Tag Archives: GE

Mondays Vital Data: Apple, Micron and General Electric

U.S. stock futures are headed lower this morning, as Wall Street digests the possibility of more interest rate hikes in 2018. On Friday, Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester hinted to Reuters at the possibility of four rate hikes this year. On Saturday, San Francisco Fed President John Williams backed the current pace of three hikes due to economic lift from the tax plan.

More from the Fed will arrive today. Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic is due to speak at the Rotary Club of Atlanta this afternoon. Additionally, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren will participate in a panel to discuss whether Fed should stick to a 2% inflation target.

While futures were headed higher early this morning, they have since reversed course. At last check, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures are down 0.06%, S&P 500 futures are off 0.15% and Nasdaq-100 futures have fallen 0.13%.

Turning to the options pits, Friday’s volume remained brisk. Overall, about 20.5 million calls and 16.4 million puts changed hands. The CBOE single-session equity put/call volume ratio rose to 0.58. The 10-day moving average held at 0.56.

Taking a closer look at Friday’s options activity, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) attracted heavy call volume heading into what proved to be a rather rough weekend for the company. Meanwhile, Micron Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ:MU) options received a sentiment boost after a bullish note on memory chip demand from Keybank. Finally, General Electric Company (NYSE:GE), last year’s ultimate dog of the Dow, has emerged as one of 2018’s top 10 favorites.

Monday’s Vital Options Data: Apple Inc (AAPL), Micron Technology, Inc. (MU) and General Electric Company (GE)investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-08-2017-Top-Ten-Options-300×138.png 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-08-2017-Top-Ten-Options-65×30.png 65w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-08-2017-Top-Ten-Options-200×92.png 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-08-2017-Top-Ten-Options-400×184.png 400w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-08-2017-Top-Ten-Options-116×53.png 116w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-08-2017-Top-Ten-Options-100×46.png 100w,https://investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-08-2017-Top-Ten-Options-109×50.png 109w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-08-2017-Top-Ten-Options-78×36.png 78w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-08-2017-Top-Ten-Options-170×78.png 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 547px) 100vw, 547px” />

Apple Inc (AAPL)

Apple stock options were extremely call heavy on Friday. Volume topped out at 543,000 contracts, with calls snapping up an above average 69% of the day’s take. The net effect was to drive AAPL’s January 2018 put/call open interest ratio lower from a reading near 1.16 to today’s perch at 1.12.

Sentiment was up after the company said that it would quickly patch any semiconductor vulnerabilities. Chip stocks were hit hard after revelations of exploits affecting Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) and Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMD) processors.

Today, however, could be a different story. Apple was hit with fresh concerns over worker conditions in China following the suicide of a Foxconn worker at an iPhone production plant this weekend. Additionally, investors are calling for Apple to investigate the potential harm of iPhone and tablet-like devices on children.

AAPL stock is down fractionally in pre-market trading.

Micron Technology, Inc. (MU)

Micron stock remained volatile on Friday, despite a bullish research note from analysts at Keybanc. According to Keybanc, news in the DRAM and NAND markets is “neutral to good.” Specifically, DRAM supply is tight and should help support prices, while NAND is headed for “oversupply.” However, NAND oversupply should work its way out of the system later this year, returning pricing power to Micron.

Options traders appeared to take profits following the recent run higher, however. Volume on Friday rose to 305,000 contracts, with calls accounting for 65% of the day’s take.

The resulting January 2018 put/call OI ratio rose to 0.65 from last week’s reading of 0.62. The activity hints that options traders may be taking profits after MU rallied more than 11% last week.

General Electric Company (GE)

After finishing 2017 as the worst performing member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, GE stock has emerged as one of the potential top performers of 2018. General Electric has made the top 10 list of several notable top-ranked stock newsletters, including George Putnam’s, The Turnaround Letter.

GE stock is already up more than 6% in 2018, enjoying a solid first week for the year. Options traders have also taken up the bullish call. Volume on Friday rose to 272,000 contracts, or more than 1.5 times GE’s daily average. Calls gobbled up 72% of the day’s take.

Short-term options traders have grown heavily bullish on GE stock heading into the first expiration of 2018. Specifically, the January put/call OI ratio has fallen to a reading of 0.43, with calls more than doubling puts among front-month options.

Finally, there could be more gains to come. GE closed above its 50-day moving average on Friday and could be set to challenge resistance at $19 this week. A breakout above resistance at $19 could be a significant short-term boon for GE bulls.

As of this writing, Joseph Hargett was long General Electric Company (GE) stock.

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Tuesdays Vital Data: Micron Technology, Inc. (MU), General Electric Company (GE) and Amazon.com,

U.S. stock futures are mixed heading into the first trading day of 2018. Investors appear to be searching for a new driver for the major market indices now that tax reform has passed.

stock market todayGeopolitical concerns are headlining this morning, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un claiming to have a “nuclear button.” However, Un suggested he is willing to engage in talks with South Korea at next month’s Winter Olympics.

Heading into the open, futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average are up 0.28%, S&P 500 futures are up 0.28% and Nasdaq-100 futures have added 0.37%.

Turning to the options pits, Friday’s volume was respectable despite being on the light side. Overall, about 13.8 million calls and 11.8 million puts changed hands. The CBOE single-session equity put/call volume ratio rose to a one-week high of 0.59 and the 10-day moving average held at 0.57.

Taking a closer look at Friday’s options activity, Micron Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ:MU) attracted heavy call volume on the last trading day of 2017. Elsewhere, General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) options traders held out hope that 2018 couldn’t get any worse. Finally, President Donald Trump took aim at Amazon.com, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) relationship with the U.S. Postal Service.

Tuesday’s Vital Options Data: Micron Technology, Inc. (MU), General Electric Company (GE) and Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN)investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-02-2018-Top-Ten-Options-300×137.png 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-02-2018-Top-Ten-Options-65×30.png 65w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-02-2018-Top-Ten-Options-200×92.png 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-02-2018-Top-Ten-Options-400×183.png 400w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-02-2018-Top-Ten-Options-116×53.png 116w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-02-2018-Top-Ten-Options-100×46.png 100w,https://investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-02-2018-Top-Ten-Options-109×50.png 109w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-02-2018-Top-Ten-Options-78×36.png 78w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-02-2018-Top-Ten-Options-170×78.png 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 548px) 100vw, 548px” />

Micron Technology, Inc. (MU)

MU finished 2017 as the fastest growing semiconductor stock, with a gain of more than 87% on the year. Micron rode a wave of growth in the memory market, with strong memory prices vaulting the company into the top five semiconductor stocks by revenue. What’s more, investors appear to be betting on the trend to carry over into 2018.

Volume on the last trading day of 2017 came in at a brisk pace for MU stock. More than 301,000 MU options contracts traded on Friday, with calls making up 69% of the day’s take. Overall, MU’s January 2018 put/call open interest ratio rests at a lowly perch of 0.63 for the first expiration month of 2018.

But calls did not hold a monopoly on MU’s options activity on Friday. Data from Trade-Alert.com reveals that a block of 10,000 July $40 puts traded in the early afternoon at the bid price of $4.30, or $430 per contract. These contracts appear to have been sold to open. This means that the trader is either looking to pick up MU stock at $40 on a pullback, or expecting MU stock to hold above $40 through expiration.

General Electric Company (GE)

GE was 2017’s Dog of the Dow. The stock shed nearly half its value last year amid restructuring concerns as new CEO John Flannery did everything in his power to slash costs, layoff workers and sell underperforming divisions.

