6 stocks that stand out in a sizzling stock market

Why these 6 stocks stand out in a sizzling stock market; are they still worth buying?

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- It's summertime and the stock market is sizzling.

The market reached an all-time high this week, torching its previous record set just before Memorial Day.

Even so, a handful of companies stand out. Six stocks — Amazon, Starbucks, UnitedHealth, Visa, Mastercard, and Discover Financial — notched their own records this week, helped by the growing confidence of American consumers.

Would buying these stocks now be a hot-weather impulse or a coldly-calculated move?

All six have improving earnings outlooks, analysts say. Credit-card companies and UnitedHealth appear to be the best bets.

The six companies share similar traits that make them attractive. They are consumer-focused, with dominant market positions and growing revenue streams, says Fred Dickson, chief investment strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co.

Their importance to shoppers is crucial to their growth prospects. Americans' confidence in the economy has reached its highest point in 5 1/2 years. The housing recovery is strengthening. Job growth continues at a steady pace.

When consumers feel better about the economy, they splurge on discretionary items like a Venti Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks or a new book or DVD from Amazon. And they pay for those items with credit cards.

Visa and UnitedHealth are the most attractive buys right now, says David Brown, chief market strategist at Sabrient Systems, an investment research firm.

The outlook for Discover and MasterCard is also good, particularly as consumer confidence improves. The companies' biggest challenge remains staying competitive in a crowded field, he says.

While Brown expects Amazon to continue to dominate its market, he sees a big risk in buying the stock now.

"It's a fine company, but I would want to enter it in a pullback — a big pullback," Brown says. "It has, by far, the most downside."

Here's a brief summary of each stock:

— UnitedHealth Group Inc.

The stock of the nation's largest health insurer has climbed more than 25 percent this year and hit an all-time high of $68.75 in trading on Wednesday, according to FactSet.

Like other health insurers, UnitedHealth stands to benefit from the federal health care overhaul. The company will be able to participate in state-based health insurance exchanges designed to expand coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. The company is also the largest provider of Medicare Advantage plans, which are privately run versions of the government's Medicare program for the elderly and disabled people.

Financial analysts, on average, expect the stock to move higher. Their consensus target price is $71.47, according to FactSet.

On average, the stock has a "Buy" rating from analysts polled by FactSet.

— Amazon.com Inc.

Amazon's stock price is up about 23 percent this year and touched an all-time high of $307.55 in trading on Friday.

Sales for the world's biggest online retailer have been growing as Americans' confidence in the economy improves and they shift to online shopping. A key rival, Barnes & Noble Inc., is struggling with weaker sales and big losses driven by its Nook e-reader, a competitor to Amazon's Kindle.

Analysts see Amazon shares moving higher still. The average target price on the stock is $316.79.

Even so, some investment experts sense a bubble.

Brown has a "Sell" rating on the stock, which he believes is overpriced. He points to Amazon's "forward" price-earnings ratio, which compares a stock's price to projected earnings over the next 12 months. Not all agree. Amazon has an average analyst rating of "Overweight," which indicates the average broker rating falls between "Hold" and "Buy."

On that basis, Brown says investors buying Amazon's stock now are paying 100 times future earnings.

— Starbucks Corp.

Starbucks' stock is up 30 percent this year and reached an all-time high of $69.72 in trading on Friday. That's barely above the consensus target price of $69.62, according to FactSet.

The coffee chain, with more than 18,000 stores around the world, has delivered strong growth in the Americas and Asia, where it has opened more shops. Last year it introduced a single-serve coffee machine and branched out beyond coffee by acquiring tea shops and bakery chains, and a bottled juice company.

But it faces increased competition from fast-food chains such as McDonald's, which have expanded their coffee offerings. On average, the analyst rating on the stock falls between "Buy" and "Hold."

— MasterCard Inc.

The stock is up 22 percent this year and reached an all-time high of $602.74 in trading on Monday.

The credit and debit card company, which makes money from processing charge card transactions, thrives when consumers are in a spending mood.

MasterCard has been focusing on developing countries, where most transactions are still done in cash. As shoppers there shift from paper money to plastic, MasterCard can tap into that growth.

A consensus price target of $614.61 suggests that financial analysts see further growth ahead for the stock. But those surveyed by FactSet are split between "Buy" and "Hold."

— Visa Inc.

