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BALTIMORE (Stockpickr) -- Last week's price action was a reminder that stocks can still move down. Sort of.
The S&P 500 sold off 1.07% between last Monday's open and last Friday's close, giving stocks a healthy correction that drops May's market performance down to a more sustainable 3.26% month-to-date. Even if this morning's early price action looks likely to boost those gains once again, last week's correction is just what this rally needed.
A short trading week this week should make the four-day stretch to Friday's close interesting this week. To take full advantage, we're turning to a new set of Rocket Stock names.
For the uninitiated, "Rocket Stocks" are our list of companies with short-term gain catalysts and longer-term growth potential. To find them, I run a weekly quantitative screen that seeks out stocks with a combination of analyst upgrades and positive earnings surprises to identify rising analyst expectations, a bullish signal for stocks in any market. After all, where analysts' expectations are increasing, institutional cash often follows. In the last 201 weeks, our weekly list of five plays has outperformed the S&P 500 by 77.7%.
Without further ado, here's a look at this week's Rocket Stocks.
2013 is panning out to be a stellar year for shares of Cisco Systems (CSCO). Shares of the $125 billion IP networking firm have rallied 20% since the calendar flipped over to January.
That shouldn't come as a huge surprise given Cisco's positioning in the networking market; the firm is the world's biggest supplier of equipment and software used to connect devices. With internet traffic still growing at a breakneck pace, demand for Cisco's mission-critical routers and switches remains strong for enterprise customers.
Cisco has a size advantage in the networking equipment business that translates to high switching costs for customers. Because Cisco's gear is designed to plug-and-play with other Cisco components, IT departments that buy Cisco products can often see much lower integration and ongoing technical support costs. That gives Cisco an important economic moat right now, even if competition is trying to move in on its business.
From a financial standpoint, Cisco is in superb shape. The firm carries approximately $6 in cash -- and that's arguably one of CSCO's biggest execution risks right now. If management can't earn meaningful rates of return on the company's cash position, that cash needs to get returned to shareholders.
Cisco is a high-margin business with a defensible moat and big organic growth opportunities. Investors could do worse right now.
It's been a mixed bag for Boeing's (BA) business in 2013. But that hasn't stopped the aerospace giant from seeing its share price balloon this year. BA's stock price is up more than 32% year-to-date, with shares taking out the $100 mark in Friday's session. This Rocket Stock's upside doesn't look likely to fizzle out in the near-term.
Boeing manufactures aircraft and aerospace components for the commercial air travel and defense sectors. The biggest blemish on Boeing's track record this year has been the grounding of the firm's new 787 Dreamliner platform, which has experienced battery problems early on in its service life. With a fix worked out for the 787 that's received the all-clear from aviation officials around the world, Boeing should be able to put the issues behind it -- particularly because the airframe's issues didn't cause a more serious outcome.
On the defense side of the business, Boeing enjoys some lucrative projects right now, even if it constantly deals with a gun at its head in the form of the budget debate. The mission-critical nature of Boeing's contracts should make it less susceptible to the worst cuts, but investors should remember that defense if half of BA's business -- it could take a hit on the next swipe of a congressional pen. Less conspicuous offerings, such as the introduction of a next generation 737 with new, more efficient engines, should be huge sales drivers in 2013 as airlines continue to focus on cutting their biggest cost, fuel.
With rising analyst sentiment in BA this week, we're betting on shares.
Oil field servicer Halliburton (HAL) has quietly been carving out some strong performance in 2013, buoyed by sustained oil prices on the high end of their historic range. High oil means that a greater number of oil wells suddenly become economically viable, which drives demand for oil servicers such as Halliburton. HAL is an integrated oil servicer -- the firm does oil and gas companies' dirty work, specializing in drilling, pumping, and project management.
Because Halliburton has positioned itself as an integrated oil service company, it's been able to expand the amount of work it does for any individual project -- and muscle out less-inventive peers in the process. Big oil customers are happy to have a single point of contact with their well servicers, and Halliburton is happy to take all of the jobs on the site. Still, HAL is hardly the first to take an integrated approach to oil field service, so big rivals have a similar clamp on other sites.
International growth is one of the most important areas that HAL can pursue right now. As oil development in markets like Latin America and Asia continue to heat up, Halliburton's ability to snag deals with foreign, government-backed oil firms is going to be paramount to the firm's ability to keep growth rates high. At home, technology holds the promise of invigorating a mature oil industry, especially as more efforts are thrown at extracting oil from shale and oil sand sites that have been too pricey to commercialize in the past.
With a hefty portfolio of oil and gas recovery tech, Halliburton should remain on customers' short-lists when they look for help pulling commodities out of the ground.
Thermo Fisher Scientific
Thermo Fisher Scientific (TMO) is a staple name in laboratories across the globe the firm supplies a massive catalog of scientific instruments, laboratory equipment, and consumables to customers in the life-science, health care and environmental science industries. In all, Thermo Fisher boasts more than 350,000 customers spread all over the globe.
TMO's business differs from, say, an office supply company because the firm's offerings reach far higher up the value chain -- TMO isn't merely a supplier, it also develops the scientific instruments that it sells. The firm's high-end mass spectrometry equipment, for example, leads the industry in sales, giving TMO a big advantage in selling the more commoditized consumables that it offers. International sales are a big opportunity for TMO as firms in other countries ramp up their laboratory presence. Because Thermo Fisher already owns inroads into markets like China and India, it's among the best positioned to supply those markets.
Thermo Fisher's balance sheet has a reasonable amount of leverage for a firm that operates in a capital-intense business. More importantly, TMO throws off significant cash from its operations, enabling it to build up a $1 billion safety net.
With rising analyst sentiment building in this Rocket Stock, we're betting on shares.
It's been a good year for Estee Lauder (EL). The New York-based firm has seen its share price climb 20% since the start of the year, besting the broad market's already impressive performance over that same time.
Estee Lauder is a cosmetics and fragrance manufacturer that owns a handful of other well-known beauty brands: EL's portfolio includes popular names like Clinique in addition to mall staples M-A-C and Origins. That's enough makeup power to give EL a 25% share of the world's high-end cosmetics market, a segment that's managed to hold up surprisingly well in spite of the global slowdown in consumer discretionary spending.
Today, more than half of EL's sales come from overseas, particularly in developed countries. But like other established names today, the big growth opportunity for Estee Lauder comes from a burgeoning middle class in emerging markets. Revenues have already eclipsed pre-recession highs, and the firm looks well positioned to keep is growth pace up in 2013.
To see all of this week's Rocket Stocks in action, check out the Rocket Stocks portfolio at Stockpickr.
-- Written by Jonas Elmerraji in Baltimore.
At the time of publication, author had no positions in stocks mentioned. Jonas Elmerraji, CMT, is a senior market analyst at Agora Financial in Baltimore and a contributor to TheStreet. Before that, he managed a portfolio of stocks for an investment advisory returned 15% in 2008. He has been featured in Forbes , Investor's Business Daily, and on CNBC.com. Jonas holds a degree in financial economics from UMBC and the Chartered Market Technician designation. Follow Jonas on Twitter @JonasElmerraji