This month, I’m shaking up the Top 5 list. Although I’m keeping two Top 5 veterans on the list, three blue-chip companies are also poised to pop this month, and I want to make sure that you’re ready to capitalize on this opportunity.
I want to have a smooth ride going into the new year, so this month’s Top 5 is made up of all conservative stocks that thrive during the late winter months. Be sure to add some of these premium stocks before they take off.
Alexion Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ALXN) continues its winning streak this month as the No. 1 Top 5 stock on my buy list. In early December, the company enjoyed a major windfall as European Union regulators approved a new use for Soliris, the company’s only approved drug. Soliris will now treat atypical Hemolytic-uremic syndrome, a severe blood disorder that became an epidemic in Germany in May 2011. This treatment, which will launch in the first half of the new year, will be a boon to the company because Alexion gets the benefit of a new customer base with relatively minor up-front costs.
Also, the company is headed toward another stunning earnings announcement on Feb. 6. Analysts currently expect Alexion to grow sales by 41.7% and earnings by 30.8%. In addition, the analyst community has revised its earnings-per-share estimates 13% higher in the past three months, which suggests another hefty earnings surprise for Q4 2011.
Reynolds American (NYSE:RAI) is the ultimate value stock. After releasing Q3 earnings results in late October, the tobacco giant increased its already-hefty dividend by 5.7%. A few weeks later, company leadership authorized a massive $2.5 billion stock buyback program to be carried out over the next two-and-a-half years. And signs are pointing to tremendous Q4 operating results when the company releases earnings on Jan. 30.
Analysts currently expect the company to grow earnings by 15%, a significantly higher rate than the 9.9% forecast for the rest of the tobacco industry. Also, in the past month, analysts have revised their earnings estimates 3% higher, whereas they have decreased their earnings estimates for many of its competitors — analyst earnings revisions like this typically precede earnings surprises.
McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) is an institution in the fast-food industry, but this company is doing anything but sitting on its laurels. In the past month, this company has switched out one of its major egg suppliers and announced a $400 million plan to upgrade its restaurants with flat-screen TVs, padded seats and wooden tables.
All of these developments have clearly paid off — management recently announced that McDonald’s global same-store sales boomed 7.4% in November. Even in the U.S., sales rose 6.5% — according to management, the McCafe Peppermint Mocha succeeded in bringing in customers looking for an inexpensive holiday treat. In Europe, McDonald’s also brought in a 6.5% gain. All of these figures easily topped the 4.2% sales growth forecast by Street analysts. McDonald’s is living proof that an “old dog” can learn new tricks, and I’m excited to see what other changes this company announces.
Dominion Resources (NYSE:D) is the perfect winter-weather stock. Its customers in Virginia and North Carolina are cranking up the heat as the temperature continues to drop, which means increased profits for its Dominion Virginia Power segment. This makes conditions ripe for stunning Q4 earnings. One of the reasons I added this company to my buy list in December is because this company is incredibly resilient. In Q3, Dominion weathered not only Hurricane Irene, but also a 5.9-magnitude earthquake that struck its North Anna nuclear power station. Despite the combined $87 million cost from these natural disasters, the company still managed to grow earnings more than expected.
Looking forward, management expects higher revenues for Q4, as well as an increase in earnings per share thanks to the company’s aggressive stock buyback programs. The company doesn’t report earnings until Jan. 23, so there is plenty of time to load up on this stock in anticipation of the earnings report.
In my article “New Year’s Prediction #4: Retail, the Hottest Sector of 2012,” I mentioned I had another retail recommendation up my sleeve for 2012. With more than $9 billion in annual sales, VF Corp. (NYSE:VFC) is the world’s largest apparel company, and it’s easy to see why. The company is responsible for designing and manufacturing apparel, footwear and travel accessories for at least 20 major brands. In Q4 2011, VF Corp.’s sales rose 23% to $2.75 billion compared with $2.23 billion in Q3 2010.
Looking to Q4 2011 , the analyst community predicts 37% sales growth and 32% earnings growth. In the past three months, the analyst community has revised their consensus earnings estimate 7.6% higher. Typically, like with Reynolds American, positive earnings estimates precede future earnings surprises. VF Corp. is anticipated to benefit immensely from strong consumer spending this holiday season. This company also has the fourth-highest dividend yield in the Apparel industry, weighing in at 2.1%.