As the third-quarter earnings season gets underway, investor angst has been fueled on several fronts, not least by the continued showdown in Washington that has threatened to hijack global equity markets. As failure to reach a continuing resolution heightened fear of a deadlock on the debt ceiling, equity markets started to price in the potential of a U.S. default, declining by nearly 4% from mid-September highs.
With stock multiples edging higher over the past year and returning to pre-crisis levels, stocks that do not deliver growth and earnings could get punished. The quantitative research team at Credit Suisse scanned their coverage universe for names that could offer cyclical earnings surprises for the third quarter. Here are some of the top names to make that list.
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Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) is the nation's largest cable company and looks to continue its white-hot growth. The company is reportedly in talks with Netflix Inc. (NFLX) to provide its services as part of a pay-TV package for Comcast subscribers. While this may compete with the Comcast product offerings, if subscribers are willing to pay the add-on price, it could prove huge. Investors are paid a 1.7% dividend. The Thomson/First Call price target for the stock is $51 and Comcast closed Wednesday at $46.98.
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Morgan Stanley (MS) is a top financial name that could beat earnings estimates this quarter. With investment banking revenues growing and the company completing its purchase of Smith Barney to enhance retail production, third-quarter numbers could surprise. Investors are paid a small 0.7% dividend. The consensus price target for this top Wall Street name is $30. Morgan Stanley closed Wednesday at $28.63.
EMC Corp. (EMC) is not only the leader in large-scale storage, its majority ownership in cloud software company VMware Inc. (VMW) makes it the ultimate tech double-threat. Investors are paid a 1.6% dividend. The consensus price target for the stock is posted at $31. EMC closed Wednesday at $24.78.
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CBS Corp. (CBS) is the network ratings leader and looks to continue its winning streak next year as well. With protracted battles with cable companies over programming costs completed, the headline risk has diminished and investors are focusing on the solid core fundamentals. Investors receive a small 0.9% dividend. The consensus price target for this top media name is $63, and CBS closed Wednesday at $57.59.
Tiffany & Co. (TIF) has seen consistent floor traffic and sales from its base high-end clientele. Despite disappointing second-quarter numbers, Tiffany is the bellwether of the luxury segment. It beat consensus estimates on earnings but failed to do the same on revenue. However, the earnings report did contain many positive signals. Shareholders are paid a 1.8% dividend. The consensus price target for the stock is placed at $88. Tiffany closed Wednesday at $76.98.
Given the market's impressive rise over the course of the past year, investors are wise to become more stock selective. As the Credit Suisse team points out, with multiples expanding due to price appreciation, the margin for error has become very slim. Stocks that do beat earnings for the third quarter should see a nice move higher as money shifts to the winners.
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