But General Electric pays out a quarterly dividend of 43 cents per share, resulting in a dividend yield of 2.75% — among the highest on the Dow right now. As a result, many investors are looking at GE stock as a potential value play for 2018. Among those betting on a bounce are GE options traders.

On Friday, GE options volume rose to 230,000 contracts, or roughly 1.5 times the stock’s daily average. Calls made up an impressive 67% of the day’s take.

Furthermore, it would appear that many of these calls were opened in the January 2018 series, as the put/call OI ratio fell from 0.50 last week to today’s perch at 0.48. In other words, GE options traders are betting on a fresh start for 2018 for this Dog of the Dow.

Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN)

With a gain of roughly 56%, AMZN stock put in a stellar performance in 2017. But that strong performance has drawn considerable ire from the current U.S. administration. President Trump tweeted out that Amazon is giving the U.S. Postal Service a raw deal.

“Why is the United States Post Office, which is losing many billions of dollars a year, while charging Amazon and others so little to deliver their packages, making Amazon richer and the Post Office dumber and poorer? Should be charging MUCH MORE!” Trump said on Twitter.

AMZN options traders took the criticism in stride, however. Volume on Friday rose to 143,000 contracts, with calls managing 55% of the day’s take. Still, AMZN options activity points toward skepticism for the first month of the year.

Currently, the January 2018 put/call OI ratio rests at 1.15 for AMZN, with puts outnumbering calls. That said, such activity is not unusual for a stock trading north of $1,000, given that premiums on near-the-money options are considerably high. As a result, many of these AMZN puts were likely sold-to-open in the hopes of capturing premium.

As of this writing, Joseph Hargett did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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Disney, General Electric Push DJIA Higher Tuesday

January 2, 2018: Markets opened higher Tuesday for the opening session of the new year. Tensions over events in North Korea and Iran were not reflected in the equity markets, with tech, healthcare, materials, and energy sectors putting up solid gains. Utilities and financials lagged. WTI crude oil for February delivery settled at $60.37 a barrel, down less than 0.1% for the day. February gold added 0.5% on the day to settle at $1,316.10 for an eighth consecutive winning session and the highest close in more than three months. Equities were headed for a higher close shortly before the bell as the DJIA traded up 0.34% for the day, the S&P 500 traded up 0.76%, and the Nasdaq Composite traded up 1.41%.

Bitcoin futures for January delivery traded at $15,165, up about 4.8%, on the CME after opening at $13,995 this morning. Only 701 contracts had been traded in the session and open interest is just 498.

The DJIA stock posting the largest daily percentage gain ahead of the close Tuesday was The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) which traded up 3.88% at $111.68. The stock’s 52-week range is $96.20 to $116.10. Volume was less than 10% above the daily average of around 8.1 million shares. The company dominated the 2017 movie industry box office.

General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) traded up 2.61% at $17.91. The stock’s 52-week range is $17.25 to $31.84. Volume was about 20% below the daily average of around 78 million. The company had no news but there have been plenty of stories about why GE stock is a good buy at this price level.

Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) traded up 1.93% at $127.61. The stock’s 52-week range is $102.55 to $127.62 and the high was posted this afternoon. Volume was about 15% below the daily average of around 5 million shares. The company had no news.

Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) traded up 1.63% at $85.00. The stock’s 52-week range is $76.05 to $91.34. Volume was about 15% below the daily average of around 9.3 million shares. The company had no specific news.

Of the Dow stocks, 21 are on track to close higher Tuesday and 9 are set to close lower.
ALSO READ: Top Merrill Lynch Stock Picks for the First Quarter of 2018

Corning: Gorilla Glass Is Great But A Small Part Of Revenue

The Discipline of Market Leaders by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema holds that successful companies must focus their expertise in one of three areas (1) Operational Excellence, (2) Product Leadership, or (3) Customer Intimacy. Naturally a company doesn’t forgo the other two, but the thesis is it must focus on and master one to be a successful leader. Corning’s (NYSE:GLW) focus is definitely Product Leadership. This article acknowledges its commitment to long-term innovation and will discuss shorter-term financial impacts.

Corning Gorilla Glass: One of Many Glass-Related Products

Corning, Inc.’s Gorilla Glass has been included in over 5 billion devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and wearables like smartwatches designed and sold by over 40 different Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). These include leading brands like Samsung (OTC:SSNLF), Acer, Sharp (OTCPK:SHCAY), Sony (NYSE:SNE) and many less-known brands. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is not listed on the Corning website as an OEM using Gorilla Glass and little or no public information is available about its use. However, Corning has recently received $200M from Apple’s new manufacturing investment fund.

While Gorilla Glass is a high-profile Corning product, it contributed less than 9% of total 2016 revenues of $9.390B (GAAP revenue).

Corning does business through five product segments which have different customers and different competitors (Gorilla Glass is in the Specialty Materials segment).

Source: Corning 2017 Proxy Statement

Corning, with revenue of close to $10B annually and a market cap of $28B, can be classified as a large cap company. It is 298th of 500 on the Fortune 500 list based on revenue. While it is an innovator in glass-related products, it is normally classified in the Industrial Sector and Electronics and Electrical Equipment Industry due to its diversification of glass-related products noted above.

Corning has produced world-class inventions and has a robust innovation program which will result in new products for the 21st century. A short summary of the premier innovation program is provided in a section below. The focus of this article is the short-term – the next one to two years.

Let’s start with a summary of competitors. From the 2016 Corning 10-K:

“Corning competes with many large and varied manufacturers, both domestic and foreign. Some of these competitors are larger than Corning, and some have broader product lines. Corning strives to maintain and improve its market position through technology and product innovation. For the future, Corning believes its competitive advantage lies in its commitment to research and development, its commitment to reliability of supply and product quality and technical specification of its products.”

I would classify Corning as having an R&D, innovation and product culture vs. a marketing culture (The Discipline of Market Leaders). This is all fine, but the top line in the income statement is revenue led by marketing.

With five diverse segments, the competitors range from small unique companies to large multinationals. Many of the competitors are based in Asia and are a holding of a larger parent company. A sample list of competitors follows.

Display Technologies competition includes large Asian LCD manufacturers:

Samsung Electronics/Samsung Display, Ltd. Sharp Corp. LG/LG Display, Ltd. (NYSE:LPL) Japan Display, Inc. (OTCPK:JPDYY) Nippon Electric Glass (OTC:NPPEY)

As an example, Nippon Electric Glass, known as NEG, is a $2.4B revenue company with 20% of the world’s LCD market share.

Optical Communications competitors are many and diverse. Ten cable making groups have 63% of the world market. The primary competing producers of the Optical Communications segment are CommScope (NASDAQ:COMM) and Prysmian Group (OTCPK:PRYMF), which is headquartered in Milan, Italy.

Gorilla Glass competitors include:

Asahi Glass of Japan (OTCPK:ASBRF) Schott AG of Germany Nippon Electric Glass

So what this means is that Corning has many competitors throughout the world which have an impact on the Sales, Marketing and Business Development organization structure and effectiveness. These costs are generally rolled up into the selling, general and administrative (SG&A) line in the income statement. Corning’s SG&A is 16% of revenue. SG&A normally includes sales, marketing, finance, HR, compliance, etc. The sales and marketing component is not specifically identified. SG&A/revenue varies widely depending upon the business and industry. It can range from 5% to 30%. Details of Corning’s Sales, Marketing and Business Development organization and approach are not publically available.

