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  Wednesday, 11 Jun 2008 | 1:48 PM ET

Defensive Stocks for Volatile Days

Posted By: Andrew Fisher

Defensive plays with unique momentum trends: that's how Keith Wirtz characterizes the two stocks at the top of his list of picks. Good advice for players in a volatile market.

Wirtz's Fifth Third Lifemodel Aggressive Fund is up an average of 10.5 percent per year over the last five years.


His first choice is IBM.

"In the enterprise space, they're enjoying the early stages of a product upgrade cycle, particularly with their server and mainframe businesses," he told CNBC. "We see that lasting for at least four quarters, and that's also having a pull-through effect with their higher-margin software applications."

Wirtz has found similar strengths in HJ Heinz.

"The story with Heinz over the last two or three years had been inconsistencies," he said. "That's turned around now, with a re-focus of the management, a new innovation leading to new products, and this translates into higher growth rates."

He notes that Heinz, like many other producers of consumer staples, has been able to raise prices faster than cost inputs, and it has significant international exposure.

»Read more
  Wednesday, 11 Jun 2008 | 11:37 AM ET

Don't Watch Oil -- Buy Oil Stocks!

Posted By: Andrew Fisher

The price of oil has played an increasingly monolithic role for traders in recent years. When it was rising, energy-related stocks seemed safe to buy. When it was falling, they weren't. Jerry Castellini says that's no longer the case, and he's urging investors to stop watching oil prices -- and start buying stocks.

"Why is it impossible for an oil and gas company to be a growth business?" the president and chief investment officer of CastleArk Management asked CNBC. "We didn't think that was the case in health care in the 1980s, or in technology in the early '90s, and yet those businesses all became growth businesses."

So which oil and gas businesses are now poised to take off?


In the exploration and production area, Castellini likes Petrohawk, which is involved in the Hanesville Shale exploration area in northern Louisiana and east Texas.

Also on his list are Southwestern and Ultra.

Among oil drillers, Nabors Drilling, National Oilwell, and Rowan Drilling are on Castellini's list.

»Read more
  Wednesday, 11 Jun 2008 | 9:35 AM ET

Red Flags, Not Blue Chips

Posted By: Andrew Fisher

The SEC has its watch list for troubled financial institutions. But who watches the watchers? Answer: Disclosure Insight.

John Gavin is the president of this organization, and focusing on risks instead of returns, his group has raised red flags over some troubled entities.

»Read more
  Tuesday, 10 Jun 2008 | 4:01 PM ET

Oil Services Stocks Are 'Price-Proof'

Posted By: Andrew Fisher

Phil Orlando sees lower oil prices coming, and some shifts in investors' preferences coming along with them.

"I think this last $20 in crude up, from $120 to $140 a barrel, was largely hedge fund speculation and a short-covering rally," the chief equity market strategist of Federated Investors told CNBC.

"Given the fact that the Fed has stopped cutting interest rates, and the fact that we're now seeing some early stages of demand destruction among drivers here in the U.S., crude is probably going to work lower, maybe down into the $110-$100-a-barrel area over the next couple of months."


Orlando says a downturn would hurt basic energy stocks, but with certain exceptions.

"You've still got to find the stuff, and so the oil-service names, like...Transocean and Schlumberger are names that make a lot of sense to us."

  • Learn more: Watch the entire interview (3 mins, 55 secs)


Disclosure information for Phil Orlando was not immediately available.


»Read more
  Tuesday, 10 Jun 2008 | 2:40 PM ET

Hot Utility Stocks (Part 2)

Posted By: Andrew Fisher

The heat wave that's had Wall Street in its grasp has made savvy traders think about energy, and utility companies, and utility company stocks.

Paul Fremont, managing director at Jefferies & Co., has some carefully-chosen selections in the energy area to power a portfolio.

"With gas and oil prices as high as they have been recently, we have seen power prices follow suit, and that should mean more cash flow and profits for these...companies," Fremont told CNBC.


So what's on his list?

"We think that the best bets are in the commodity names, so our favorite names right now would be First Energy , NRG Energy, and Dynegy," he said.

Fremont finds Dynegy to be very leveraged to the short-supply argument, since it owns power plants in the Midwest, where there is no formal compensation scheme in place for capacity.

He's less enthusiastic about regulated utilities.

"They're less well-positioned to benefit from what's going on, in terms of higher power prices," he said.

»Read more
  Tuesday, 10 Jun 2008 | 2:36 PM ET

Utility Stocks Hotter with Deregulation

Posted By: Andrew Fisher

Ask Dan Eggers which electric utility he'd plug your portfolio into, and he'll tell you it's one that operates in a deregulated environment.

"Rising fuel-cost pressures, rising O&M cost pressures are going to put pressure on earned returns of the regulated utilities, potentially putting some risk on their earnings power, independent of some good-weather trends right now," the Credit Suisse analyst told CNBC.


