Analysts' Best Stock Picks For 2010 ~ market folly

Monday, January 4, 2010

Analysts' Best Stock Picks For 2010

Raymond James' global research is out with a list of their analysts' best stock picks for 2010. Our previous post on this list was taken down due to the list not being distributed to the public yet. So, now that it is available publicly, here is their list. Their picks from this past year (2009) was up 52% compared to an S&P return over the same period of 30.1%, so they've outperformed by a wide margin. In fact, their annual list of stock picks has outperformed the S&P 500 in all year but one since 1996.

Their goal is to identify stocks that will produce "above-average price appreciation" over the course of the next year. They certainly did that with their 2009 list and so let's see if they can do it again with their impending 2010 selections.

Investment theme and stock pick lists for 2010 seem to be popular amongst the various financial institutions right now heading into the new year. Just yesterday, we covered the top ten investment themes for 2010 and how to play them. We've also detailed the top ten stocks held by hedge funds as well. Today we drill it down to specific stock picks for the new year courtesy of Raymond James. As always, take everything with a grain of salt as these reflect their own opinions. Without further ado, here's the list:

Analysts' Best Picks for 2010

  1. Aflac (AFL)
  2. Alpha Natural Resources (ANR)
  3. Altera Corporation (ALTR)
  4. Bank of America (BAC)
  5. Best Buy (BBY)
  6. Chevron (CVX)
  7. Concho Resources (CXO)
  8. CVS Caremark (CVS)
  9. FLIR Systems (FLIR)
  10. National Oilwell Varco (NOV)
  11. Nuance Communications (NUAN)
  12. Sybase (SY)
  13. TD Ameritrade (AMTD)

Let's dive into some specifics regarding each of their picks:

Aflac (AFL): Raymond James likes Aflac because they feel there is room for growth from supplemental health insurance products. Additionally, they fancy AFL's entrance into the group market. Overall, they feel they will see continued long-term demand. Finally, RJ writes, "Our price target of $60, established on October 29, assumes a normalized P/E on our 2010 EPS expectation of 11.7x less expected investment losses of $2.35 per share. The normalized P/E target is a 20% discount to the then current S&P 500 P/E of 15.6x based on a mean 2010 EPS estimate of $71.17."

Alpha Natural Resources (ANR): Their pick here is based on valuation as well as leverage to the metallurgical coal market, an area that is strengthening. They are also well diversified in other areas and have a solid balance sheet. RJ's main thesis here is valuation based as they write, "Our $52.00 target price factors in our target multiples on the various metrics including 15x P/E ratio, 7.5x P/CF, and 7x EBITDA, which fit within the historical trading ranges of ANR, along with a long-term DCF analysis. Note that this does not include any value for the ~330 Bcf of natural gas reserves, which we believe is easily worth another $5.00 per share, with upside over time through its Marcellus acreage."

Altera (ALTR): Raymond James has selected Altera due to their positioning to capitalize on programmable logic devices (PLDs). They think ALTR will outpace the semiconductor industry in growth by 2x over the course of the next few years. Their analysts write, "ALTR shares remain one of our favorite ideas with a 12-month price target of $29, based on a 23x target P/E multiple to our 2011 EPS estimate of $1.25. This multiple is a slight premium to the shares' 21x historic P/E average over the last three years, which we believe is conservative given Altera's solid business model and leadership in the industry."

Bank of America (BAC): Their tagline on this stock is simply "superior upside potential." As we have covered previously, numerous hedge funds agree as BAC is one of the most popular stocks amongst hedge funds. Analysts at Raymond James feel an oligopoly has emerged in US banking and BAC is right up there with the best in risk-based pricing as they write, "Trading at only 69% of book value and 131% of tangible book value compared to the recent industry averages of 114% and 164%, respectively, shares of BAC offer attractive risk/reward pricing and compare favorably to large-cap peers. Bank of America has already received approval to pay back its $45 billion in TARP funds and we believe a CEO announcement is imminent, both of which should receive a favorable response from the Street."

Best Buy (BBY): RJ's analytical team feels Best Buy can continue to capitalize on the demise of Circuit City as they will continue to gobble up market share, expanding returns. Improving operating margins and an increasing consumer base is boosting BBY's performance and they feel management is one of the best in consumer electronics. RJ writes, "Our $52 price target was reached by placing a ~15x multiple on our FY11 EPS estimate of $3.45, which represents a 16.7% discount to its historical three-year average of 18x."

