A presidential election. A congressional election. The fiscal cliff. The global economy is still showing signs of extreme weakness. All of these issues are coming to a head in the fourth quarter. Wall Street wants Romney and the Republicans to win the elections in order to keep regulation enforcement at bay. Currently, however, Obama and the Democrats are leading in the polls in many key swing states. Congress needs to pass major legislation to avoid raising taxes across multiple levels of income, cutting spending on government programs, and cutting entitlement programs. Congressional action seems highly unlikely with the election only six weeks away, followed by a lame duck session. The Chicago PMI was just released today reporting a number not seen since September of 2009, showing contraction in manufacturing. China has been slowing since 2008, and they still face major concerns about a possible "hard-landing" for the economy.
All of those issues are major headwinds for the market to break through, considering the 12.9% surge in the S&P 500 YTD. Is there a market pullback coming? The headwinds make it seem as though a pullback would be in order. How can you avoid losing your shirt during the pullback? These are the top three stocks that should help you preserve your portfolio, if not grow it.
The cream of the crop is Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that. Apple sold five million iPhone 5s in the first three days it was released, setting a record for the most phones ever sold in that time period. Those numbers fell short of analyst expectations. The reason it fell short was due to supply chain constraints for Apple, not because of demand. Recently, Apple has gone through a pullback of its own. The stock has pulled back from $705 to $670, and has support at approximately $660. With supply constraints still applying pressure on the potential sales of iPhones, analysts should keep their expectations somewhat reasonable on quarterly EPS estimates. Currently, the mean EPS estimate is $8.79/share, which represents a 19.8% year over year increase. Considering Apple's history of blowing away estimates 12 out of the last 14 quarterly releases, this stock shows plenty of upside with limited downside. Add to the mix a possible iTV release, holiday demand season, and rumors of another iPad release coming within the next six months, and you have a recipe for success. My target price by the end of the year: $782.
NXP Semiconductor (NASDAQ:NXPI) has cutting edge technology patents. NFC technology (near-field-communication) seems to be the future of commerce, and NXP owns many patents in the space. Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), Target (NYSE:TGT), 7-Eleven, and Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) have formed a company to facilitate transactions using NFC technology. If they believe in it that much, you'd have to believe there is some credence to the NFC technology space. Currently, NXP is trading with a PEG of .46, P/S of 1.55, and a forward P/E of 8.87, cheaper fundamentals than competitors Broadcom (BRCM) and Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM). The stock also has been in an ascending triangle for the past two and a half months, with support currently at $24. Cutting edge technology patents, cheap fundamentals, and a bullish technical indicator deserve your consideration for your portfolio. My target price by the end of the year: $28.15.
Arena Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ARNA) made quite a few people a considerable amount of money this past summer when their obesity drug Belviq was approved by the FDA. The stock has fallen from a lofty $12.07 after FDA approval to the current $8.30 a share. Arena's major competitor Vivus (NASDAQ:VVUS) just received a major blow against their own obesity drug in Europe, barring sales of Qsymia because of dangerous use of phentermine in the drug. When Arena received FDA approval, the FDA recommended that the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) classify Belviq as a Schedule IV drug. That is only one step higher than the cough medicine behind the mirror in your bathroom. Arena receives a $65 million milestone payment once they receive a classification from the DEA. Combine that with the fact that Arena just reported earnings decreasing their quarterly loss from -$.18 a share to -$.12 a share. The stock has been in correction mode since FDA approval, and has strong support at the $7.20 level. This stock has limited downside risk, and a very high ceiling. My target price by the end of the year: $10.05.
These three stocks span across a multitude of sectors, but avoid any adverse effects from a seemingly tumultuous fourth quarter. A slowing economy won't stop people from wanting the new "it" phone on the market. Cuts to Social Security and defense budgets won't stop major retailers from implementing new, more efficient payment methods in stores. A Romney or Obama victory won't stop people from clamoring for the first obesity drug to receive FDA approval in 13 years. All three of these stocks have limited downside risk, and side-step the political landmines we all must navigate in the coming quarter.
Disclosure: I am long AAPL, NXPI. 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.
Additional disclosure: Investing involves a certain level of risk. As such, never invest more than you can afford to lose. Always consult with a licensed financial professional before considering adding a new position to your portfolio.