Lots of top-quality stocks are trading near 52-week lows, so investors have plenty of opportunities.
NEW YORK (MONEY Magazine) - The stock market closed out 2005 on a down note, as share prices eroded in December. For the year, the Dow was down a fraction of a percentage point, while the S&P 500 was up 3 percent. Basically, the 2005 market was about as flat as you can get.
Big growth stocks, such as those in the Sivy 70 list, were particularly listless. Among big-cap issues, growth stocks are about 11 percent cheaper than the rest of the market.
In fact, 17 of the companies in the Sivy 70 closed out 2005 within 10 percent of their 52-week lows. Overall, the group is a worthwhile place to begin your bargain hunting.
Of course, depressed stocks are only good deals if the market outlook is positive and the companies' own prospects are encouraging.
I'm fairly optimistic on the overall outlook for 2006. Real gross domestic product has grown at an above-average rate for 10 straight quarters. And although the economy is expected to slow a bit over the coming year, consensus projections still call for at least average growth.
Moreover, forecasters expect inflation to ease over the next two years. Recent consumer price increases have reflected the past two years' run-up in oil prices. But assuming energy prices stabilize -- or even decline somewhat -- inflation could come down.
Steady growth with easing inflation is a recipe for a market upturn. So it's worth considering the 17 depressed growth stocks sector by sector to see which ones might be due for a rebound.
Food and beverage
Government policies are changing, blockbuster drugs face patent expiration and the drug giants are bracing for a wave of competing generic products. Even so, both Abbott Laboratories (Research) and Johnson & Johnson (Research) look attractive long term with core growth projected at 12 percent a year and price/earnings ratios below 16.
The media conglomerates -- Disney (Research), Time Warner (Research) and Viacom (Research) -- are all trading at a discount to the value of their assets. That value will presumably be realized at some point, but buyers will have to be patient.
Among other media stocks, Clear Channel Communications (Research) and Gannett (Research) are suffering from shifts in ad spending toward online media. Comcast (Research), however, is attractive as the leading play on cable television.
The most interesting stock in the group may be General Electric (Research), which is only partly a media company (through its NBC Universal division). GE is also a leader in a variety of other businesses from power plants to aircraft engines and health care. With a 2.9 percent yield and a P/E less than 18, GE looks like an opportunity.
The superstars of the late 1990s continue to languish. Cisco (Research), Dell and Microsoft once led the market, but are close to lows today. Yet all three are financially pristine, with little or no debt and buckets of cash on hand. Both Cisco and Dell (Research) are projected to grow earnings at an average rate of at least 15 percent over the next five years, while Microsoft (Research) remains the sector's 800-pound gorilla.
Before you add any of these stocks to your portfolio, you should investigate the specific company in greater detail and consider your overall asset mix. But for any investor looking to add fine companies for long-term growth, there's a lot to choose from as 2006 begins.
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