Chevron (CVX): Chevron is the 'best positioned' among the integrated oil plays, RJ says. This is due to their above average oil focus, their drill-bit track record as they have the highest resource replacement rate, and lastly their small refining segment which should benefit them as they feel those with large exposure to refining will suffer going forward. Raymond James' analysts write, "Quite simply, we believe Chevron should be a core long-term holding for energy investors. Our $92.00 target price is based on ~11.6x our 2010 EPS estimate of $7.92, a slight discount to the mean 2000-2009 P/E. Inclusive of the current 3.5% dividend yield, our target price implies total return potential of 18%."

Concho Resources (CXO): Their pick here is mainly due to high returns in the Permian Basin as the vast majority of their revenues are tied to the price of oil. Of CXO, RJ's analysts say, "Concho generates some of the highest cash margins in our E&P group. One of the company’s core plays, the Yeso, generates an 80% internal rate of return at $70/Bbl oil. Concho is also one of the best in the entire E&P universe on production growth per debt-adjusted share (~35% vs. 3% for the peer group)."

CVS Caremark (CVS): This selection is based on the fact that CVS's model is not broken and that valuation is still attractive. They argue that the worst is behind this name and that going forward retail tailwinds will be behind them and they will see improvements in their Long's acquisition. Raymond James analysts argue that CVS now has compelling relative valuation and that you could potentially be getting their PBM essentially for free. They write, "With expectations reset, the potential for an improved 2011 selling season, and continued share gains in retail, we believe shares are poised to expand off of these trough valuation levels, especially if management continues to deploy significant levels of FCF to share repurchases. Our $39 price target represents 13x 2011 EPS of $2.95, toward the low end of historic ranges." Back on November 5th on our Twitter account we actually mentioned that Lee Ainslie (hedge fund manager of Maverick Capital) was supposedly very keen on shares of CVS at an investment conference that took place before the recent disappointment. We'll have to see if he still favors it going forward.

FLIR Systems (FLIR): Their bullishness on FLIR is attributed to rising orders and what they deem to be attractive valuation. FLIR is a pure play on thermal imaging and infrared technology, an area with lots of growth potential. They write, "As time progresses through next year and investors value FLIR on 2011 earnings, we believe the stock can reach the $40.00 range as its multiple expands toward the historical average. Our $35.00 target price is a 23x multiple on our 2010 EPS estimate of $1.50, in-line with the firm’s historical average multiple and in-line with peers."

National Oilwell Varco (NOV): This has previously been a hedge fund favorite and now Raymond James feel it will benefit throughout 2010. Their rationale: compelling valuation, free cash flow that is strong, and inorganic growth opportunities. They simply feel this is the best name in the oil service space by writing, "Our target price of $60.00 is based on ~18.5x our 2010 EPS. This valuation is in-line with its oilfield manufacturing peers and represents a more reasonable valuation for the company given its tremendous cash position, decent yield, and excellent growth prospects."

Nuance Communications (NUAN): Raymond James feels that speech recognition will be a forcible trend in technology and that Nuance is how you can play it. NUAN is already well positioned in a market that is just now entering the mainstream. Their analysts feel that, "Catalysts for the stock could include: gradual improvement in on-premise enterprise sales and resurgence in enterprise speech growth rates to 10+%, continued large on-demand wins within healthcare, potential benefits from the healthcare stimulus for Dragon Medical, continued new handset and auto wins for mobile, large hosted mobile care wins, and strong cash flow generation."

Sybase (SY): Their analytical team has decided that Sybase actually makes sense in any market environment. However, they have picked it for their 2010 list because it is a recession-resilient business and that they can capitalize on secular growth. RJ says, "Our $49 price target is based on a forward P/E multiple of 19x our 2010 EPS estimate of $2.58. We believe this is justified due to continued license growth, an improving operating margin, and the belief that we will continue to increase our EPS estimates."

TD Ameritrade (AMTD): Rounding out their list of selections, TD Ameritrade makes the cut due to possible catalysts, a solid balance sheet, as well as possible earnings growth should the Fed raise rates during the next year. RJ's analysts write, "TD Ameritrade remains at a discount to peer Charles Schwab (SCHW/$17.88/Outperform), which is currently trading at 21x our 2010 EPS estimate of $0.84 and 14x our 2011 EPS estimate of $1.29."

So there you have it. A few peculiar insertions but some logical ones as well. We'll have to see if their list can outperform the S&P500 yet again this coming year. We've also covered some other research out of Raymond James as we detail their chief investment strategist Jeff Saut's weekly market commentary. You can check out his stock market commentary from this week, as well as his previous market commentary where he feels a weak dollar will drive further market upside.

Comparing their list to the top stocks held by hedge funds, we see very little overlap. However, one stock where they both resoundingly agree is Bank of America (BAC). Tons of hedge funds hold this name and Raymond James has labeled it one of their top picks. For more favored stock picks for the year 2010, check out the top ten investment themes for 2010 as well as the most popular stocks among hedge funds.

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