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5 Fast-Growth Stocks Defying the Odds - views
NEW YORK (Stockpickr) -- Since the end of World War II, the U.S. economy has grown at a 3.3% average annual pace. Yet investors need to re-focus their assumptions. The U.S. economy is now so large that growth in the 2% to 3% range is likely to be the norm in the years ahead -- barring any short-term dips and spikes around recessions. And more moderate growth means that most blue-chip companies will be hard-pressed to boost sales above 10% each year, unless they pull off major acquisitions.
But you can still find pockets of strong growth in various corners of the market. In fact, 64 companies in the S&P 500 are expected to boost sales at a double-digit pace through at least 2014. Here are five companies that are defying the gravitational pull of a slow economy. Each one is on track to boost sales at least 20% in 2012, 2013 and again in 2014.
Cabot Oil & Gas
Projected 2012 sales growth: 33%
2013 sales growth: 40%
2014 sales growth: 48%
Cabot Oil & Gas (COG) was early to the shale gas revolution that now serves as the biggest energy story in the U.S. Cabot spotted the potential of newer technologies that would soon unlock vast gas deposits in the country’s various shale formations. Cabot is a leading energy driller in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region, complementing existing strong holdings in Texas’ Eagle Ford shale Anadarko basins. Cabot’s projected strong growth is due to new wells that are set to be tapped in coming quarters, each of which should see steadily rising output.
Cabot is generating strong profits right now from its exposure to crude oil, and if natural gas prices start to move up off of their current multi-year lows, then those above-noted growth rates could prove to be quite conservative. Equally important, the company’s various energy fields are predicted to have fairly long useful lives, so revenues could stay aloft for more than a decade to come.
Projected 2012 sales growth: 15%
2013 sales growth: 21%
2014 sales growth: 27%
We’ve made an exception for D.R. Horton (DHI), which is expected to boost sales by “only” 15% this year. This homebuilder owns various swaths of yet-to-be-developed real estate, and analysts expect home building activity to steadily rebound in coming years after several years of under-building.
D.R. Horton is a favorite of some analysts due to a strong record of keeping costs very low. The fact that overhead expenses are now half of what they were back in 2006 means that the company has a huge amount of operating leverage as sales rise.
You can see that leverage in analysts’ bottom-line forecasts. D.R. Horton is expected to more than double profits in fiscal (September) 2012 to around 50 cents, and EPS is expected hit 80 cents in fiscal 2013 and $1 a share in 2014. Shares have pulled back a bit recently in the face of a possible slowdown in housing sentiment this spring that has affected all home builders, but this kind of growth potential makes shares attractive for investors that have a multiyear time frame.
D.R. Horton shows up on a list of 10 Stocks Leading the Way in the Housing Recovery.
Projected 2012 sales growth: 30%
2013 growth: 24%
2014 growth: 20%
After the go-go 1990s, most technology companies have had to settle for more moderate growth in recent years. But Salesforce.com (CRM) managed to single-handedly develop a new technology niche: Customer relationship software. Sales teams can now track all kinds of information related to clients, allowing for better internal coordination and even greater communications flow with customers.
Back in 2005, this company wasn’t yet a household name, as sales were under $200 million. Yet sales have been rising at least 20% every year ever since and show no signs of letting up. Sales exceeded $2 billion in the most recent fiscal year and should approach $4 billion by 2014.
Still, it’s not a cheap stock, trading at more than 100 times forward earnings. Every year or two, shares take a hit on growth concerns, which has usually proven to be the better entry point for this stock.
Projected 2012 growth: 30%
2013 growth: 28%
2014 growth: 27%
You didn’t think we’d ignore e-tailer Amazon (AMZN), which has single-handedly upended an entire sector. The fact that sales have already reached $48 billion prior to those projected growth rates is nothing short of remarkable. But it’s not without controversy. Amazon has been rightly accused of chasing top-line growth without a commensurate focus on profits.
Management is fine with that criticism. The company thinks there are still many retail niches that it can conquer, so it can create long-term shareholder value by sacrificing short-term margin considerations. Presumably, when Amazon’s heavy slate of investments in new growth initiatives finally starts to cool off, investors will see profits surge to new heights.
As is the case with Salesforce.com, shares don’t look like a bargain based on near-term profit projections. Instead, investors have to simply trust that management’s long-term gambit will pay off. Management has already amassed a remarkable track record and deserves the benefit of the doubt.
The fact that shares are now $50 cheaper than they were in October 2011 may be help investors rationalize that they are not overpaying for shares right now.
Amazon shows up on a recent list of 15 Apple-Like Stocks That Could Bear Similar Fruit.
Projected 2012 growth: 23%
2013 growth: 22%
2014 growth: 20%
Noble Energy (NBL), an oil and gas driller, is benefiting from the same dynamics that were discussed with Cabot Oil & Gas earlier. As Morningstar notes, “Noble Energy is very well positioned to grow quickly and emerge in the second half of the decade as a far larger company generating higher returns.”
That’s because the company has hit a gusher in the Mediterranean, with up to than 35 trillion cubic feet of natural gas sitting untapped off the coast of Israel. Construction is under way now, and the gas should be flowing in coming quarters. Noble also has very potentially very productive energy fields in Equatorial Guinea. Notably, natural gas prices are far higher in the rest of the world than they are in the U.S.
There is risk: The Israeli government may mandate that Noble’s gas needs to be sold domestically in Israel and cannot be exported to ensure that Israel doesn’t fritter away this badly-needed commodity. It’s an unlikely scenario but bears continued scrutiny.
To see these stocks in action, visit the Fast-Growing Blue-Chips portfolio.
At the time of publication, author had no positions in stocks mentioned.