Apple , Citigroup and Ford are tirelessly touted by the media and fund managers. Yet, analysts favor lesser-followed companies.
Here are 10 large-cap stocks, all S&P 500 members, that receive rave reviews from analysts but get little attention from investors. The stocks are ordered by the share of "buy" ratings received, from bullish to most-bullish sentiment.
10. AES is a global power company, selling electricity to utilities and other wholesale customers. Since 2007, AES has increased earnings per share 121% annually, on average, trumping the profit growth of competitors. Yet, its stock dropped 23% a year over that span. It currently trades at a price-to-projected-earnings ratio of 9.5 and a price-to-cash-flow ratio of 2.8, 51% and 39% discounts to peer averages. Of analysts covering AES, 5, or 83%, rate its stock "buy" and one ranks it "hold." A median target of $16.67 suggests 67% of upside.
9. Public Service Enterprise Group sells electricity and natural gas in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S. During the past three years, it has boosted net income 24% a year. Public Service shares sell for a price-to-projected-earnings ratio of 11, a modest discount to the multi-utility industry average. They offer a dividend yield of 4.1%, with a payout ratio of 41%. Of researchers following Public Service, 16, or 84%, advise purchasing its shares and three recommend holding. A median target of $35.81 implies 7% of upside.
8. ACE Limited sells insurance and reinsurance products. Since 2007, it has increased revenue 4% annually, on average. The company is scheduled to release second-quarter numbers July 27. First-quarter profit increased 33% to $755 million, or $2.22, as revenue gained 10%. ACE trades at a price-to-projected-earnings ratio of 7.4 and a price-to-cash-flow ratio of 5.2, markdowns of 35% and 52% to peer averages. Of analysts covering the stock, 20, or 87%, rate it "buy" and three rate it "hold." A median target of $64.93 reflects a potential 20% return.
7. Flowserve makes industrial flow-control equipment, specifically pump systems and components, used by oil and gas, chemical, power-generation and water-treatment companies. During the past three years, it has grown net profit 47% annually, on average. Its stock trades at a forward earnings multiple of 11 and a cash flow multiple of 11, 43% and 24% discounts to machinery industry averages. Of researchers rating the stock, 13, or 87%, advise purchasing and two suggest holding. A median target of $134.89 implies 52% of upside.
6. Peabody Energy explores for and sells coal. Its coal products generate an estimated 10% of U.S. electricity. Since 2007, Peabody has expanded net sales 6.3% a year. Its stock dropped 4.5% a year over that same span. It sells for a PEG ratio, a measure of value relative to predicted long-run growth, of 0.3, indicating a 70% discount to fair value. Its forward earnings multiple of 9.4 indicates a 26% discount to the peer average. Of firms evaluating Peabody, 23, or 88%, advise purchasing its stock, two say to hold and one recommends selling the shares.
5. Halliburton provides products and services to oil and gas companies, including production-optimization technology. The company is due to release second-quarter numbers July 19. First-quarter profit tumbled 46% to $206 million, or 23 cents, as the operating margin contracted to 12% from 16%. Halliburton has dropped 7.9% in 2010, in part due to reputational damage from the BP spill. Its stock trades at a price-to-projected-earnings ratio of 13, a 40% discount to its peer average. Of analysts covering the stock, 89% rank it a "buy."
4. Life Technologies designs and sells the tools that researchers use for drug discovery. During the past three years, the company has increased revenue 42% annually, on average. Its stock returned 6.9% a year over that span. Life is expected to report its second-quarter performance July 29. First-quarter profit rose six-fold to $92 million, or 48 cents. The stock sells for a PEG ratio of 0.1, a 90% discount to fair value. Roughly 89% of researchers covering the shares rank them "buy." A median target of $61.46 suggests 31% of upside lies ahead.
3. Republic Services collects and disposes of waste. It merged with Allied Waste in 2008. During the past three years, Republic has boosted revenue 38% annually, on average, helped by the merger. Republic is scheduled to release second-quarter results July 28. First-quarter profit tumbled 42%, to $65 million, or 17 cents a share, as revenue declined 5%. Republic shares sell for a PEG ratio of 0.9, a 10% discount to fair value. Researchers are bullish on the stock, with 91% rating it "buy." A median target of $36.29 implies a return of 21%.
2. CMS Energy is an electric and gas utility in Michigan. Since 2007, it has boosted earnings per share 49% a year, on average. Its stock has gained 29% in the past 12 months, beating indices. The company will announce second-quarter results July 28. First-quarter profit advanced 22% to $88 million, or 35 cents. The stock trades at a PEG ratio of 0.3, a 70% discount to fair value. It offers a dividend yield of 3.8%, with a payout ratio of 63%. Roughly 93% of analysts covering the stock rate it "buy" A median target of $18.08 suggests 15% of upside.
1. MasterCard provides transaction-processing services. During the past three years, it has grown revenue 14% annually, on average, and more than doubled profit, on average, each year. Its stock returned 7.8% a year over that span, outperforming tech peers. MasterCard is due to release second-quarter numbers Aug. 3. Its stock sells for a forward earnings multiple of 13, a 20% discount to its peer average. Of researchers following MasterCard, 94% advise purchasing shares. A median target of $289.62 indicates a potential 44% return.
Disclosure information was not available for Lynch or his company.