By Larry Gellar
ETFs like PowerShares QQQ (NASDAQ:QQQ) and SPDR S&P 500 (NYSEARCA:SPY) are seeing heavy trading, but the time to pick specific stocks could be now. The situation in Europe is improving, and a bull market is ahead of us. Here are 5 stocks in particular that look ready to soar:
Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ) Confidence in new CEO Meg Whitman is growing. Investors should be aware that Hewlett-Packard is still a major player in a variety of aspects of the computer industry, even though recent moves downward may have suggested otherwise. Furthermore, this company will eventually benefit from the greater focus on software that was announced under Leo Apotheker’s reign.
Additionally, Lynn Anderson is being made chief communications officer for the time being. Whitman wrote in a company memo, "As we continue to execute our strategy for HP, communications will be an extremely important function and it is critical that we speak with one voice.” Anderson has been with the company since 1983, so she knows what it was like when this was one of the hottest businesses in the industry.
HP's tough competition comes from Accenture (NYSE:ACN), Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), and IBM (NYSE:IBM). Hewlett-Packard’s value metrics are extremely low right now: Price-to-earnings ratio is 5.54, price/earnings-to-growth ratio is 0.59, and price-to-sales ratio is 0.35. Margins are about average, with gross margin at 24.23% and operating margin at 10.15%. Dividend investors may find the 2.2% dividend yield on this stock appealing.
Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE:S) has been creeping up recently, although this company’s fate will clearly be determined by what happens with the AT&T (NYSE:T) acquisition of T-Mobile USA. One piece of interesting news is that Sprint is essentially getting rid of Nextel. Indeed, users of Nextel’s famous push-to-talk feature will be encouraged to purchase a new Sprint phone that also has this capability. The Kyocera (NYSE:KYO) DuraMax has other benefits too, including resistance to both shock and water.
Another big victory for Sprint is the announcement from Houston’s city government that it will be switching from AT&T to Sprint. Mayor Annise Parker said: “Their sales and support organizations delivered a proposal that made sense and proved the most cost effective for our city. Over the life of the contract we expect Sprint to save the city’s taxpayers nearly $3 million due to the company’s efficiency.”
Besides AT&T, Sprint also competes with Verizon (NYSE:VZ), of course. That stock offers a significantly higher price-to-sales ratio than Sprint, although Sprint’s price has also dropped significantly due to negative earnings. Additionally, margins are pretty weak – gross margin is 45.43% and operating margin is a mere 0.15%. Investors may also be interested to know that Sprint Nextel’s beta is 1.04.
Investors are starting to like Research In Motion Limited (RIMM) again, mostly because Carl Icahn might be taking a large stake in the company, and many shareholders believe an Icahn intervention is exactly what Research In Motion needs. As discussed here, Research In Motion could probably benefit from a couple of moves. These might include some bold plays in the mobile phone business as well as a spinout of its networking operations hub. Even if Research In Motion doesn’t do anything, though, the company’s new QNX operating system is extremely exciting, and BlackBerry remains an immensely popular platform. Look for sales in the United States to do better in the near future.
Important competitors for Research In Motion include Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), and Nokia (NYSE:NOK). RIMM is significantly cheaper than those companies using measures like price-to-earnings and price/earnings-to-growth, although the company’s price-to-sales ratio is a bit higher than Nokia’s. Additionally, margins are about average – gross margin is 42.87% and operating margin is 19.48%. Cash flows for Research In Motion have been mixed, with $240 million coming in for the fiscal year ending February, although $940 million has flowed out in the 6 months after that.
Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) is on the rise, and the latest news for the company has investors excited. Specifically, Intel will be teaming up with Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) to create Linux-based mobile phones. This could be a very hot item, although even more interesting news actually comes from New York. There, it is being reported that Intel, IBM, GlobalFoundries, TSMC, and Samsung will increase investment for semiconductor research.
Another important trend affecting a variety of companies including Intel is a move to increase very-high-speed Internet to more college towns. The companies involved include Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), Charter (NASDAQ:CHTR), Verizon, AT&T, CenturyLink (NYSE:CTL), Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO), Juniper Networks (NYSE:JNPR), Level 3 Communications (NYSE:LVLT), and Windstream (NASDAQ:WIN).
Important competitors for Intel generally are Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ:AMD) and Texas Instruments (NASDAQ:TXN). Intel is cheap, looking at its price/earnings-to-growth ratio, but not so much when looking at price-to-sales. Margins are quite strong – gross margin is 63% and operating margin is 33.55%. As for cash flows, $1.511 billion came in during 2010 and $863 million flowed out during the first half of 2011. Stock repurchase and capital expenditures have played a large role in the recent outflows.
Cisco Systems, Inc. (CSCO) has been rising, although it was recently downgraded by Miller Tabak. Meanwhile, Cisco just released a rather interesting study, and the findings are mostly centered on how much people rely on the Internet. Marie Hattar, one of the company’s vice presidents, had this to say: “The results of the Cisco Connected World Technology Report should make businesses re-examine how they need to evolve in order to attract talent and shape their business models. Without a doubt, our world is changing to be much more Internet-focused, and becomes even more so with each new generation.” The study essentially amounted to an advertisement for Cisco, but it’s true – in an increasingly connected world, this is the stock to own.
Important competitors for Cisco include Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU), Hewlett-Packard, and Juniper Networks. Cisco falls in the middle of those companies for price-to-earnings, price/earnings-to-growth, and price-to-sales, although margins are pretty strong. Gross margin is 61.83% and operating margin is 20.04%. Juniper has been in the news quite a bit lately, as online game company OnLive is picking it to handle its network. But many investors are still worried about Juniper’s poor second-quarter earnings.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.