Information technology companies have trailed broader market gains recently. Through Feb. 22, the infotech sector was only up 2% compared to a 6.6% rise in the S&P 500. But now there's a huge catalyst coming that makes these among the top stocks to buy. It has to do with Obamacare...
Stocks to Buy Now
The Canadian oil and gas industry has endured difficult conditions for the past few years and it is more than reflected in the share price of leading producers in that country.
It appears, however, we may have reached a point where a turnaround is imminent and investors can reap the rewards of this reversal if they know the best stocks to buy.
The problems facing Canadian energy companies have included a pricing differential in favor of the rest of the world, as well as roadblocks in getting their products to the marketplace.
Attempts to develop non-U.S. markets, build new pipelines and increase refining capacity have been met with strong opposition from environmental groups in Canada. Technological advances like fracking in countries like the United States have provided stiff competition for traditional methods and are far cheaper than oil sands projects that are a large part of the Canadian energy landscape.
There is a good chance that many Canadian oil and gas producers have reached what legendary investor John Templeton used to call the point of maximum pessimism.
But Canada is starting to take action to reignite the industry.
I know that for more than a few of you, as soon as you hear the word "nanotech" your eyes glaze over and you fumble for the mouse.
But don't touch that mouse. Nanotech has come a long way and is becoming one of the most incredible technology stories of the decade, if not the century.
For example, what if I were to tell you that there's a microbe that has been discovered that actually produces gold? Nuts, right?
Well thanks to our ability to see how microbes interact with their environment, stunning stories like this one from Nature Chemical Biology in New Scientist are showing up:
Sure, the Dow has reached record highs. That doesn't mean investing has gotten any easier. Quite the opposite...
When the markets make a major move higher, investors always run the risk of buying at the top and getting crushed as the market retreats.
It's called chasing momentum, and it can be fatal to your portfolio. Just ask Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) shareholders who jumped in at $700 only to watch as the price dropped to less than $420/share. With little change in the company's outlook, Apple investors who bought near the peak managed to lose 40% in a bull market.
Today I want to tall you about a safer and more lucrative approach.
I call it "heirloom investing," because you'll pass these stocks on to your grandchildren.
It's been a great year for anyone interested in dividend stocks - and it looks like it'll get even better.
Corporations in the S&P 500 are expected to pay at least $300 billion in dividends in 2013, up from last year's $282 billion, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices.
And some of the dividend hikes represent a healthy payout boost.
For example, one of the latest in a string of companies to boost dividends, QUALCOMM Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM), recently announced a 40% increase in its dividend.
Besides QUALCOMM, Hess Corp. (NYSE: HES) hiked its dividend 150%, HollyFrontier Corp. (NYSE: HFC) 50%, The Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD) 34%, The TJX Cos. Inc. (NYSE: TJX) 26% and Applied Materials Inc. (Nasdaq: AMAT) 11%, to name just a handful.
The good news: If you haven't yet joined the payout party, you can expect even more dividend increases in the weeks ahead.
Farm incomes are expected to climb to an all-time high this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The expected increase - to a net farm income total of $128.3 billion, up from $112.8 billion in 2012 - is good news, not only for farmers but for fertilizer companies. Especially these three...
U.S. gun sales are at an all-time high. Ammo is flying off store shelves as well.
And that bodes well for companies in the firearms industry, putting the three mentioned below on many investors' "stocks to buy" list.
Fact is, demand for guns and ammo over the past few months is breaking all records. Just take a look at statistics compiled by the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
In February, NCIS recorded 2,309,393 background checks - 32% higher than February 2012. December 2012 saw the most background checks in any month in U.S. history, when nearly 2.8 million background checks were performed.
Altogether, the FBI recorded more than 16.8 million background checks for gun purchases in 2012, the highest number since they began publishing the data in 1998.
What's more, the actual number of weapons sold could be even higher because customers can purchase multiple guns for each check, USA Today reports.
In fact, demand is so high, the companies that make these products are having a hard time keeping up.