Business Segment Near-Term Growth Prospects

From Morningstar’s (Premium Membership Content):

“We think the company is well-positioned for growth in the optical fiber business, as carriers and data center operators seek to improve network capacity. However, heavy customer concentration along with stiff competition in the optical communications space has resulted in weaker profitability than in the display glass business. Beyond optical, we think Corning’s environmental technologies business stands to benefit from increasingly stringent emissions regulations in the U.S. and European markets, resulting in renewed demand for its filter products. Further, we are optimistic of the growth in Corning’s specialty materials segment as the company expands its leadership position in protective coverings via Gorilla Glass for smartphones and PCs while also extending its presence into adjacent markets such as wearables.”

An Argus Analyst report available to Fidelity Investments private clients notes that while Display Technologies is the largest segment, near-term growth is expected to come from Optical Communication – fiber optics and 5G utilization for smartphones and other connectivity. It also notes that Specialty Materials (Gorilla Glass) is showing signs of growth.

Recent Financials

Recent financial data has been mixed. Let’s start with the income statement and then look at the balance sheet.

Source: Argus

Overall growth rates have not been stellar and 2015 was a dip from 2014. A three-year revenue growth rate of 20% is 6-7% per year, mid-single digits – good, not great.

However, the last six quarters have resulted in the earnings beating the analyst consensus.

Source: Thomson Reuters

A one-month stock chart:

Source: Yahoo Finance

The balance sheet is generally good. Long-term debt is $4B (Sept. 30, 2016).

Cash and cash flow has been well regarded to cover dividend, dividend growth and stock buybacks (The current dividend yield is 1.9%).

Source: Jefferson Research

Corning updated its Strategic Plan (Framework) in June 2016:

“The Strategic and Capital Allocation Framework consists of two primary actions:

Return more than $12.5 billion to shareholders through share repurchases and increased dividends. As part of this plan, Corning intends to target an adjusted debt-to-EBITDA ratio of two times, and to reduce its global cash to approximately $2 billion. Invest approximately $10 billion in Corning’s focused portfolio. Over the four years, Corning will concentrate its RD&E investment, capital spending, and strategic M&A on a cohesive set of 3 core technologies, 4 manufacturing & engineering platforms, and 5 market-access platforms. Corning, already a leader in these areas, believes its focused-portfolio approach will allow it to generate substantial growth and returns for investors.”

80% of its focus is on the three core technologies, four manufacturing & engineering platforms, and five market-access platforms. This will have a positive impact on sales focus and cost effectiveness.

Weeks also stated that the company expects to increase dividends by 10%/year in 2018 and 2019.

Other financial data of note:

Stock buybacks have decreased outstanding shares by 29%. Dividend coverage of 3.8. Free cash flow of $980M is near the top of its industry. Gross margin (TTM) is at the 80% projectile of its industry – very good. Long-term debt/equity is at the 38% projectile of its industry. The revenue/employee of $235,000 is a respectable figure. Debt-to-equity ratio is 27%, indicating the debt is at an acceptable level. Interest coverage by earnings is 16x. Corning’s profitability recently improved as the current return on capital of 15.5% exceeds the 8.8% average return over the past three years (Source: EVA Dimensions).

Dividends have increased during the past six years.

So all in all 2016 resulted in a very good financial state.

But an unknown and worrisome activity is that in the last 90 days, insiders and officers have sold shares.

Source: Thomson Reuters

So why did they sell? Were they locking in profits from the stock price rise? Do they know something we don’t about future earnings? Did they use the money to buy Christmas gifts? It’s most interesting Wendell Weeks sold $7.8M worth. By the way he has serviced as the chairman, CEO and president (all three roles together) since 2007. He joined Corning in 1983.

Innovation

Corning is committed to growth through innovation and has a track record of 165 years. It typically invests more in R&D per revenue than its competitors.

Research and development costs totaled $637 million in 2016, about 7% of revenue. That’s a healthy portion. It will invest $10 billion in R&D, capital expenditure, and M&A through 2019. In addition to R&D, Corning has been in a focused acquisition mode.

The Innovation Model

There are 17 Global Labs in the US, Russia, China, India, France, Taiwan, Korea and Germany.

What it Takes for the Stock to Appreciate

Corning has little if any aftermarket service business like General Electric (NYSE:GE) which has a stream of revenue servicing jet engines after the sale. In Corning’s case, it is pretty much “one and done”.

However, Corning is fed by innovation. New products such as automotive windows and screens, architectural glass, and pharmaceutical packaging will fuel the growth. In the short term, earnings growth can be driven by a combination of the individual business segment growth (e.g. fiber optics), increase in market shares, product price appreciation and cost reduction. Demand for Gorilla Glass 5 and fiber should be a near-term benefit. Perhaps the Valor Pharmaceutical glass packaging will add revenue in the near term.

Conclusion

Corning has more upside potential than downside risk. It can be a long-term holding based upon the innovation thesis. In the short term, it can possibly obtain increased revenue. The CEO has promised dividend increases and stock buybacks. This is a buy, watch and hold story. The fourth-quarter 2017 earnings conference call and webcast is on January 30, 2018. Stay tuned.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, but may initiate a long position in GLW over the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

About this article:ExpandAuthor payment: Seeking Alpha pays for exclusive articles. Payment calculations are based on a combination of coverage area, popularity and quality.Tagged: Investing Ideas, Long Ideas, Technology, Diversified ElectronicsWant to share your opinion on this article? Add a comment.Disagree with this article? Submit your own.To report a factual error in this article, click here

7 Dividend Growth Stocks Worth Owning

Do you invest in dividend growth stocks? If you don’t, you ought to consider doing so. These dividend stocks to buy could be your ticket to a better retirement.

Many dividend investors get caught up focusing on yield when the growth is what’s truly important. By utilizing the power of compound interest, investors can achieve higher returns by merely owning the stocks of companies who regularly hike their dividends.

A Canadian finance site, Hardbacon, provides an excellent example why investing in dividend growth stocks is a sound idea:

“If you invest in a stock which pays $1 in dividends a year and costs $25, it means it yields 4% at the time you buy it (dividend yield on cost),” wrote Sam Kovacs. “If the company increases its dividend 10 cents every year, in 10 years those same stocks which you bought for $25 will be paying out $2 in dividends, an outstanding 8% yield on cost.”

That’s the power of income-growth stocks. Here are seven dividend stocks to buy that are worth owning. If that’s not enough to get your mouth salivating, each has hiked its dividends in 2017 by 20% or more!

Dividend Stocks to Buy: Best Buy (BBY) Why Best Buy Co Inc BBY Stock Is a Great Buy Thanks to Apple Incinvestorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/bbymsn-300×165.jpg 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/bbymsn-73×40.jpg 73w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/bbymsn-55×30.jpg 55w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/bbymsn-250×137.jpg 250w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/bbymsn-200×110.jpg 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/bbymsn-162×88.jpg 162w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/bbymsn-160×88.jpg 160w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/bbymsn-65×36.jpg 65w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/bbymsn-100×55.jpg 100w,https://investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/bbymsn-91×50.jpg 91w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/bbymsn-78×43.jpg 78w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/bbymsn-170×93.jpg 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 728px) 100vw, 728px” />Source: Austin Kirk via Flickr

If I told you that I could sell you a dividend growth stock that’s increased its annual payout for 14 consecutive years, is yielding more than 2%, and raised its 2017 dividend by 21.4%, you’d want to know more.

But slap this description on Minneapolis-based Best Buy Co Inc (NYSE:BBY) and you’re likely to turn very skeptical. After all, Best Buy is supposed to be getting slaughtered in the electronics arena by Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN).

