Technology & Railroads — Outperforming the Market at Every Turn

“Ahead of the Street” Column, by Mitchell Clark, B. Comm.

It’s going to be a difficult year for the stock market, because investors want to see some earnings and revenue growth. Everyone bought equities in anticipation of an earnings recovery, so if that recovery isn’t convincing enough, then stock prices will fall.

I’m encouraged by a couple of sectors in the stock market right now. There’s one that really seems to be outperforming — large-cap technology. Companies like IBM, Oracle and Intel look very well positioned for respectable growth this year and next. And I’m not just referring to sales growth either; consensus estimates for earnings look quite healthy and a lot of Street analysts have been increasing estimates and their ratings.

Intel in particular looks well positioned right now. Trading around the $20.00 per share level, this stock is currently yielding close to three percent and a number of investment banks recently upgraded their research ratings on the company. A large-cap computer chip company is about as good a play as you can make in an economic recovery. Of course, for the last eight years, this stock hasn’t really done anything. Most big technology stocks still aren’t even close to trading where they did in the super bubble of 200. As a group, though, I think large-cap technology stocks will outperform the broader market over the next few years.

Another group that’s really performed amazingly well over the last several years is that of railroads. This is another sector that’s currently experiencing solid upgrades from Wall Street. Warren Buffett recently made a big bet in this industry by buying Burlington Northern Santa Fe. I think he made a smart move and that investors should keep an eye on the railroads for indications of where the broader market is headed.

In fact, if you want to know where the stock market is going, all you have to do is follow the Dow Jones Transportation Average. This index recovered incredibly well from the financial crisis and is still looking strong from a technical perspective.

Stock prices are going to be choppy over the near term, trading on the news of the day. But I’ve always believed in Transports as one of the best indicators for the broader market. Right now, that index is saying full steam ahead.