Dale Raby, manager at Gus's Guns shops in Green Bay, WI, told The New York Times his inventory of guns and ammunition was almost wiped out, especially AR-15 military assault rifles.
"I almost had fistfights over...that type of gun," Raby said.
"If I had 1,000 AR-15s I could sell them in a week," Jack Smith, an independent gun dealer in Des Moines told the Times.
Around the country, many guns are simply out of stock and prices are skyrocketing.
Latest EIA numbers show that demand is as low as it's been in a decade or more. Although energy stocks are out of favor right now, over the next several years, these two could easily become growth darlings once again as energy demand inevitably rises. Details here.
Income investors looking for stocks to buy in the energy space have had several prominent choices over the years.
Royalty trusts and master limited partnerships (MLPs), two asset classes abundant in the energy sector, have surged in popularity in recent years mostly due to their large payouts and high yields. MLPs have also proven popular with conservative investors due to the predictable, prosaic nature of the oil and gas transportation business that leads to a steady stream of rising dividends.
But broadly speaking, the oil services subsector has been left out of the energy dividend conversation.
Oil services investors have had only a couple options within the sector when looking for dividend stocks to buy.
As Money Morning Executive Editor Steve Christ told us this week, finding solid dividend stocks in different sectors is a key to finding financial freedom, thanks to compounding.
"This compounding effect arises when your dividend yield is added to the principal. From that moment on, the interest begins to earn interest on itself," explained Christ. "Over the long haul, that process can add up to a small fortune - even with very modest investments. All it takes is time."
How do you find theses reliable dividend payers?
For starters, consider dividend stocks that have a history of raising their payout. Dividend.com recently compiled a list of stocks that have hiked their dividends for at least 25 years.
To take it a step further, we compared that list to Standard & Poor's "Dividend Aristocrats" - large-cap, blue-chip companies that have increased dividends for at least 20 consecutive years.
Some of the "Aristocrats" have hiked their payouts for much longer than that, like these seven, which have done so for at least 50 years:
The wave of deal-making on Wall Street hasn't extended to retail yet. But that's about to change.
That's because retailers make for great M&A candidates - which also makes for some stocks to buy now ahead of this takeover trend.
Takeovers provide chances for companies to cross-sell products and negotiate better with landlords and suppliers. Plus, retailers face low regulatory barriers to deals.
That's why major retailers are among a list of 71 companies Morningstar says are some of the most likely takeover targets this year.
"We think 2013 will bring an uptick of deal activity," said R.J. Hottovy, director of global consumer equity research for Morningstar. "There's no shortage of companies with available capital on their balance sheets and high operating margins, fewer organic growth opportunities and candidates with attractive valuations."
Since legendary investor Warren Buffett took a liking to solar this year, investors have been wondering if it's time to revisit this beleaguered industry when looking for stocks to buy in 2013.
The solar sector has endured a beatdown for about two years, with massive oversupply of solar panels and unfavorable publicity combining to keep solar stocks down.
MidAmerican announced a $2 billion to $2.5 billion deal to buy two California solar power projects from SunPower Corp. (Nasdaq: SPWR). MidAmerican also agreed in January to invest in what will be the world's largest solar photovoltaic operation, which is partly owned by First Solar Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR).
Many solar stocks and solar ETFs, including Market Vectors Solar Energy (NYSE: KWT) and Claymore/MAC Global Solar Index (NYSE: TAN), have soared on the MidAmerican news. They're both up about 17% this year.
Does this mean investors should follow Buffett into solar stocks? Here's a look at the sector.
Here's how to get rich in stocks: Buy elite businesses at a good price and let the dividends compound over the years. That's the safe, steady road to building true wealth.
The key is in selecting the right stocks to buy.
However, most investors starved for solid dividend-payers often overlook one of the safest and most lucrative sectors - small cap dividend stocks.
But therein lies the problem--everybody knows they are great companies. That alone can drive their share prices to dizzying heights.
So investors who limit their choices to the big blue chips can end up paying too much-while missing out on another category of stocks that could make them even more money.
In short, they miss the quality small-cap dividend-payers. Here's why that is a big mistake for most investors.