Not so fast.

Take a quick look at Best Buy’s stock chart and you’ll see that it’s currently trading within 3% of its all-time high of $69.39. In 2017, it gained 64% on the year and that’s after a 45% gain in 2016.

During the critical holiday shopping season, Best Buy held its own against Amazon according to industry analysis.

I’ve been a fan of CEO Hubert Joly all the way back to 2013 when the former hospitality executive implemented his turnaround plan for the electronics retailer.

Don’t be fooled by the company’s so-called weak Q3 2017 results. Same-store sales grew 4.4% and it earned 78 cents a share despite lowering prices to match Amazon, etc.

Best Buy could easily hit $100 in 2018.

Dividend Stocks to Buy: Vail Resorts (MTN) investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/mtnmsn-300×165.jpg 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/mtnmsn-55×30.jpg 55w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/mtnmsn-200×110.jpg 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/mtnmsn-162×88.jpg 162w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/mtnmsn-400×220.jpg 400w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/mtnmsn-116×64.jpg 116w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/mtnmsn-100×55.jpg 100w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/mtnmsn-91×50.jpg 91w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/mtnmsn-78×43.jpg 78w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/mtnmsn-170×93.jpg 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 728px) 100vw, 728px” />Source: Shutterstock

The U.S. economy is unbelievably healthy right now and nobody benefits more from this than Vail Resorts, Inc. (NYSE:MTN), North America’s largest operator of ski resorts.

Its stock hasn’t had a down year since 2011 and although it’s down in early 2018 trading, all the signs point to another stellar year on the slopes.

“We have continued to drive significant growth in our destination markets which represent approximately 60% of our increase in pass units,” CEO Rob Katz said recently. “We continue to see strength across all geographies, with particularly strong performance in Northern California, the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast and continued solid growth in Colorado and British Columbia.“

The sale of season passes as of the beginning of December were up 14% in units and 20% in dollars over last year; they’re not headed downhill anytime soon.

Acquisitions drive Vail Resort’s growth — Whistler Blackcomb being its most significant to date — and it’s not about to stop looking for resorts to buy that cater to both the affluent destination visitor as well as the local season-pass skier.

We might be aging but not quickly enough to slow Vail Resorts over the next decade. MTN might be the best dividend growth stock of the bunch.

Dividend Stocks to Buy: Oneok (ONE) investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/naturalgasmsn-1-300×165.jpg 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/naturalgasmsn-1-55×30.jpg 55w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/naturalgasmsn-1-200×110.jpg 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/naturalgasmsn-1-162×88.jpg 162w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/naturalgasmsn-1-65×36.jpg 65w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/naturalgasmsn-1-100×55.jpg 100w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/naturalgasmsn-1-91×50.jpg 91w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/naturalgasmsn-1-78×43.jpg 78w,https://investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/naturalgasmsn-1-170×93.jpg 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 728px) 100vw, 728px” />Source: Andy Arthur via Flickr

Higher energy prices to a limited extent drive stocks like Oneok, Inc. (NYSE:OKE), one of the biggest midstream service providers in the U.S.

As most of the Northeast fight a brutal winter storm early in 2018, natural gas prices have spiked to unprecedented levels; a problem made worse by the fact there’s a shortage of pipelines shipping natural gas to cities like New York and Boston.

Oneok can’t help with the Northeast as its pipelines and processing facilities are primarily west of the Mississippi River. However, it can help with the processing and shipping of natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGLs) in the regions it serves.

On January 4 it announced that it’s building $1.4 billion pipeline to transport NGLs from the Rocky Mountains to its Mid-Continent NGL facilities providing the middle part of the country with a more significant energy supply.

In 2017, OKE stock was relatively flat, down 2% on the year, significantly lower than the S&P 500, which was up 22%.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that Oneok upped its annual dividend this past year by 21.1% to $2.98, providing a juicy 5.3% yield — double the 10-year U.S. Treasury.

As energy stocks go, Oneok’s a keeper.

Dividend Stocks to Buy: Federal Agricultural Mortgage (AGM) investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/indoorfarmingmsn-300×165.jpg 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/indoorfarmingmsn-55×30.jpg 55w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/indoorfarmingmsn-200×110.jpg 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/indoorfarmingmsn-162×88.jpg 162w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/indoorfarmingmsn-400×220.jpg 400w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/indoorfarmingmsn-116×64.jpg 116w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/indoorfarmingmsn-100×55.jpg 100w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/indoorfarmingmsn-91×50.jpg 91w,https://investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/indoorfarmingmsn-78×43.jpg 78w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/indoorfarmingmsn-170×93.jpg 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 728px) 100vw, 728px” />Source: Shutterstock

This mostly unheralded stock is currently trading within 5% of its all-time high of $80.47. In 2017, it was up 39%, which followed an 85% gain in 2016. Over the past decade, it’s achieved an annualized total return of 12%, 300 basis points better than the S&P 500.

Currently yielding 1.9% after all of these gains, Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corp. (NYSE:AGM), better known as Farmer Mac, continues to be the agricultural industry’s best friend providing credit to agricultural lenders and businesses across the U.S.

With the need for food production likely to remain high indefinitely combined with a rigorous underwriting process, an investment in Farmer Mac is as reliable as they come.

In 2017, Farmer Mac upped the annual dividend by 38.5% to $1.44 a share. That’s money in the bank. Five years ago, AGM stock paid an annual dividend of just $0.48. In 2016, the company initiated a 30% payout target of core earnings which should keep the dividend growing at double digits on an annual basis.

If you like a little capital appreciation with your dividend growth stocks, AGM is for you.

Dividend Stocks to Buy: UnitedHealth (UNH) UnitedHealth UNH stockinvestorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/unitedhealth-group-inc-unh-stock-ipsize-300×150.jpg 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/unitedhealth-group-inc-unh-stock-ipsize-768×384.jpg 768w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/unitedhealth-group-inc-unh-stock-ipsize-60×30.jpg 60w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/unitedhealth-group-inc-unh-stock-ipsize-200×100.jpg 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/unitedhealth-group-inc-unh-stock-ipsize-400×200.jpg 400w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/unitedhealth-group-inc-unh-stock-ipsize-116×58.jpg 116w,https://investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/unitedhealth-group-inc-unh-stock-ipsize-100×50.jpg 100w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/unitedhealth-group-inc-unh-stock-ipsize-78×39.jpg 78w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/unitedhealth-group-inc-unh-stock-ipsize-800×400.jpg 800w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/unitedhealth-group-inc-unh-stock-ipsize-170×85.jpg 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 950px) 100vw, 950px” />Source: Shutterstock

Can you guess the last time UnitedHealth Group Inc (NYSE:UNH) stock lost money on an annual basis? Try the Reagan era. I’m just kidding. It was 2008. Since then it’s rattled off nine consecutive years of gains.

UNH operates two business segments: Health Benefits, which provides healthcare insurance to millions of Americans and Optum, its provider of healthcare services. Together, they play a big part in the wellness of America.

In December, UNH announced that it was buying the Davita Medical Group for $4.9 billion from Davita Inc (NYSE:DVA). Davita wants to focus on its dialysis business, so Optum was a natural home for the company’s nearly 300 clinics and six outpatient surgical centers.

When you’ve got a market cap of nearly $220 billion like UnitedHealth, a $4.9 billion acquisition is coffee money — but it provides additional growth for Optum, so it’s a win/win.

Bottom line: UNH stock isn’t a big yielder at 1.3%, but it’s track record of growing its stock price should be enough for most investors.

