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With the markets smack in the middle of perhaps the most profitably boring rally in history, here's a hit list of what I consider the most interesting stocks during the run.*
The analyst community sure has blown this one. Caterpillar was supposed to be a dog stock this year. Commodities were supposed to be a dead trade. Well, 'supposed to be' simply hasn't happened. Instead, CAT has taken on another life. Not only is up 23 percent this year, but it is the single best-performing stock in the Dow over that time. That doesn't even include its hefty 3.70 percent dividend yield. This despite an analyst average rating of "hold" with a FactSet consensus price target of $74.29 per share, 12 percent below the current price. EPS and revenue recently beat expectations. It would be unsurprising to soon see a flurry of sheepish analysts to start to become more positive on Caterpillar.
In fact, it is one of the few stocks near the top performers list over one month, three months, year-to-date and the past year. Wall Street recently seems to have taken notice, as analysts have been tripping over themselves to upgrade and/or raise their price targets on the graphics chip maker. In fact, RBC upgraded the stock Thursday. Jefferies analyst Mark Lipacis deserves a shout-out, as he upgraded it last September. Since that upgrade, Nvidia has more than doubled. Keep in mind that the overall analyst love-fest doesn't mean things can't go wrong (see: Caterpillar), and Wells Fargo recently downgraded Nvidia, fearing competition from Advanced Micro Devices.
Why is a chicken company on this list? Two reasons. First, shares have gained 40 percent this year, recently hit (another) record high and have gained 25 percent just since mid-June and those bets paid off as third quarter earnings rose 51 percent. Second, it's no longer just a chicken company. Though that's how many may think of Tyson given its history, last quarter sales of beef came in $1 billion higher than chicken. The 2014 deal to buy Hillshire Brands has also made prepared foods (Sara Lee, Jimmy Dean, etc.) a multibillion dollar business with an operating margin of nearly 11 percent. And check this out: since hitting rock bottom during the financial crisis, Tyson has made a nearly 1,000 percent return. Hardly chicken feed.
*Obviously these are not recommendations to buy, sell, short or any other kind of endorsement. They're simply interesting to me for a variety of reasons.