Small Cap Stocks to Buy
Small-cap stocks can be an individual investor's best friend.
In the period between 1927 and 2009, small-cap value stocks returned 14.9% per year.
Meanwhile, returns on large-cap value stocks averaged roughly 3% less per year.
So why do these small frys outperform their larger cousins?
First of all, their small size makes them fly under the radar of many institutional investors.
What's more, mutual funds and pension funds have billions to invest, making it nearly impossible to buy and sell small stocks without having a huge influence on the price. As a result, a fund manager may find himself chasing a stock higher as he tries to take a meaningful position simply because he's the only big buyer.
Second, because the big fish tend to attract the big bucks, small caps are often ignored by Wall Street analysts. Most analysts simply aren't about to spend precious hours researching a company that no one follows.
So "in-the-know investors" buying small cap dividend payers face a lot less competition and can pick up shares at a good price.
Plus, many of these small cap dividend machines actually have a lot in common with their big brethren.
Like many large-cap, dividend-paying stocks, these companies generate tons of cash flow, have great brand names and wide competitive moats in their respective industries.
The bottom line: Investors who are willing to accept a slightly higher degree of risk should consider investing in small-cap value stocks that pay dividends.
Three Small Cap Dividend Machines
With that in mind, here are three small caps that are members of the Russell Global Small Cap Dividend Achievers Index. To qualify they must have raised their dividends annually for more than 10 years and meet minimum cash volumes.
In short, these are companies that throw off plenty of cash and safe dividends.
There has been a lot of discussion among investors over the past few years about whether the banking industry offers any quality stocks to buy now.
The big banks brought the economy to its knees in 2008 and had to be bailed out by the federal government with taxpayer dollars. The disastrous decisions at large banks spilled over to the smaller banks and caused severe economic distress for many of them.
Many banks were forced to close with 140 banks failing in 2009 and another 157 in 2011.
Although the numbers have tapered off some we still saw more than 50 banks fail last year as a result of residual problems from the housing boom and ensuing credit crisis. This type of carnage is reflected in the price of many small banks, which are just now starting to see their balance sheets and stock price show signs of improvement.
We now face an environment much like the aftermath of the savings & loan debacle in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
You see, during the economic boom from 2001 to 2007 many new banks opened across the United Sates to take advantage of the cheap money from the Fed and the high demand for housing and home equity loans.
Now in the aftermath of the implosion of housing prices, we find ourselves with too many banks even after all the failures. We have seen some bank mergers in 2012 but this is just the start of what will be a massive wave of bank and thrift consolidation activity.
While we have seen some economic recovery, we continue to operate in a better but not good economy. Loan demand is still fairly tepid and is well below pre-crisis levels. It is difficult for many banks to gain market share and maintain profitability.
As we enter 2013 banks face new regulation and compliance costs that may further crimp operating profits. Smaller banks in particular are experiencing high levels of frustration at their inability to remain profitable and grow their franchise. Shareholders are unhappy after several years of poor share-price performance and want to see a return on their investment.
For many the best path is going to seek a suitor and sell out to a larger competitor.
For investors this creates an enormous opportunity for long-term profits, if you know the right stocks to buy now.
Many investors have one or two "safe" stocks they own that, for whatever reason, have become sentimental favorites they never consider selling.
These companies typically are household names, large, and considered by almost everyone - even fund managers - to be safe investments.
That means even if you're not holding such stocks in your personal portfolio, you may own mutual funds that own them, or they could lurk somewhere in your 401(k).
Many "safe" stocks are really hidden time bombs, ready to blow a big hole in your portfolio at any moment.
And as Money Morning Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald points out, even the most stable, veteran companies can morph into portfolio-destroying dogs.
"Just because you think a stock is safe doesn't mean that the markets will treat it that way," Fitz-Gerald said.
What's more, he said, is that "the very definition of safe has changed," noting how the massive leverage common on Wall Street can unravel a company almost overnight, as happened with Lehman Brothers at the height of the 2008 financial crisis.