Dividend Stocks to Buy: Illinois Tool Works (ITW) investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/itwmsn-300×165.jpg 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/itwmsn-55×30.jpg 55w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/itwmsn-200×110.jpg 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/itwmsn-162×88.jpg 162w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/itwmsn-400×220.jpg 400w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/itwmsn-116×64.jpg 116w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/itwmsn-100×55.jpg 100w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/itwmsn-91×50.jpg 91w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/itwmsn-78×43.jpg 78w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/itwmsn-170×93.jpg 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 728px) 100vw, 728px” />Source: Shutterstock

Of all 31 stocks on my list, Illinois Tool Works Inc. (NYSE:ITW) has the fifth-longest streak for the consecutive number of years raising its annual dividend at 43. In 2017, it raised its dividend by 20.0% to $3.12 per share. Since 2012, it’s grown its annual dividend by 15% on a compounded basis with the last two years seeing increases above that average.

Yes, it only yields 1.9%, but the dividend yield isn’t nearly as important as the dividend growth because a growing dividend typically is the result of growing earnings.

Usually, I’m not a fan of share repurchases, but ITW does a good job keeping track of how it’s doing on its buybacks. Over the past five years it’s repurchased $11.4 billion of its shares reducing the share count by 28%, but more importantly, earning a 24% internal rate of return on those purchases.

Even better, over half the $11.4 billion was used to buy shares in 2013 and 2014 at prices of $85 or less — it currently trades at $166.

Over the past five years, the industrial conglomerate’s been on a transformation to building a business that’s growing its margins and organic revenues while responsibly allocating capital.

Frankly, Illinois Tool Works is what General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) ought to aspire to.

Dividend Stocks to Buy: Cheesecake Factory (CAKE) investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/cakemsn-300×165.jpg 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/cakemsn-55×30.jpg 55w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/cakemsn-200×110.jpg 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/cakemsn-162×88.jpg 162w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/cakemsn-400×220.jpg 400w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/cakemsn-116×64.jpg 116w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/cakemsn-100×55.jpg 100w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/cakemsn-91×50.jpg 91w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/cakemsn-78×43.jpg 78w,https://investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/cakemsn-170×93.jpg 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 728px) 100vw, 728px” />Source: Shutterstock

Who doesn’t love the Cheesecake Factory Inc (NASDAQ:CAKE)?

Seriously, anyone who doesn’t enjoy a meal at the restaurant chain best known for its variety of cheesecake desserts every now and again, really has a hard time letting loose.

Sure, it’s not gourmet, but when you’ve managed to increase your dividend by 20.8% in a single year and your stock is currently yielding 2.3%, the cheesecake isn’t the only thing worth trying at the California company.

The Cheesecake Factory might be old news in the U.S., but here in Canada where I live, the first location just opened this past November in Toronto at Yorkdale Mall, Canada’s most productive mall regarding sales per square foot.

Lineups were snaking through the mall of people trying to get their fill. Canada could easily use another 19 or 20. It will do very well here despite the fact Canadians have a hard time getting excited about cookie-cutter restaurant chains.

Cheesecake Factory’s financials might not be as strong as past years but its growth drivers — Canada, getting its cheesecake and other desserts into the grocery stores and investments in North Italia and Flower Child restaurants — suggest it’s got plenty to push the stock higher in the coming years.

As of this writing, Will Ashworth did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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Mondays Vital Data: Apple, Micron and General Electric

U.S. stock futures are headed lower this morning, as Wall Street digests the possibility of more interest rate hikes in 2018. On Friday, Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester hinted to Reuters at the possibility of four rate hikes this year. On Saturday, San Francisco Fed President John Williams backed the current pace of three hikes due to economic lift from the tax plan.

More from the Fed will arrive today. Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic is due to speak at the Rotary Club of Atlanta this afternoon. Additionally, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren will participate in a panel to discuss whether Fed should stick to a 2% inflation target.

While futures were headed higher early this morning, they have since reversed course. At last check, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures are down 0.06%, S&P 500 futures are off 0.15% and Nasdaq-100 futures have fallen 0.13%.

Turning to the options pits, Friday’s volume remained brisk. Overall, about 20.5 million calls and 16.4 million puts changed hands. The CBOE single-session equity put/call volume ratio rose to 0.58. The 10-day moving average held at 0.56.

Taking a closer look at Friday’s options activity, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) attracted heavy call volume heading into what proved to be a rather rough weekend for the company. Meanwhile, Micron Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ:MU) options received a sentiment boost after a bullish note on memory chip demand from Keybank. Finally, General Electric Company (NYSE:GE), last year’s ultimate dog of the Dow, has emerged as one of 2018’s top 10 favorites.

Monday’s Vital Options Data: Apple Inc (AAPL), Micron Technology, Inc. (MU) and General Electric Company (GE)investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-08-2017-Top-Ten-Options-300×138.png 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-08-2017-Top-Ten-Options-65×30.png 65w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-08-2017-Top-Ten-Options-200×92.png 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-08-2017-Top-Ten-Options-400×184.png 400w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-08-2017-Top-Ten-Options-116×53.png 116w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-08-2017-Top-Ten-Options-100×46.png 100w,https://investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-08-2017-Top-Ten-Options-109×50.png 109w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-08-2017-Top-Ten-Options-78×36.png 78w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/01-08-2017-Top-Ten-Options-170×78.png 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 547px) 100vw, 547px” />

Apple Inc (AAPL)

Apple stock options were extremely call heavy on Friday. Volume topped out at 543,000 contracts, with calls snapping up an above average 69% of the day’s take. The net effect was to drive AAPL’s January 2018 put/call open interest ratio lower from a reading near 1.16 to today’s perch at 1.12.

Sentiment was up after the company said that it would quickly patch any semiconductor vulnerabilities. Chip stocks were hit hard after revelations of exploits affecting Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) and Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMD) processors.

Today, however, could be a different story. Apple was hit with fresh concerns over worker conditions in China following the suicide of a Foxconn worker at an iPhone production plant this weekend. Additionally, investors are calling for Apple to investigate the potential harm of iPhone and tablet-like devices on children.

AAPL stock is down fractionally in pre-market trading.

Micron Technology, Inc. (MU)

Micron stock remained volatile on Friday, despite a bullish research note from analysts at Keybanc. According to Keybanc, news in the DRAM and NAND markets is “neutral to good.” Specifically, DRAM supply is tight and should help support prices, while NAND is headed for “oversupply.” However, NAND oversupply should work its way out of the system later this year, returning pricing power to Micron.

Options traders appeared to take profits following the recent run higher, however. Volume on Friday rose to 305,000 contracts, with calls accounting for 65% of the day’s take.

The resulting January 2018 put/call OI ratio rose to 0.65 from last week’s reading of 0.62. The activity hints that options traders may be taking profits after MU rallied more than 11% last week.

General Electric Company (GE)

After finishing 2017 as the worst performing member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, GE stock has emerged as one of the potential top performers of 2018. General Electric has made the top 10 list of several notable top-ranked stock newsletters, including George Putnam’s, The Turnaround Letter.

GE stock is already up more than 6% in 2018, enjoying a solid first week for the year. Options traders have also taken up the bullish call. Volume on Friday rose to 272,000 contracts, or more than 1.5 times GE’s daily average. Calls gobbled up 72% of the day’s take.

Short-term options traders have grown heavily bullish on GE stock heading into the first expiration of 2018. Specifically, the January put/call OI ratio has fallen to a reading of 0.43, with calls more than doubling puts among front-month options.

