Many investors know how to take their first profitable step in the search for ideal stocks to buy: Look for extraordinary growth potential selling at a significantly low valuation.
Even with markets up double-digits this year, there are still stocks to buy that are trading at a discount to what they're worth.
How the Stock Market Today is Following Up Friday's Big Rally
Investors took a breather in the stock market today after driving the Dow Jones Industrial Average 207.5 points higher on Friday.
Friday saw the Dow's second-biggest gain of 2013, after investors cheered a "Goldilocks" jobs report: not too hot, not too cold. For the week, the Dow added 132.55 points, or 0.88%.
There was plenty of news to sway the stock market today despite its muted open.
The world's largest credit rating agency Standard & Poor's boosted its credit outlook for the United States to "stable" from "negative" and reduced the threat of further downgrades.
Citing receding fiscal risks, S&P said the chance of a ratings downgrade is now "less than one in three."
"It was a quite shocking event for the markets when the U.S. was downgraded to negative, so to have that rating repaired is meaningful," Lawrence Creaturea, a Rochester, NY-based manager at Federated Investors Inc. told Bloomberg News. "Economic data has been improving gradually and S&P's upgrade is a recognition of that."
Overseas news was mixed.
Stocks to Buy Now: Two Companies with Strong Insider Buying
Tracking insider buying and selling activity has been proven to be a very effective method of finding good stocks to buy.
Insiders usually buy when the stock price is down, since they are usually long-term investors by nature and are fond of bargain prices.
When they are buying into shares on the rise - especially when they're hitting 52-week highs - it demonstrates a high amount of confidence in the direction of the company they oversee and operate.
All insider activity is filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, so interested investors can easily find out which stocks insiders love - and which ones they're dumping.
Tracking activity can be done using a stock screener like finviz.com, that lists the stock, the buyer's name, relationship to the company, date of sale, number of shares and total value.
This week we have a couple more stocks hitting our radar with high insider buying, making good stocks to buy now if you like to invest where the key officers put their money. Take a look.
Why Insiders Love these Stocks to Buy Now
One of the most powerful positive indicators of stocks to buy is insider buying by officers and directors of a publicly traded corporation.
There is often a good reason why an insider buys stock in the company he works for and it is the same reason you and I buy a stock: He or she thinks it is going to go higher in the months and years ahead.
The big difference is that insiders know more about the direction and finances of the company and are in a better position to make an informed decision. Both research and practice shows that following the insiders often leads to excess profits.
Following insiders when deciding on stocks to buy has been a reliable approach to selecting investments over the years.
Why These Are Among the Best Stocks to Buy Now
One of the most successful long-term strategies when hunting for the best stocks to buy is contrarian investing.
It's a rather simple strategy: buy something when it is out of favor and everyone else is selling, which leads to bargain prices. Then wait for sentiment to turn, sell and pocket your profit.
Many contrarian investors are taking a long, hard look at one particular sector: gold miners. This is a sector that has not only been battered by falling prices for the gold they mine hurting profitability, but also a sector plagued by poor management at many companies.
But a closer look shows why some of these miners are among the best stocks to buy now when prices are low and potential is soaring.
Stocks to Buy: These Returns Nearly Tripled the S&P 500's
Barron's recently published its annual list of the 500 top U.S. and Canadian companies based on sales growth, cash flow, and return on investment, delivering juicy choices for investors on the hunt for stocks to buy.
Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) took the top spot, with Wesco International (NYSE: WCC) snagging second. Western Digital Corp (Nasdaq: WDC) grabbed No. 3. and DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc. (NYSE: DVA) was No. 4. C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc. (Nasdaq: CHRW) rounded out the top five.
Landing a spot on the coveted roster is indeed an accomplishment. But it hasn't always been a reliable judge of how a company's shares will perform in the future.
So, for the second consecutive year, Barron's teamed with financial data and software company FactSet Research Systems Inc. to find the cheapest stocks among its 500 list. FactSet used price/earnings ratios based on earnings estimates for each company's current fiscal year.
