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J.P. Morgan Sees Slower Tech Spending in 2013, but 2014 Could Be Solid

Jon C. Ogg

In what has become a difficult year for companies to plan their future spending due to ongoing political indecision, the Global Technology analysts at J.P. Morgan have lowered their IT spending forecast. They have lowered their estimate for 2013 down to a gain of 0.3% from 0.6%. What should pop out here for longer-term investors is that they see very encouraging signs for 2014, with IT spending rising by 3.6% next year.

In a new research report, the team at J.P. Morgan digs through the potential spending scenarios and look for the companies most likely to benefit in the coming year. They point out numerous wildcards that are a part of the spending mix, the biggest being what will become of government spending. While spending also will be dictated by overall economic conditions, the J.P. Morgan analysts feel that the slower 2013 will give way to a much improved 2014. Here are the top stocks to buy they feel will benefit from an uptick in spending.

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CDW Corp. (CDW) is projected to be a winner in the storage area. Although the company does not make equipment, its ongoing efforts to expand its market presence as a value-added reseller is expected to drive solid earnings growth next year. The Thomson/First Call estimate is posted at $26.50. CDW closed Monday at $23.05.

NetApp Inc. (NTAP) is poised to be a leader as companies move ever more toward flash-dominant or all-flash storage. NetApp creates innovative storage and data management solutions that deliver outstanding cost efficiency and accelerate business breakthroughs. The consensus target is $45. Investors are paid a 1.4% dividend. The stock closed Monday at $41.92.

F5 Networks Inc. (FFIV) was put at the top of CNBC's Jim Cramer's list of stocks to buy last Friday. With its more than a billion dollars in cash, and a huge product refresh coming, Cramer thinks the stock is flat-out cheap -- especially, if we see any pullback in the price. The consensus price target is pegged at $96. F5 Networks closed Monday at $92.02.

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Juniper Networks Inc. (JNPR) is expected to come out a winner as networks need more capacity and latency. In fact, the analysts think that enterprise routing expenditures will increase by 4.4% in 2013. The consensus price target for the stock is $22. Juniper Networks closed Monday at $20.56.

CA Technologies (CA) looks to be a winner in the software sector. The company is attractively valued and will continue to improve margins as operations are streamlined. The consensus price target for the stock is $28. Investors are paid a very solid 3.4% dividend. The stock closed Monday at $29.27.

Oracle Corp. (ORCL) has had a rough year earningswise. The J.P. Morgan team thinks that is priced into the stock, and their focus is on cloud-based solutions that will drive earnings going forward. The consensus price target for this tech leader is $36. Investors are paid a 1.4% dividend. Oracle closed on Monday at $32.84.

Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. (CTSH) is a top IT services stock to buy at many of the top Wall Street firms we cover. With a high exposure to health care payer clients, the company is expected to drive growth through the balance of this year and into 2014. The consensus price target for the stock is $87.50. Cognizant closed Monday at $84.10.

NICE Systems Ltd. (NICE) provides intent-based solutions that capture and analyze interactions and transactions, realize intent and extract and leverage insights to deliver impact in real time. It offers a suite of enterprise customer interaction solutions comprising NICE SmartCenter to capture and analyze customer interactions across various communication channels, including phone, surveys, email and the Web. The consensus price target for the stock is $43. NICE systems closed Monday at $40.63.

NCR Corp. (NCR) is a top focus list pick at J.P. Morgan. The analysts believe growth and potential earnings per share upside originates in the retail and hospitality segments, with potential margin upside from the Radiant and Retalix software businesses. They also sense that financial services revenue is stabilizing -- even benefiting from the front-end of branch transformation. The consensus price target for NCR is $44. The stock closed Monday at $40.60.

Verint Systems Inc. (VRNT), like NICE Systems, is a leading provider of actionable business and security intelligence solutions. Security has become one of the biggest priorities for corporate America, and the company stands to benefit from the surge in purchasing going forward. The consensus price target is $40. Verint closed Monday at $37.26.

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With a muddled spending picture it is important for investors to focus on the stocks that have cutting-edge innovation and new product cycles. When those hard-earned dollars are pried out of the hands of corporate America, they will have big demands along with them.

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