CWS Market Review – December 7, 2012

“If you can look into the seeds of time,
And say which grain will grow and which will not,
Speak then to me.”
– Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 3

And to me, too, while you’re at it. After a nice recovery since mid-November, the S&P 500 has settled into a narrow trading range. For the last seven days running, the index has closed between 1,407 and 1,417. Chart watchers generally think this is a positive sign because stocks haven’t immediately surrendered their gains and dipped to a new low. My advice for investors is to ignore this silly Fiscal Cliff alarmism and expect a strong rally ahead. I continue to be bullish on the market and think we’ll break 1,500 sometime early in 2013.

Stay Tuned for the 2013 Buy List

Before I get into today’s CWS Market Review, I want to announce that I’ll unveil next year’s Buy List two weeks from today, on Friday, December 21, 2012. As usual, the new Buy List will have 20 stocks, and as usual, I’ll take off five stocks and add five new ones. We try to keep our turnover low. I always unveil the new Buy List a few days before the end of the year so no one can claim I’m getting an unfair jump on investors.

Once the changes are made, the Buy List is locked and sealed for the next 12 months and I’m not allowed to make any changes until next December. I’ll start tracking the new list at the start of trading on January 2nd. My purpose with the Buy List is to show investors that with patience and discipline, any investor can consistently beat the stock market with a user-friendly portfolio. I’m very fortunate that we’ve had great success at Crossing Wall Street. If all goes well, 2012 will be the sixth year in a row that we’ve beaten the S&P 500.

The 2012 Buy List So Far

Through Thursday, our 2012 Buy List is up 13.21% for the year (not including dividends), which is slightly more than the S&P 500. I’ll include dividends in the final numbers. The good news is that the second half of the year has been very friendly to us. Remember that you can see exactly how our Buy List is doing at any time during the year at our Buy List page. I try to make investing as transparent as possible. I also have my Buy Below prices there so you’ll know exactly what’s a good entry point.

Let’s look at some of our recent Buy List standouts. Fiserv ($FISV) just broke $80 per share, which is an all-time high. The stock is a 36% winner for us this year. AFLAC ($AFL) finished the day on Thursday at $53.80, which is its highest close since May 17, 2011. I’m a big fan of the duck stock. Sysco ($SYY), one of the most stable stocks on our Buy List, also finished Thursday at an 18-month high. SYY currently yields 3.51%.

How about little Nicholas Financial ($NICK)? The stock dropped sharply after what some believed were poor earnings. They weren’t poor at all (perhaps mildly disappointing), and with a little patience, NICK has nearly made back all it lost. Even after the recent rally, NICK yields 3.6%. Nicholas Financial is a great buy up to $15 per share.

The Great Special Dividend Rush of 2012

Recently you’ve heard me complain about the careless media alarmism about the impending Fiscal Cliff. One starts to wonder whether CNBC now stands for “Cliff, Nothing But Cliff.” Trust me: you can ignore all that.

Wall Street has also been distracted by some turbulence in shares of Apple ($AAPL). Truthfully, the recent downturn in Apple isn’t all that surprising. Bespoke Investment Group points out that this is Apple’s 10th 20% correction in the last 10 years. As Josh Brown recently pointed out, the difference this time is that Apple’s correction begins at a very high nominal price.

One truly important effect of the impending Fiscal Cliff is that companies have been rushing to pay special dividends to shareholders before the end the year, as dividend taxes are expected to rise. This is especially the case for cash-rich companies and firms with high insider ownership. So far, U.S. companies have announced $21 billion in special dividends. Other companies, like Walmart ($WMT), have moved up their dividend-payout dates.

On our Buy List, Oracle ($ORCL) announced that they will pay out their next three quarterly dividends before the end of the year. To clear up any confusion, Oracle’s fiscal year ends in May, so they’re paying out their second-, third- and fourth-quarter dividends all at once. The quarterly dividends are six cents per share, so the total payment for this month will be 18 cents per share. That works out to a cool $200 million for CEO Larry Ellison.

Oracle’s fiscal Q2 earnings report is due after the close on Tuesday, December 18th. I’m expecting a good report. During the earnings call in September, Oracle said Q2 earnings should range between 59 and 63 cents per share. That’s a nice increase from the 54 cents per share they made in last year’s Q2. Wall Street’s consensus is at the dead center of the range, at 61 cents per share. Earlier this week, Oracle’s stock got as high as $32.50, which is an 11-week high. Oracle remains a strong buy any time it’s below $35 per share.

The day after Oracle reports, Bed Bath & Beyond ($BBBY) will report its fiscal Q3 earnings. An important earnings call will follow because BBBY will give their initial planning assumptions for next year. Wall Street currently expects earnings of $5.15 per share for next year, and I suspect that’s too high. Unfortunately, this will be the last we hear from BBBY for awhile. The company’s Q4 is hugely important for them: about one-third of their annual profits come during the holiday quarter. But that report won’t come out until early April. Until then, we won’t hear much of anything from BBBY. This is still a solid company. Bed Bath & Beyond is a good buy up to $62 per share.

Stryker Raises Dividend By 25%

In last week’s CWS Market Review, I said I expected Stryker ($SYK) to raise its quarterly dividend soon, and sure enough, I was right.

I had said that I expected Stryker to increase its payout from 21.25 cents per share to around 23 cents per share. It turns out, I wasn’t optimistic enough. The company just announced that the dividend will rise 25% to 26.5 cents per share. That brings the annual dividend to $1.06 per share. At Thursday’s close, Stryker now yields 1.95%.

Stryker’s board also approved a $405 million increase in the share buyback program, which brings the total to $1 billion.

Given the considerable strength of our balance sheet and strong cash flow generation, we are well positioned to pursue a capital allocation strategy that includes highly focused M&A, an increasingly robust dividend and share buybacks,” said Kevin A. Lobo, President and Chief Executive Officer of Stryker. “We are committed to a strategy that will help drive our sales and earnings growth while simultaneously returning capital to shareholders at meaningful and consistent levels.

Stryker has raised its dividend every year since 1995. The stock is a buy up to $57.

Not to be outdone, Medtronic ($MDT) also announced an accelerated dividend payment. The company usually pays its fiscal third-quarter dividend in early January. On Thursday, Medtronic said that it will pay out the dividend in December in order to avoid the taxman. If you recall, in June, Medtronic raised its dividend for the 35th year in a row. The company recently had a good earnings report and reiterated full-year guidance. Medtronic is a buy up to $44 per share.

Before I go, I want to highlight the good sales report from Ford ($F). For November, vehicle sales were up 6%, and sales of the F-series trucks were up 18%. This was the best November for trucks in seven years. Ford also set a record for hybrid sales, but that’s a very small part of their overall business. I was pleased to see the company plans to build 750,000 vehicles in North America for Q1. That’s an 11% increase over last year.

I think it’s possible we may even see a dividend increase from Ford. The company currently pays a nickel per share, which comes to an annual yield of 1.8%. Ford is on track to earn about $1.35 per share this year, so they can easily afford an increase. Ford is a good buy up to $13 per share.

That’s all for now. Next week, we’ll get important reports on industrial production and retail sales. Also, the Fed meets on Tuesday and Wednesday. Following the meeting, Bernanke will hold a press conference. Be sure to keep checking the blog for daily updates. I’ll have more market analysis for you in the next issue of CWS Market Review!

– Eddy

Posted by on December 7th, 2012 at 6:07 am

The information in this blog post represents my own opinions and does not contain a recommendation for any particular security or investment. I or my affiliates may hold positions or other interests in securities mentioned in the Blog, please see my Disclaimer page for my full disclaimer.

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