Last year's "cheap" list of 30, tracked for a year, averaged a 42% return over the period ended April 26. That's nearly triple the 15.6% gain over the same period for the Standard & Poor's 500 Index.
This year's bargains are a mixed lot. Here's a closer look at the lowest priced stocks to buy among the Barron's 500.
Stocks to Buy: Why Warren Buffett Is Hunting in Europe
Investment guru Warren Buffett is looking for stocks to buy now in struggling Europe- a region many investors refuse to touch thanks to the destructive Eurozone debt crisis.
"We've bought some European stocks," Buffett said. "And the fact that there are troubles in Europe, and there are plenty of troubles, and they're not going away fast, does not mean you don't buy stocks. We bought stocks when the United States was in trouble, in 2008 and it was in huge trouble, and we spent $15.5 billion in three weeks in between September 15 and October 10."
One reason for Buffett's interest in Europe: plenty of cheap buys.
Don't Let Stocks Like These Tempt You
When I'm investing, I like to have a good idea of the economic value produced by the companies I invest in.
Not because I'm a great fan of "social investing" -- I'll happily buy tobacco company shares if the yield's good enough and the consumption trend is solid -- but because there are a lot of dangerous stocks out there that are simply tricks of the market.
Sometimes short-term factors make a company very profitable for a while and then suddenly disappear. Those are the companies - and sectors -- where investing is dangerous.
And that's what I'm going to tell you about today.
Stock Market Today: What's Next After Dow at 15,000
After record rallies last week took benchmarks to fresh highs, the stock market today took a breather.
Just before noon, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gave back 18.70, or 0.12%, to 14,955.26. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index inched higher by 1.55, or 0.10%, at 1,615.96. The Nasdaq eked out a 0.28%, or 9 -point gain, at 3,388.14.
Stocks surged Friday after the April jobs report handily beat expectations. The Dow broke 15,000 for the first time, and the S&P surpassed and finished above 1,600. For the week, the Dow added 261 points, or 1.8%, at 14,973.96. The S&P tacked on 32 points, or 2%, at 1,614.42. Helped by tech, the Nasdaq gained 99 points, or 3%, at 3,378.63.
"I think investors got a lift in their step from Friday's jobs report," Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist for Janney Montgomery Scott told CNN Money. "[But] this week, we're absent anything newsworthy."
Indeed, the week's economic calendar is quiet, and earning season is winding down. Notable reports this week include The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) on Tuesday; Dish Network Corp. (Nasdaq: DISH) and Groupon Inc. (Nasdaq: GRPN) on Wednesday; and Priceline.com Inc. (Nasdaq: PCLN) on Thursday.
While the number of companies that have reported this season nearly doubled from 855 in 2009 to 1,655, the percentage that have beaten estimates remains at the same 59%. Moreover, just 52% have beaten revenue estimates, compared to the average of 60% since the bull market began in 2009, data from Bespoke Investment Group reveals.
That supports the consensus view that the Fed's market-friendly stimulus measures are driving stocks.
But will the gains stick?
For just the sixth time in 30 years, markets were up in January, February, March and April, according to Schaffer Investment Research. May got off to a robust start, but a cache of analysts are warning of a looming pullback.
Stocks to Buy: Meet the New Defense Winners
One segment of the stock market that is widely ignored right now is the defense sector - but as contrarians know, that means there are hot stocks to buy now if you know where to look.
The reason defense is shunned is that future defense budgets will be cut to rein in government spending and hopefully reduce the U.S. budget deficit.
Some programs have been hit by the sequester. Other initiatives are winding down as the endless flow of dollars that has been seen since 9-11 is slowing.
The most recent budget proposals call for reducing defense spending by an additional $150 billion over the next 10 years. That's on top of the $487 billion of cuts already in place and the $41 billion spending cuts mandated by the sequester.
All of this has dampened enthusiasm for defense stocks. While some of the larger defense companies have rallied this year most of the sector has been moribund and is lagging the overall stock market. It is very difficult for analysts and investors to determine which stocks will make attractive opportunities when no one yet knows exactly how much may be cut from the overall budget.
But not all stocks will suffer.