Knowing when to buy can be as important as what to buy. Typically, those stocks with strong seasonal trends tend to repeat their winning ways. Sometimes, their seasonal success is tied to end-of-year budget expenditures. Other times, their rise or fall is due to weather, holidays or enrollment periods. Regardless, knowing which stocks lead and lag at different points of the year can be a valuable trading tool.
The following five stocks are among those my firm, E.B. Capital Markets, LLC, is recommending to clients. All have posted solid gains in Q2 over the past five years and offer compelling fundamental catalysts.
1. C. H. Robinson Worldwide (NASDAQ:CHRW). Up five of the past five Q2s with an average 6.94% return. CHRW is a freight and logistics company. The company is trading in the middle of its five-year PE range, at 24x 2012 EPS expectations of $3.16. It carries no debt and pays a 1.5% dividend. Short sellers hold 7.6 days to cover, suggesting any positive news will provide support from covering. The company has $2.46 per share in cash and generates $345 million in operating cash flow.
The sizzle: Intermodal freight continues to grow. So far this year, intermodal rail volume is running 9% above 2010; last week, 12.4% more intermodal freight traveled by rail than the same week last year. Trucking volumes continue to benefit from economic recovery. Shippers, coming off deep cost-cutting, increasingly rely on logistics companies to consolidate freight and manage payments.
2. Intuit Inc. (NASDAQ:INTU). Up five of the past five Q2s with an average 6.31% return. INTU is a software company known for its small business QuickBooks and Quicken software and tax-filing TurboTax products. The company also provides website-building tools and small business payroll solutions. The company is trading at 20x 2012 EPS estimates of $2.81. INTU has $2.96 per share in cash and generates $ 940 million in annual operating cash flow. INTU has beat the street estimate in three of the past four quarters.
The sizzle: An economic recovery is boosting small business growth as displaced workers reinvent themselves as entrepreneurs. Its small business sales are rising by double digits, and margins are strong thanks to rising adoption of online downloads and cloud services. The tax-filing business is a big reason for INTU's Q2 success, with some 20 million tax filers using INTU's products to file.
3. Directv Cl A (DTV). Up five of the past five Q2s with an average 2.81% return. DirecTV is the largest satellite TV company in the U.S. and is expanding in Latin America. DTV is trading 11.5x 2012 EPS estimates of $4.05 a share, below its five-year PE low of 13. The company has $1.5 billion in cash and $5.2 billion in operating cash flow. In February, DTV announced a $6 billion share buyback program.
The sizzle: TIVO is pursuing a patent infringement lawsuit against competitor DISH, which was upheld on appeal. DTV's existing agreement with TIVO suggests any risk to DISH is reward for DTV. As the largest U.S. satellite TV player, DTV has scale to leverage content deals and expand into new markets.
4. American Tower Corp (NYSE:AMT). Up five of the past five Q2s with an average 5.25% return. AMT develops and operates communications sites used for wireless and broadcast. It rents bandwidth space on its towers to cellular, wimax and broadcast providers. It also provides site management services. AMT is trading at 39x 2012 EPS estimates of $1.30, below its five-year PE low of 46. The company has $930 million in cash and $1.02 billion in operating cash flow. In March, AMT announced a $1.5 billion share buyback program.
The sizzle: AMT is expanding into international markets. Its business model centers around long-term recurring contracts with annual price escalators, which provide revenue clarity. The significant adoption of data-hungry smart phones continues to drive provider investment in networks, including the deployment of next generation technology such as 4G. Such upgrades and investments provide opportunity for AMT to further develop existing sites and leverage fixed costs for profit growth.
5. Cummins Inc. (NYSE:CMI). Up five of the past five Q2s with an average 28.29% return. CMI builds diesel and natural gas engines and electric power generation systems. Its diesel engines power heavy- and medium-duty trucks, buses, agricultural and mining industries. It also builds and sells filtration and exhaust systems for related industries. CMI is trading at 12.3x 2012 EPS estimates of $8.71. CMI has $6.96 per share in cash, generates $1.01 billion in operating cash flow and pays a 1% dividend. In February, the company announced a $1 billion share buyback. The company has beaten the street consensus EPS estimate in three of the past four quarters and has seen analyst expectations for 2011 EPS rise to $7.24 from $6.98 90 days ago.
The sizzle: Heavy- and medium-duty truck sales are rebounding from dismal recession- and emissions-related sales declines, which created significant pent-up demand. According to Ward's Automotive, medium- and heavy-duty truck production for the first three months of 2011 is 38.4% ahead of 2010. An expansion of section 179 of the tax code to $500,000 and a doubling of bonus depreciation to 100% offer additional upside incentives to upgrade fleets. Emerging markets growth, led by China, India and Brazil, also provide sales upside for CMI.
As you consider what to buy, don't forget to consider when to buy. Integrating seasonality into your investment style can help you see emerging trends more quickly, or call into question themes or ideas likely to fail.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, but may initiate a long position in CHRW, CMI, INTU, DTV, AMT over the next 72 hours.