Finally, there could be more gains to come. GE closed above its 50-day moving average on Friday and could be set to challenge resistance at $19 this week. A breakout above resistance at $19 could be a significant short-term boon for GE bulls.

As of this writing, Joseph Hargett was long General Electric Company (GE) stock.

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General Electric From Worst to First Among DJIA Stocks

General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) spent the final 24 weeks of 2017 as the worst-performing stock among the 30 equities included in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA). Yet, at the end of the first week of trading in 2018, GE ranks as the top performer among the Dow 30, after posting a share price gain of 6.25% ($1.04 per share).

The second-best performer for among the Dow 30 this past week is International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM), 2017’s second-worst performer, which posted a gain of 5.91% in the week. DowDuPont Inc. (NYSE: DWDP) added 5.9%, and Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA), last year’s big winner, added another 4.72% during the first week of 2018.

The Dow posted an all-time high of 25,299.79 on Friday and closed the week at 25,295.87. The index gained about 1.9% in the first week of the year.

Are investors buying GE shares again because they’re so cheap or because all of a sudden they have become true believers in CEO John Flannery’s turnaround program? Here’s something to consider from our report last week on the bull/bear case for GE:

The broader S&P 500 was valued at 18.5 to 19.0 times expected 2018 earnings per share. GE ended 2017 valued at closer to 17 times earnings, but that is without considering all the abnormal issues around restructuring and asset sales. The reality is that GE could currently be valued at just 13 times earnings, or it could just as easily be valued at 25 times earnings. The market just won’t have a better handle on what its real value is until more of the asset sales are seen and more of the future business is quantifiable.

GE’s shares closed up less than 0.1% Friday, at $18.54 in a 52-week range of $17.25 to $31.66. The consensus 12-month price target on the stock is $21.99, unchanged from last week’s target. The low end of the price target range remained at $15, and the high end remained at $36.

ALSO READ: Intel Begins 2018 as the Worst Performing DJIA Stock

10 Stocks That Could Surprise in 2018

The U.S. stock markets hit the jackpot in 2017, with all the major indexes up significantly — the S&P 500 gained 19% over the past year, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 25% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq was up an impressive 28% — making year-end assessments by investors a very happy occasion.

Amazingly, the U.S, markets ranked 39th out of 47 countries in 2017, making this past year a relative stinker compared to the rest of the world’s stocks.

Why the “down” year?

It’s possible that investors have figured out that U.S. stocks are overvalued relative to stocks in other countries. So, while U.S. markets underperformed on a comparable basis, it can always be worse, as Canada demonstrates.

In 2017, Canadian stocks gained just 6% on the year with energy companies providing a significant headwind to better performance. Here in the U.S., the major indexes are much less dependent on energy stocks, hence the higher returns.

Given the perception U.S. stocks are overvalued, how does one make money in 2018?

Buy several of these ten stocks that lost 20% or more in 2017.  My bet is that, like the Dogs of the Dow, they will surprise in 2018.

Stocks That Will Surprise in 2018: Under Armour (UAA) Stocks That Will Surprise in 2018: Under Armour (UAA)investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/uamsn-300×165.jpg 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/uamsn-55×30.jpg 55w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/uamsn-200×110.jpg 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/uamsn-162×88.jpg 162w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/uamsn-400×220.jpg 400w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/uamsn-116×64.jpg 116w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/uamsn-100×55.jpg 100w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/uamsn-91×50.jpg 91w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/uamsn-78×43.jpg 78w,https://investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/uamsn-170×93.jpg 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 728px) 100vw, 728px” />Source: Shutterstock

It’s interesting that John Schnatter, the founder and former CEO of Papa John’s Int’l, Inc. (NASDAQ:PZZA), stepped down toward the end of 2017. Yet, Under Armour Inc (NYSE:UAA) CEO and founder Kevin Plank had no such plans despite delivering a lump of coal in shareholders’ stockings.

Plank deservedly is on a list of “Worst CEOs” of the past year with Under Armour’s stock losing half of its value.

In early February, I suggested that Plank should move aside, hiring a more experienced direct-to-consumer retail executive who understands how to sell in an omnichannel world.

A couple of months later I proposed that Under Armour and Lululemon Athletica Inc. (NASDAQ:LULU) should join forces to deliver a more balanced business regarding men’s and women’s customer bases.

Personally, I believe both of these ideas are both valid. Furthermore, I see Lululemon’s CEO, Laurent Potdevin, as the perfect person to lead the merged organization.

Regardless of whether these two things come to fruition, I believe Under Armour can bounce back in 2018. 

Stocks That Will Surprise in 2018: Newell Brands (NWL)

Stocks That Will Surprise in 2018: Newell Brands (NWL)investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/nwlmsn-300×165.jpg 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/nwlmsn-55×30.jpg 55w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/nwlmsn-200×110.jpg 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/nwlmsn-162×88.jpg 162w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/nwlmsn-400×220.jpg 400w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/nwlmsn-116×64.jpg 116w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/nwlmsn-100×55.jpg 100w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/nwlmsn-91×50.jpg 91w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/nwlmsn-78×43.jpg 78w,https://investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/nwlmsn-170×93.jpg 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 728px) 100vw, 728px” />

Newell Brands Inc (NYSE:NWL) lost 29% in 2017 as it struggled to integrate the Jarden acquisition into its own business. This past year was the stock’s first significant annual loss since 2008 when it saw a drop of 59% due to the economic crisis.

Investors expected that the integration of Jarden would deliver sales growth and higher profits and neither of these has yet to materialize.

Its five-year restructuring process to save $1.3 billion by 2021 has saved $410 million through the end of Q2 2017. Although it’s going as planned, debt levels are still relatively high at $10.2 billion or 65% of its market cap. The company is on track to reduce its leverage ratio to 3.5 times or less by the end of 2019.

Newell has become home to a lot of brands that don’t have the scale to compete in a global world. Moving to four operating segments: Live, Learn, Work and Play, I see the company fine-tuning its focus in 2018 and beyond.

Newell stock hasn’t been this low since 2014. The transformation might be messy, but 2018 should see it turn the corner.

However, if you don’t have 2-3 years to wait for it to complete the restructuring, you’re best to look elsewhere.   

Stocks That Will Surprise in 2018: Mattel (MAT) Stocks That Will Surprise in 2018: Mattel (MAT)investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/matmsn-300×165.jpg 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/matmsn-55×30.jpg 55w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/matmsn-200×110.jpg 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/matmsn-162×88.jpg 162w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/matmsn-400×220.jpg 400w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/matmsn-116×64.jpg 116w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/matmsn-100×55.jpg 100w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/matmsn-91×50.jpg 91w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/matmsn-78×43.jpg 78w,https://investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/matmsn-170×93.jpg 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 728px) 100vw, 728px” />Source: Shutterstock

The bankruptcy of Toys “R” Us in 2017 says all you need to know about Mattel, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:MAT) past year. Therefore, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most investors that Mattel stock lost 41% of its value in 2017 and now sits 67% below its five-year high of $48.48.

Mattel’s situation has deteriorated to the point that it suspended its dividend in October to save cash and keep the business on a stronger financial footing. It also intends to look to boost its gross margin by focusing on fewer product offerings while cutting staff to lower its operating expenses.

While it’s tempting to look to a Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ:HAS) buyout to save the day, it’s very likely that Mattel’s going to have to innovate its way out of the mess it currently finds itself.

None of its major segments are growing, unlike with Hasbro, which has weathered the Toys “R” Us storm far better than Mattel. That said, Mattel’s long-term debt is still only 34% of its market cap which isn’t outrageous for a company its size. 

