By Scott A. Mathews
Events in Japan threatened to worsen as currency speculators pushed the currency to record highs. The export-driven economy would be severely kicked, while already down, by this move. Thus, in a show of solidarity, central bankers from the G7 nations coordinated a large-scale selling of the yen to deflate its precipitous gain in value. This stabilization was reflected in the markets, which quickly improved, likely motivated by this coherent and collaborative policy move.
To demonstrate how different industry bellwethers reflected this confidence boost, we’ve highlighted some very relevant names to track and perhaps add to your portfolios. How these stocks performed during the Japan "mini-crash" should give investors a decent idea of how they'll perform during a correction, should one occur.
While present in Japan, it is far from its most crucial market and (in the words of a Moody’s analyst), it won’t a have “material” impact on the company’s operations. Currently trading at $51.52/share, it hasn’t deviated by more than 2% from this price in the past 20 days. Its forward P/E of 10.6 lends itself to the view that it should climb higher to reach fair value in the $60/share range. Wal-Mart is the deft master of supply chain inefficiencies. Thus, if any were to occur due to events in Japan (though for its products this is highly unlikely), you could count on Wal-Mart to resolve it more quickly than most anyone else.
Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS)
The golden boy of finance is currently trading at just under $160/share and maintains a forward P/E of 8.7. Not too shabby. This is after a dip into $154/share territory that followed the markets down and then up again on Japan-centric events. Still sitting pretty, Goldman still has another $20/share to gain before it hits fair value territory. Always a little bit of a black box when it comes to results, Goldman somehow manages to inspire confidence.
With some upward movement before it hits commonly asserted fair value at $90/share, this major energy player, currently trading at just under $81/share, is set up well in its industry. It has a healthy P/E of 13 that syncs with its healthy operations. Known for efficiency, Exxon is trading slightly below where it was March 11, the day of the Japanese mega-quake, but has bounced back to nearly cover the losses of that minor dip.
Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG)
Purveyor of all things domestic, P&G has moved lower since events in Japan, but not in a marked way. Additionally, the stock has moved up in recent days with the markets as they react to stabilizing efforts undertaken on Japan’s behalf. Currently trading at $60.60/share with a forward P/E ratio of 13.9, P&G is favored by analysts to move toward a consensus target price in the mid-$70/share range. P&G is one of those safety plays that has positioned itself for fairly constant demand.
Trading at 24.80 with a forward P/E of 9.0, Microsoft defined what it was to be a new school blue-chip -- so much so that calling it "new school" today will get you odd looks. It has been trending lower for the past couple of months, but didn’t react sharply to news out of Japan. Currently analysts, including Oppenheimer, have price targets for the company as high as $36/share, giving it plenty of room for upward movement. Leadership remains strong and the stable of talent ready to lead is very substantial.
Currently trading at $330/share, nearly $100 below analyst estimates of fair value, Apple continues to dominate the market with an unparalleled brand identity. Full disclosure: I was at the Mac Genius Bar today and, yes, it was genius (or I’m inept; equally likely). It has a reasonable forward P/E of 12.4 and for the past few months, most analyst ratings I’ve seen have reiterated buy or outperform ratings. Apple looks attractive as a stock and on the desk (though I don’t have one on mine, to be clear). The boost in sales of the iPhone due to its increased service, now through Verizon (NYSE:VZ) as well as AT&T (NYSE:T), is another boon for the company.
A core infrastructure play and a company renowned for its management efficiency, Caterpillar will see a spike in demand resulting from a need to rebuild large swath of Honshu Island’s infrastructure. It has no direct tie as such, but the amount of rebuilding will be such that it should move the infrastructure sector higher and no one is as levered to that sector and theme as Caterpillar. Events out of Japan have sent the stock above its fair value price in the high-90s to finish the trading week at $105/share. With a forward looking P/E at 13.2, it seems confirmed for Caterpillar to continue to ride the waves of global events forward and upward.
Citibank (NYSE:C) recently forecast a return to IT growth rates to 1.5-2xs GDP growth. Cisco should be pleased as the world’s largest purveyor of data networking equipment. It is trading relatively low at $17/share while analysts are forecasting fair value nearer to $30. It’s forward P/E of 9.8 also suggests it is currently attractive for investors. With a coordinated effort to stabilize Japan and the world’s currently meek-voiced economic momentum, it is reassuring for the analysts at Citi as much as it is for those who decided to lever their portfolios to this trend through Cisco.
International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM)
IBM was trading just above fair value for the stock, in the mid-160s, just prior to events in Japan. Now it has dipped, but started to bounce off its low a few days ago. Currently trading at $155/share and with a forward P/E of 11, IBM is set to re-touch its not-so-far-off fair value price of $162 very quickly. Disruptions in the supply chain, specifically microchips, because of Japan will likely be short-lived. As the Japanese continue to be lauded in the international media for their incredibly orderly response to the crisis, it is clear that prioritizing the strength of the country’s economy will spell out a quick solution.
Chevron is trading near where analysts give it fair value, right at $103 a share. It has a forward P/E of 8.6, which is positive given the competition for resources from its state-backed competitors. That said, Chevron continues to mint new deals and contracts. Most recently, it announced it will open an office in Cambodia whose oil resources have not been touched. This would strengthen Chevron’s Asian footprint, a strong strategic signal. Commodities headwinds will clearly be a boost. Five days on from the onset of disaster in Japan, the stock has moved 3 percent higher.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.