View From The Top Shelf

Sweet 16: Screening Results (March 2013)

This month features the top percentile of all stocks covered at MANIFEST on the basis of quality (our combination rating of financial strength, earnings stability and relative growth and profitability forecasts). It’s not the customary sixteen stocks or so … but these twelve quality champions are formidable and worthy of a closer look and automatic/perpetual pounce pile status.

Overall Market Expectations

The median projected annual return (MIPAR) for all 2400+ stocks followed by MANIFEST (Solomon database) is 7.2% (2/28/2013). The multi-decade range for this indicator is 0-20% and an average reading since 1999 is 8.5%.

Companies of Interest

With the median return forecast hovering at 7.2%, less than the historical average and nearing historical lows, it makes sense to shop on the top shelf. If prices continue to surge absent any strengthening of fundamentals, the return forecast could get significantly lower. The subtle whittling of expectations (no slashing) continues as we begin the first quarter updates for 2013. Invest in the best (highest quality) but only when they’re suitably on sale.

The top shelf company with the highest fusion rating (combination of fundamental and technical analysis scoring) is Cognizant Technology (CTSH). Cognizant is well-positioned within its industry with a strong track record and stands to benefit as the global recession turns to recovery.

Mesa Labs (MLAB) continues to score well and is one of our favorite companies from this year’s batch of promising small companies from Forbes.

The recent price swoon in Coach (COH) leaves the company with the lowest price-to-fair value ratio (76%) from Morningstar and Standard & Poor’s (83%) among the companies on the top shelf. The price reduction also generates an annualized low total return forecast of 16.4% at Value Line. There’s a rumor floating that somebody thinks all of the purses are a bit pricey … but those crowds of trampling shoppers and a legacy of results suggests that the whole company might be worth buying. I don’t think the price tag hanging on the company is $40-something.

Those return forecasts across the board look pretty good on the top shelf … not a bad idea to start there.

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