Don’t get me wrong, buying Mattel is a speculative buy at this point. I would wait for the company to announce its Q4 2017 earnings at the end of January before considering a purchase because it’s entirely possible it will test single digits before bottoming.

With Barbie, Hot Wheels and Fisher-Price, it has got a reasonable shot at a turnaround. 

Stocks That Will Surprise in 2018: Chipotle (CMG) Stocks That Will Surprise in 2018: Chipotle (CMG)investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cmgmsn-300×165.jpg 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cmgmsn-73×40.jpg 73w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cmgmsn-55×30.jpg 55w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cmgmsn-250×137.jpg 250w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cmgmsn-200×110.jpg 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cmgmsn-162×88.jpg 162w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cmgmsn-160×88.jpg 160w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cmgmsn-65×36.jpg 65w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cmgmsn-100×55.jpg 100w,https://investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cmgmsn-91×50.jpg 91w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cmgmsn-78×43.jpg 78w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cmgmsn-170×93.jpg 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 728px) 100vw, 728px” />Source: Mike Mozart Via Flickr

If it weren’t for bad luck, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (NYSE:CMG), would have no luck at all.

I can remember how some analysts and investors were chastising Chipotle for going overboard on food preparation procedures after its E.coli outbreak a couple of years ago. 2017’s revisit of food safety concerns put the brakes on any chance for a recovery of its stock price which lost 23% in the past year.

Kyle Woodley, a former InvestorPlace editor and very astute investor, recently picked CMG as his “Best stock for 2018” suggesting profits and revenues are growing far more than most investors realize, and while his pick is speculative given the company’s history, the upside seems higher than the downside at this point.

I have to give former CEO and co-founder Steve Ells credit for stepping down in November as Chipotle’s chief executive. It’s never easy to admit that you’re not the one to lead your baby back from the wilderness, but shareholders ought to be thankful that Ells could see that a leadership change was necessary.

Who Chipotle hires as the man or woman to lead the company is critical to bouncing back in 2018. I think the board will make a smart choice with Ells’ input and it will be off to the races.   

It would not surprise me if a former McDonald’s Corporation (NYSE:MCD) executive were at the top of the list.

Stocks That Will Surprise in 2018: Sally Beauty (SBH) Stocks That Will Surprise in 2018: Sally Beauty (SBH)investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/sbhmsn-300×165.jpg 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/sbhmsn-55×30.jpg 55w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/sbhmsn-200×110.jpg 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/sbhmsn-162×88.jpg 162w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/sbhmsn-400×220.jpg 400w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/sbhmsn-116×64.jpg 116w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/sbhmsn-100×55.jpg 100w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/sbhmsn-91×50.jpg 91w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/sbhmsn-78×43.jpg 78w,https://investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/sbhmsn-170×93.jpg 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 728px) 100vw, 728px” />Source: Mainstream via Flickr (Modified)

At the end of November, I suggested that investors consider buying Sally Beauty Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:SBH) after dropping $3 in a month. Since then it’s up 18% and should the overall markets continue moving higher early in 2018, I expect SBH stock to do the same.

Sally Beauty’s stock lost 29% in 2017, the company’s third consecutive year of negative returns; it hadn’t had a breakout year since 2013 when it gained 28%. It is due.

Remember, Ulta Beauty Inc (NASDAQ:ULTA), one of specialty retail’s shining stars, also had a negative year in 2017. The coming year ought to be better for both companies.

While the jury is still out on whether the company can reignite sales, the lowering of the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% should deliver about 36 cents per share in additional earnings.

The company’s biggest weakness has always been its level of debt — $1.8 billion or 75% of its market cap — so I’d look for some indication from SBH management that it is planning to deleverage its balance sheet.

If it does that, given its free cash flow generation, the sky’s the limit for its stock.

Stocks That Will Surprise in 2018: Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) Stocks That Will Surprise in 2018: Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY)investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/bbbymsn-300×165.jpg 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/bbbymsn-55×30.jpg 55w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/bbbymsn-200×110.jpg 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/bbbymsn-162×88.jpg 162w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/bbbymsn-400×220.jpg 400w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/bbbymsn-116×64.jpg 116w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/bbbymsn-100×55.jpg 100w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/bbbymsn-91×50.jpg 91w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/bbbymsn-78×43.jpg 78w,https://investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/bbbymsn-170×93.jpg 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 728px) 100vw, 728px” />Source: Mike Mozart via Flickr

It wasn’t a good year for Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. (NYSE:BBBY), down 44% in 2017. For that matter, it hasn’t been a good decade, losing 2% annually for long-time shareholders.

Eventually, the tide’s got to turn, doesn’t it?

Well, probably not if it keeps delivering woefully poor earnings results like Q3 2017. On December 20, it announced that sales were flat year over year at $3 billion, earnings per share were virtually halved from 85 cents a year earlier to 44 cents this year and comparable sales decreased marginally by 0.3%.

Despite the deterioration in its earnings, the company still generates significant free cash flow. It currently is valued at four times operating cash flow, its lowest level at any time in the past decade and less than half its industry peers.

Yes, the various banners it operates under have seen attrition in both gross and operating margins, yet it’s still expected to earn $3 per share in fiscal 2017.

At seven times earnings, there might not be a better value play than BBBY at the moment.

Stocks That Will Surprise in 2018: Tanger Factory Outlet Centers (SKT) Stocks That Will Surprise in 2018: Tanger Factory Outlet Centers (SKT)investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/sktmsn-300×165.jpg 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/sktmsn-55×30.jpg 55w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/sktmsn-200×110.jpg 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/sktmsn-162×88.jpg 162w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/sktmsn-400×220.jpg 400w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/sktmsn-116×64.jpg 116w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/sktmsn-100×55.jpg 100w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/sktmsn-91×50.jpg 91w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/sktmsn-78×43.jpg 78w,https://investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/sktmsn-170×93.jpg 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 728px) 100vw, 728px” />Source: Shutterstock

Tanger Factory Outlet Centers Inc. (NYSE:SKT) is an owner of retail real estate focusing entirely on outlet centers. It owns 40 outlet centers in 22 states and another four in Canada. Together, these 44 outlet centers provide 15.3 million square feet for retailers to lease.

Interestingly, the company estimates that there are only 70 million square feet of quality outlet space in the U.S., suggesting Tanger has close to 20% of the country’s leasable outlet space.

That’s what Warren Buffett would call a wide-moat.

Conservatively financed, it has grown its enterprise value by 7.5% annually on a compounded basis since 2005. Also, it’s a prominent grower of its dividend, belonging to the S&P High Yield Dividend Aristocrat Index. In the past three years, it has grown its dividend by 12% annually.

Tanger is an income investor’s dream stock.

Since going public in 1993, it’s never had an occupancy rate lower than 96%, providing investors with considerable comfort that cash flow isn’t going to disappear overnight.

As CEO Steven Tanger likes to say:

“In good times people love a bargain, and in tough times, people need a bargain.”

That’s what makes its business model so strong.

Trading at levels not seen since 2011, I like SKT’s chances in 2018.

