It's that time of year, when we all want to know what stocks we should be buying in the coming year, or thinking about buying, or steering very, very clear of. So here are seven of the biggest stocks worth keeping your eyes on.
Not surprisingly, the top stock pick on almost every analyst's list is—you guessed it—Google. "It's a great company," Paul Larson, chief equity strategist at Morningstar, in Chicago, IL, told ABC News. "Not only do they have the best search algorithm, but they also benefit from a network effect with their ad platform. The more users on the platform, consumer and business, the better the platform becomes. They also have a rapid growth in other businesses, such as You Tube. It's just a fantastic business."
Never mind that it split from its global snack business earlier this year; it still has large competitive advantages. Its portfolio includes: Kraft, Oscar Mayer, and Maxwell House, each of which generate more than $1 billion in annual sales. That doesn't include another 20-odd brands that produce more than $100 million in sales each year, and "substantial economies of scale in the North American market, with more than $19 billion in annual sales," Morningstar senior analyst Erin Lash said. "We think the market is overlooking the substantial cash flows that Kraft's grocery business generates--which we forecast at 10 percent of sales on average--and income investors likely will find Kraft appetizing as the firm's top priority for cash is to fund a highly competitive dividend."
The Seattle, Washington-based corporation has been operating at a competitive advantage for a while. Makes sense: The company has a very strong brand name; it's one of the first places people go when they want to shop online. Plus, "They have a cost advantage from their robust distribution in that they can get time to customers cheaper than their competitors can," said Larson.
With a new CEO at the helm and a recent acquisition, all eyes have been looking to Yahoo to see what it does. "It's a dark horse that has been beaten up, but we see a lot of potential in it," said Larson.
With the demise of Steve Jobs, it's safe to say that Apple doesn't have the same panache it once did. But that doesn't mean it's not one of the most successful companies out there. "We think Apple continues to represent one of the best investments in technology," said Rob Cihra, tech analyst at Evercore Partners, in New York. "Apple is effectively creating its own growth by creating unique and beautiful products that consumers really want to buy, staying ahead of mostly me-too competition. They're the ones pioneering every new direction, and while there's a lot of competition, the competition seems to be following Apple's lead while Apple is consistently out front."
Despite its troubles after its initial public offering, "Facebook is a fantastic business," said Larson. "They have very high profit margins, very high returns on capital. They have a billion users worldwide. and half are using them on a daily basis." And, he adds, the platform has a network effect: That is, you use it because your friends do, and they use it because that's where you are.
At 101 years old, IBM has long been in a leadership position. And over the last ten to fifteen years the company has done an "excellent job of transforming themselves from a hardware company into really high value software and services company, to the point that it's the only game in town for a lot of what it does," said Cihra. "They are typically the best at what they do."