"Our top idea right now is Public Service Enterprise Group," he said. "New Jersey started deregulation in 2002, so you've had a number of years to phase in power prices going to what you'd call 'market rates.'"

Eggers also likes Texas-based Reliant Energy.

"We're a little nervous about the retail business for the second quarter, given some of the weather and the volatility in the Texas market," he said.

»Read more
  Tuesday, 10 Jun 2008 | 11:23 AM ET

4-Star Stock Picker's Secrets

Posted By: Andrew Fisher

Robert Zagunis says investors should put their money into shares of diversified international companies.

"They've got to be where the action is," he told CNBC.

For Zagunis to favor a company, it must also meet some strict standards: A return on equity of 15 percent or more per year for ten years; an increasing trend of free cash flow; and superb management.

His four-star Jensen Portfolio is up an average of 4.4 percent per year over the last three years.


His first pick is Automatic Data Processing .

"They've shed a couple of their slow-growing businesses recently," he noted. "They basically have accelerated their performance based on operating efficiencies based on investments in technology."

Also on his list is Johnson & Johnson.

"They've finally integrated the Pfizer consumer-health acquisition...faster than we expected, so we believe that the performance will actually accelerate," he said. "J&J is so strong that we think there is something major on tap for them; not quite sure what, but they have the horsepower to do it."

Zagunis also likes Wells Fargo.

Learn more: Watch the entire interview (video, below):

»Read more
  Tuesday, 10 Jun 2008 | 10:46 AM ET

Agriculture Stocks: Profit From Modernization

David Riedel has been thinking about the agricultural challenges facing the world, and he's come up with some ways for investors to harvest profits from the planting and growing of crops.

"They're going to have to apply modern methods and machinery to the farmland around the world," the president and founder of Riedel Research told CNBC. "They're going to need to aggregate farmland into larger plots, so they can use machinery and raise those yields."


So how does this all play into a portfolio?

"We're finding Brazilian aggregators...we're finding Russian aggregators like...Black Earth Farming, but for the U.S. investors who wants to find something closer to home, I would definitely point people towards Deere," he said. "They're definitely a company that's going to benefit from the global demand for their high-tech agricultural machinery, as people ty to find a way to raise their yield."

Fertilizer plays can be tricky, he says.

"I think potash is pretty much played out...I don't think we've got another opportunity for potash prices to triple like they did this year," he said.

Still, he's got a potash play.

"Uralkali, it's a Russian company, very huge resources of potash in Russia, and Uralkali is very well positioned to benefit from the global demand for potash fertilizer," he said.

Learn more: Watch the entire interview (video below):

»Read more
  Monday, 9 Jun 2008 | 1:58 PM ET

Stock Picks With a Foreign Flavor

Posted By: Andrew Fisher

Gary Anderson thinks investors should look beyond America's borders for their stock-market winnings. His five-star UMB Scout International Fund is up an average of 19.4 percent per year over the last three years and has even posted a gain during this troubled year.

(Scroll down for his Web-exclusive picks)

"We like Novo Nordisk for several reasons," he said. "It's a very sound play in a time that we like to be defensive in the market; it has 53 percent of the world market for insulin, and it has just this year overtaken Eli Lilly as the lead distributor of insulin in the United States."

He also likes United Overseas Bank.

"United Overseas Bank is an interesting play at a time when banks are kind of a four-letter word around the world," he said. "We think of banks as a leveraged play on the economy; UOB does two-thirds of its business in the Singapore economy...they stayed away from the subprime toxic paper."

»Read more
  Monday, 9 Jun 2008 | 10:56 AM ET

Playing Health Care? Try Info Tech

Todd Weller of Stifel Nicolaus says there's a big opportunity for investors in companies that provide information technology to giant health-care firms.

"Health care is one of the biggest industries that has yet to fully implement technology," Weller told CNBC. "They've underinvested, and certainly, it's a big industry, immensely inefficient; there's a tremendous amount of pressures on the sector that are only going to persist."

So where should a wise investor look?


"Our best trade now is Eclipsys," he said. "They are a provider of hospital-focused solutions, and we think that this is one of the best fundamental stories if you look at the group over the last 12 months."

He also likes Allscripts.

"Great play on physician electronic medical record adoption," he said. "Stock way oversold, too negative, I think Allscripts has meaningful upside."

Also on his list are Quality Systems and Cerner.

»Read more

About CNBC Stock Blog

  • The CNBC Stock Blog is a cross-section of expert opinions and insights from our TV and Web site coverage. This blog includes posts written by and about top analysts and strategists, super-investors and CNBC's own market mavens. You'll find stock picks, news about publicly-traded companies, commodities, hot sectors, ETFs and the latest options action.