Stocks That Will Surprise in 2018: Acuity Brands (AYI) Stocks That Will Surprise in 2018: Acuity Brands (AYI)investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/ayimsn-300×165.jpg 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/ayimsn-55×30.jpg 55w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/ayimsn-200×110.jpg 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/ayimsn-162×88.jpg 162w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/ayimsn-400×220.jpg 400w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/ayimsn-116×64.jpg 116w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/ayimsn-100×55.jpg 100w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/ayimsn-91×50.jpg 91w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/ayimsn-78×43.jpg 78w,https://investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/ayimsn-170×93.jpg 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 728px) 100vw, 728px” />Source: Shutterstock

I recommended Acuity Brands, Inc. (NYSE:AYI) stock on two occasions in 2017.

The first time was in August when I picked Acuity Brands and seven other stocks whose share prices added up to $2,000. Although Acuity is known for its lighting solutions, the company is making a big push into the Internet of Things and while it’s early in that expansion, I can see it being just as successful.

In fiscal 2017 (August 31 year-end), Acuity earned $7.43 per share, 12% higher than a year earlier. With very little debt and steady free cash flow, it has the financial flexibility to drive future growth.

At the end of November, I suggested investors buy its stock on the dip around $160. It has since climbed 10% and is poised to move higher in 2018 on strengthening margins.

Long-term, Acuity might be one of the best stocks to buy on a significant downturn in its stock price.

Stocks That Will Surprise in 2018: Boardwalk Pipeline Partners (BWP)

 

testinvestorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/pipelinemsn-1-300×165.jpg 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/pipelinemsn-1-55×30.jpg 55w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/pipelinemsn-1-200×110.jpg 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/pipelinemsn-1-162×88.jpg 162w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/pipelinemsn-1-65×36.jpg 65w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/pipelinemsn-1-100×55.jpg 100w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/pipelinemsn-1-91×50.jpg 91w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/pipelinemsn-1-78×43.jpg 78w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/pipelinemsn-1-170×93.jpg 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 728px) 100vw, 728px” />Source: Maciek Lulko (Modified)

Like a lot of oil-related businesses, Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, LP (NYSE:BWP) had a dreadful year, down 23%, erasing a significant portion of the gains it made in 2016.

The operator of natural gas pipelines and storage facilities — in 2016, it transported 2.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and liquids — has been on a roller coaster ride the past few years. If oil and gas prices don’t remain where they currently are, investors can expect continued volatility in its stock price.

However, lower corporate and personal income taxes could result in a more buoyant economy. When people and businesses are more confident, they spend more money. Often, that spending comes in the form of automobile travel, which could put upward pressure on oil prices due to increased demand.

For those who aren’t so sure that oil and gas prices can go any higher, you might want to invest in Loews Corporation (NYSE:L), a holding company run by the Tisch family, which own 51% of Boardwalk’s stock.

Over the past five years, Loews’ stock has significantly outperformed BWP — 4% annually vs. -9% — although neither did anywhere close to the S&P 500.

In June 2017, I suggested that Loews take BWP private. Perhaps it will happen in 2018.

Stocks That Will Surprise in 2018: General Electric (GE) Stocks That Will Surprise in 2018: General Electric (GE)investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/gemsn-300×150.jpg 300w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/gemsn-768×384.jpg 768w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/gemsn-60×30.jpg 60w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/gemsn-200×100.jpg 200w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/gemsn-400×200.jpg 400w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/gemsn-116×58.jpg 116w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/gemsn-100×50.jpg 100w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/gemsn-78×39.jpg 78w, investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/gemsn-800×400.jpg 800w,https://investorplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/gemsn-170×85.jpg 170w” sizes=”(max-width: 950px) 100vw, 950px” />Source: Shutterstock

This last one must be considered the “Hail Mary” of the bunch. I don’t like General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) as a business or a stock because it’s squandered so much shareholder goodwill over the past 20 years by being the worst kind of industrial conglomerate, one that’s afraid of taking chances and is stuck in some time warp.

CNBC Mad Money host Jim Cramer, someone I generally respect, recently apologized to his loyal viewers for continuing to recommend GE stock despite its ongoing slide.

Cramer feels like GE could get it together under new CEO John Flannery. Therefore, he’s still not recommending investors sell the stock. I’m not as convinced. I believe GE’s business could be permanently broken.

In August, I predicted that GE stock would remain in the $20s for the foreseeable future. Since then, GE’s stock has dropped almost 30% on news the company’s problems are bigger than first thought.

That said, any obvious signs of life from GE as we make our way through 2018, should be good for a 5%-10% boost in its share price, perhaps more.

At these prices, GE could very well surprise in 2018.

As of this writing, Will Ashworth did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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General Electric, GNC Holdings Slink into Thursday’s 52-Week Low Club

December 28, 2017: Here are four stocks trading with heavy volume among 36 equities making new 52-week lows in Thursday’s session. On the NYSE advancers led decliners by about 3 to 2 and on the Nasdaq, advancers and decliners by slightly better than 3 to 2.

General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) dropped about 0.7% Thursday to post a new 52-week low of $17.25 after closing at $17.38 on Wednesday. Volume was around 48 million about 40% below the daily average of around 77 million. The company had no specific news.

GNC Holdings Inc. (NYSE: GNC) slipped nearly 11% to post a new 52-week low of $3.13 Thursday after closing at $3.50 on Wednesday. Volume of about 6.6 was about double the daily average. The nutritional supplement company had no specific news.

AirMedia Group Inc. (NASDAQ: AMCN) posted a 52-week low of $1.04 after closing down 23% on Wednesday at $1.35. The 52-week high is $3.30. Volume was about 4 million, nearly 20 times the daily average of around 230,000 million shares. The Chinese outdoor advertising company said yesterday that it is terminating a potential go-private transaction.

Genworth Financial Inc. (NYSE: GNW) dropped about 1% Thursday to match a 52-week low of $3.11 after closing at $3.14 on Wednesday. The 52-week high is $4.23. Volume was around 3.2 million, around 20% below the daily average of about 4.1 million. The company had no specific news.

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Disney, General Electric Push DJIA Higher Tuesday

January 2, 2018: Markets opened higher Tuesday for the opening session of the new year. Tensions over events in North Korea and Iran were not reflected in the equity markets, with tech, healthcare, materials, and energy sectors putting up solid gains. Utilities and financials lagged. WTI crude oil for February delivery settled at $60.37 a barrel, down less than 0.1% for the day. February gold added 0.5% on the day to settle at $1,316.10 for an eighth consecutive winning session and the highest close in more than three months. Equities were headed for a higher close shortly before the bell as the DJIA traded up 0.34% for the day, the S&P 500 traded up 0.76%, and the Nasdaq Composite traded up 1.41%.

Bitcoin futures for January delivery traded at $15,165, up about 4.8%, on the CME after opening at $13,995 this morning. Only 701 contracts had been traded in the session and open interest is just 498.

The DJIA stock posting the largest daily percentage gain ahead of the close Tuesday was The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) which traded up 3.88% at $111.68. The stock’s 52-week range is $96.20 to $116.10. Volume was less than 10% above the daily average of around 8.1 million shares. The company dominated the 2017 movie industry box office.

General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) traded up 2.61% at $17.91. The stock’s 52-week range is $17.25 to $31.84. Volume was about 20% below the daily average of around 78 million. The company had no news but there have been plenty of stories about why GE stock is a good buy at this price level.

Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) traded up 1.93% at $127.61. The stock’s 52-week range is $102.55 to $127.62 and the high was posted this afternoon. Volume was about 15% below the daily average of around 5 million shares. The company had no news.

Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) traded up 1.63% at $85.00. The stock’s 52-week range is $76.05 to $91.34. Volume was about 15% below the daily average of around 9.3 million shares. The company had no specific news.

Of the Dow stocks, 21 are on track to close higher Tuesday and 9 are set to close lower.
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