Visa's stock is up about 26 percent this year and reached an all-time high of $192.77 in trading on Monday. Visa remains the industry heavyweight. It has also taken steps to make its payment-processing business more accessible to mobile-device users.

"Visa has done an amazing job, really, of capturing revenue and new cardholders and turning it into earnings," says Brown.

Analysts see the stock advancing. Its consensus target price is $197.12. Analysts polled by FactSet are divided between recommending a "Buy" and a "Hold."

— Discover Financial Services

Discover's stock is up 32 percent this year. It rose to an all-time high of $50.92 in trading on Friday — below the consensus target price of $52.73.

Beyond its namesake credit card, Discover has moved into auto, personal and student loans, as well as home equity loans.

The Fed's signal last month that it could begin tapering its bond-buying program, which has helped keep interest rates low, is potentially good news for Discover and other credit card issuers. As interest rates rise, they typically translate into more revenue for card issuers. That's something investors are anticipating, says Dickson.

On average, the stock has a "Buy" rating from analysts polled by FactSet.

Rates

View Comments (7)

Recommended for You

  • Tycoon buys 30 Rolls-Royces for Macau hotel

    A Hong Kong tycoon has placed the biggest ever order for Rolls-Royce cars, agreeing to buy 30 Phantoms to chauffeur guests at a luxury resort he's building in the global gambling capital of Macau. Stephen Hung's $20 million purchase surpasses the 14 Phantoms bought by Hong Kong's Peninsula Hotel in…

    Associated Press
  • The New 2015 Sonata®: A Step Above the Competition

    There's a Sonata® that's perfect for you, and this is your chance to build it! Visit the Hyundai® Official Site to customize your 2015 Sonata® today!

    AdChoicesHyundaiSponsored
  • Before You Buy Alibaba, Check Out 4 Top China Stocks

    Before You Buy Alibaba, Check Out 4 Top China Stocks While investors gear up for Alibaba Group 's (BABA) hotly anticipated initial public offering, don't forget about other Chinese stocks that are worth keeping an eye on. Today's Young Guns Screen of

    Investor's Business Daily
  • Only 4 states will see cuts to food stamps

    Cuts to the nation's food stamp program enacted this year are only affecting four states, far from the sweeping overhaul that Republicans had pushed, an Associated Press review has found. As a result, it's unclear whether the law will realize the estimated $8.6 billion in savings over 10 years that…

    Associated Press
  • "The Retiree Next Door": How successful retirees stretch their savings

    "The Retiree Next Door": How successful retirees stretch their savingsBy the time she hit her late 40s, Toni Eugenia wasn’t sure she would ever be able to retire. Eugenia, 56, a pharmacy technician who lived in Houston, was nearly $200,000 in debt and

    Yahoo Finance51 mins ago
  • SHOE COMPANY: Our CEO Just Disappeared And Most Of The Money Is Gone

    "and like that: he's gone." This is an actual headline from a company press release: "CEO and COO disappeared, most of the company's cash missing." (Via FastFT) In a statement, German-based shoe company Ultrasonic said its CFO,  Chi Kwong Clifford Chan, has been unable to reach the company's CEO,…

    Business Insider
  • Apple to unveil new iPads, operating system on Oct. 21 : report

    The company plans to unveil the sixth generation of its iPad and the third edition of the iPad mini, as well as its operating system OS X Yosemite, which has undergone a complete visual overhaul, the Internet news website said. Trudy Muller, a spokeswoman for Apple, declined to comment. The iPad is…

    Reuters
  • Margaritaville casino owners seek bankruptcy

    The owner of Biloxi's Margaritaville casino has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Tuesday, only hours before a hearing where the landlord aimed to seize the property. The filing by MVB Holding LLC in U.S. Don Dornan, a lawyer for landlord Clay Point LLC, said the company had planned to ask…

    Associated Press
  • Hyundai Elantra: Features & Benefits Come Standard

    More interior space, alloy wheels standard, 145 HP. Explore all the features and benefits of the Elantra at the Hyundai Official Site.

    AdChoicesHyundai®Sponsored
  • Play

    Citi, Bank of America Offer Discounted Mortgages

    Citigroup and Bank of America will offer mortgages at discounted interest rates to help borrowers with low incomes or subprime credit. AnnaMaria Andriotis joins MoneyBeat. Photo: Getty.

