Stocks have been rising since the bottom made in October 2011, and this year the Dow has gained 8.14%, the S&P 500 is up 12%, the Nasdaq is up 18.67%, and the Russell 2000 has gained just under 5%. In a market where second-half gains in earnings are in question and volume and breadth suggest that a consolidation is due, where can you find reasonably valued stocks?
Stocks in the building sector, especially apartment construction, should grow, and health care companies should benefit with or without “Obama Care.” And, despite the current administration’s resistance to fossil-fuel programs, the assumption is that the Keystone XL pipeline will eventually be built.
The bull market is still in its infancy, and the public has mostly been absent, put off by a “wall of worry” that appears to be growing, and that is a positive for stocks. Plus, the Fed will continue to pump money into the market.
This month’s stock picks are generally focused on stocks that will benefit from the economic engines that drive the market.
Here are your top stocks to buy for April:
Top Stock to Buy #1 – AvalonBay Communities (AVB)
Real estate investment trust (REIT) AvalonBay Communities (NYSE:AVB) specializes in upscale apartment communities. An improving U.S. economy with high apartment occupancy levels should result in higher rental rates for AVB, and new development activities will be an important driver of earnings in 2012. Funds from operations (FFO) per share in 2012 is forecast at $5.30, up from $4.57 in 2011. AVB has a dividend yield of 2.83%, and it is expected to increase.
On March 30, the stock broke from a multiple top with a trading objective of $150. But longer-term investors should consider AVB as a cornerstone REIT with an objective of $175.
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Top Stock to Buy #2 – DENTSPLY International (XRAY)
DENTSPLY International (NASDAQ:XRAY), the world’s largest dental products maker, should benefit from demographic trends and a rising demand for dental services in underdeveloped nations. S&P forecasts earnings of $2.30 in 2012 and $2.60 in 2013.
The stock executed a golden cross early in February, and is very close to breaking out from a complex of tops at around $40. If successful, XRAY could run to $48. Buy now with a stop-loss at $37.50.
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Top Stock to Buy #3 – Ford Motor Co. (F)
Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F), the second largest producer of cars and trucks in the United States, also has automobile financing and insurance operations. Analysts expect Ford to increase revenues this year chiefly from operations in the United States, China, and most European countries.
After some weakness in the first half of the year, improved profits are expected in the second half of 2012, and 2013 revenues are expected to rise 9.7%. Earnings this year should fall to $1.46, but rise to $1.71 in 2013. The first-half decline should already be factored into the price of the stock. And these estimates may be very conservative in that the average life of cars “on the street” is currently over 10 years. Increased consumer appreciation of Ford’s product quality and confidence in its management should also raise demand for the stock.
Technically Ford broke its bear market resistance line in January, jumping from $10 in December to $13 in late January. It has been consolidating since then between $12 and $13, but just flashed a buy signal from its stochastic. A break from $13 should result in a quick run to $14 to $15. Longer-term investors should benefit from much higher prices and an increase in its dividend yield, now at 1.62%.
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Top Stock to Buy #4 – Southwest Airlines (LUV)
Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) is our “bottom fisher’s choice” for this month. The stock fell from over $14 in October 2010 to almost $7 in October 2011. But a turnaround appears to be occurring with the acquisition of AirTran, which resulted in an immediate 20% growth.
Earnings are estimated at 70 cents in 2012 versus 43 cents in 2011. The airline is known for the high quality of its management and enjoys an excellent reputation among customers.
Although technically still in a bear market, LUV has a solid base at $8 and recently flashed a buy signal from the stochastic and our internal indicator, the Collins-Bollinger Reversal (CBR). The trading target for LUV is $9 to $9.50, but long-term investors have an opportunity to buy this stock for a possible double or more.
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Top Stock to Buy #5 – TransCanada Corporation (TRP)
TransCanada Corporation (NYSE:TRP) is an energy infrastructure company that focuses mainly on natural gas and oil pipelines. It is the primary developer and manager of the Keystone pipeline system, and it is the company that manages non-regulated facilities in Alberta, Canada.
In January, the U.S. State Department rejected TRP’s application to build Keystone XL, an extension that would carry heavy crude from the Alberta oil sands and Bakken Shale to Gulf of Mexico refiners. Earnings for 2012 and 2013 are expected to be $2.35 and $2.70, respectively, but could be higher if the overall Keystone XL project is approved. President Obama has already approved the southern half of the line from Cushing, Okla., to the Gulf, saving months of delays. If the entire line were to be approved, the company’s earnings would improve significantly.
Technically the stock is in a bull channel with prices hugging the 50-day moving average. TRP’s overall price objective is $50-plus, depending on the political swings in the fall. Buy under $42.
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Top Stock to Buy #6 – United Health Group (UNH)
UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH), a diversified health and well-being company, provides health care programs, retirement plans, has a life sciences group, and provides health plans to physicians, clinical services, etc.
Credit Suisse analysts say, “We continue to view United as the best-positioned large-cap managed care plan for where we see the best growth prospects… especially in the shift to Bundled Payments under Medicare.”
They look for earnings of $4.85 this year compared to $4.73 in 2011, and an increase to $5.60 in 2013. UNH has a dividend yield of 1.17%.
Technically the stock consolidated in a broad nine-month cup, then broke from that cup in February at $54. From mid-February until recently, it consolidated between $54 and $55. Last week, it broke from $56 to $58.10. The trading target for UNH is $65. Longer term, Credit Suisse is predicting an annual target of $72.
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