General Mills. Kraft in particular has a very attractive yield of around four percent.
In a stock market without much of a tailwind, investors are clamoring for dividend yield and there are very few solid companies out there that are offering a decent income for stockholders. Some of the more solid yields in the marketplace include DuPont, PepsiCo, Automatic Data Processing and Thomson Reuters. These are companies with long-term track records of increasing dividends to stockholders. If you want higher yields, then you have to go to some utilities and banks.
It’s very early into this earnings season and we haven’t heard much in the way of earnings warnings from companies. While I think the broader market will keep ticking higher as we get more corporate reporting, the market looks really tired to me. We’ve had a good run already since the March low last year and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if nothing much happens this year to the main stock market averages. Like the previous decade, dividends will be a very important component for investors. Without them, real returns from equities could be negative once again.