    WSJ Live
  • Here's What Mark Cuban Wishes He Knew About Money In His 20s

    Cuban is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team. Billionaire investor and entrepreneur Mark Cuban is generous with his advice. When we asked him what he wishes he'd known about money in his 20s, he said:

    Business Insider
  • Embraer to sell 50 E-175 jets to Republic in $2.1 billion deal

    Brazil's Embraer SA, the world's third largest commercial planemaker, said on Wednesday it booked a firm order from U.S. The deal, which will be included in Embraer's order book for the third quarter, is valued at $2.1 billion, the planemaker said in a securities filing. The planes will be operated…

    Reuters
  • Gold loses luster on Fed; Barclays cuts forecast

    Barclays cuts gold forecasts, sees increasingly bearish backdrop Bloomberg MA MB MC MD ME SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — Gold prices dipped Wednesday on concerns about a stronger dollar ahead of the Federal Reserve policy statement and in response to Barclays lowering its gold forecast.

    MarketWatch
  • Billionaire Investor Says Chinese People Work Harder And Western Companies Could Face Deep Trouble After Alibaba IPO

    Michael Moritz, the chairman of VC firm Sequoia Capital, is a huge fan of Chinese internet companies and reiterated his enthusiasm for the Chinese market in an interview with The Wall Street Journal Wednesday. The billionaire investor described the Alibaba IPO as a “major landmark event” that is as…

    Business Insider
  • Fed renews zero rate pledge, but hints at steeper rate hike path

    The Federal Reserve on Wednesday renewed its pledge to keep interest rates near zero for a "considerable time," but also indicated it could raise borrowing costs faster than expected when it starts moving. In a statement after a two-day meeting of its policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee,…

    Reuters
  • $40-Off Limited Time Offer From Norton

    Award-winning PC protection that doesn't slow you down. Easy installation & money-back guarantee. Download today with our $40-off limited time offer.

    AdChoicesNorton by SymantecSponsored
  • Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: AEP, BHP, GE, Incyte, 3M, Tyco, Under Armour and More

    Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: AEP, BHP, GE, Incyte, 3M, Tyco, Under Armour and More Stocks were firm on Wednesday morning ahead of the FOMC meeting outcome. Tuesday’s rally may have sparked higher interest again, and investors are looking for bargains

    24/7 Wall St.
  • Boeing may have outfoxed Musk, but it could have bigger problems

    Elon Musk is arguably one of the greatest entrepreneurial minds of the 21st Century, but he was outsized an old school aerospace giant. Boeing won the bulk of NASA’s contract for a space taxi.  One of the other companies vying for the deal is SpaceX, the company headed by Tesla’s Musk, will get a…

    Talking Numbers
  • Romney-Sized IRAs Scrutinized as Government Studies Taxes

    The preliminary report attaches data to an issue that drew attention during the 2012 presidential campaign, when Republican nominee Mitt Romney reported an IRA worth $20 million to $102 million. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden said many of these "massive" accounts come from deals…

    Bloomberg
  • Play

    What the Fed Meeting Means for Bonds

    Janet Yellen & Co. are expected to hint at their timetable for raising interest rates. Here's how investors should prepare ahead of the meeting.

    WSJ Live
  • The Government Keeps Helping People Buy Failing Cold Stone Creamerys

    Would you loan someone money to buy a Cold Stone Creamery franchise if you knew that more than a quarter of those loans default? Over the last decade, franchisees in the Cold Stone Creamery ice cream chain defaulted on 29 percent of working-capital loans backed by the government, costing taxpayers…

    BusinessWeek
  • Russian billionaire placed under house arrest

    A billionaire Russian tycoon was placed under house arrest Tuesday in a money-laundering case that has drawn comparisons with a government crackdown on Russia's Yukos oil company more than a decade ago. The Investigative Committee, Russia's top investigative agency, said that Vladimir Yevtushenkov,…

    Associated Press
  • 5 Questions That Will Not Get You Hired

    The wrong questions can tank even the best interview. Here are five questions you should never ask in a job interview.

    AdChoicesMonster.comSponsored
  • Facebook Is Hiding Important Information From Investors

    Facebook Is Hiding Important Information From Investors Facebook.com/sheryl On July 23, when Facebook reported its earnings for the second quarter, the company stunned everyone. Revenues were $2.68 billion, up 67% from the same quarter during the year

    Business Insider