Fed Says U.S. Growing Moderately: 10 Stocks That May Benefit

The Federal Reserve's Tuesday afternoon announcement highlighted the U.S. economy's exposure to financial troubles abroad while citing signs of moderate growth within the U.S.

"Federal Reserve policy makers said the U.S. economy is maintaining its expansion even as the global economy slows, while refraining from taking new actions to lower borrowing costs," reports Bloomberg.

According to the Fed, issues pertaining to the unemployment rate "remain elevated" and debate exists on how to approach it. Similarly, interest rates, inflation and bond purchases bear addressing.

But don't hold your breath, members of the Fed are at ends of how to address these issues. More importantly, "any additional stimulus is greatly going to depend on what happens in Europe or any changes in the U.S. outlook," said John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC. "They will wait for a longer meeting, maybe in January, to come up with anything regarding communications."

The Fed said it expects inflation to settle at levels at or below those consistent with its price stability mandate. The Fed also noted it would keep its Fed funds target rate at low levels "at least through mid-2013."

Stocks dipped after the Fed's statement, and the dollar rose against the Euro.

Investing ideas
In short, the Fed has taken no action, nor indicated strong intentions to make decisions in the future.

The key takeaway was that the U.S.' greatest risk comes from troubles in Europe. Investors are sure to keep their eyes on the headline.

Think things might improve?

If so, you may be curious what companies could benefit most from increased growth in the U.S. For ideas, we took a look at large-cap companies (market caps above $10 billion) on the S&P 500 index. We screened the names for those with the highest levels of profitability compared to their industry peers based on pre-tax, operating and gross margins.

Do you think these companies are operating well enough to benefit from a U.S. rally?

List sorted by greatest difference in gross margin. (Click here to access free, interactive tools to analyze these ideas.)

1. Prudential Financial (NYSE: PRU  ) : Prudential Financial,, through its subsidiaries, offers various financial products and services in the United States, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Market cap of $22.55B. TTM gross margin at 26.76% vs. industry gross margin at 14.22%. TTM operating margin at 12% vs. industry operating margin at 11.36%. TTM pre-tax margin at 10.09% vs. industry pre-tax margin at 10.07%.

2. Paychex (Nasdaq: PAYX  ) : Provides payroll, human resource, and benefits outsourcing solutions for small-to medium-sized businesses in the United States and Germany. Market cap of $10.69B. TTM gross margin at 73.30% vs. industry gross margin at 48.42%. TTM operating margin at 38.29% vs. industry operating margin at 26.59%. TTM pre-tax margin at 38.57% vs. industry pre-tax margin at 26.60%.

3. Monsanto (NYSE: MON  ) : Provides agricultural products for farmers in the United States and internationally. Market cap of $36.43B. TTM gross margin at 56.62% vs. industry gross margin at 37.60%. TTM operating margin at 21.19% vs. industry operating margin at 17.40%. TTM pre-tax margin at 20.08% vs. industry pre-tax margin at 16.40%.

4. Aon Corporation (NYSE: AON  ) : Provides risk management, insurance and reinsurance brokerage, and human resource consulting and outsourcing services in the United States and internationally. Market cap of $14.39B. TTM gross margin at 21.02% vs. industry gross margin at 14.22%. TTM operating margin at 16% vs. industry operating margin at 11.36%. TTM pre-tax margin at 12.14% vs. industry pre-tax margin at 10.07%.

5. The McGraw-Hill Companies (NYSE: MHP  ) : Provides various information services for financial, educational, and business information markets worldwide. Market cap of $12.48B. TTM gross margin at 61.84% vs. industry gross margin at 42.14%. TTM operating margin at 23.45% vs. industry operating margin at 18.51%. TTM pre-tax margin at 22.02% vs. industry pre-tax margin at 14.26%.

6. Fastenal (Nasdaq: FAST  ) : The Company Is Engaged As A Wholesaler And Retailer Of Industrial And Construction Supplies. Market cap of $11.92B. TTM gross margin at 53.68% vs. industry gross margin at 37.72%. TTM operating margin at 20.47% vs. industry operating margin at 13.52%. TTM pre-tax margin at 20.49% vs. industry pre-tax margin at 12.88%.

7. The Chubb Corporation (NYSE: CB  ) : Provides property and casualty insurance to businesses and individuals. Market cap of $18.64B. TTM gross margin at 20.15% vs. industry gross margin at 14.22%. TTM operating margin at 18.01% vs. industry operating margin at 11.36%. TTM pre-tax margin at 18.01% vs. industry pre-tax margin at 10.07%.

8. AutoZone (NYSE: AZO  ) : Operates as a specialty retailer and distributor of automotive replacement parts and accessories. Market cap of $12.82B. TTM gross margin at 53.57% vs. industry gross margin at 37.90%. TTM operating margin at 18.64% vs. industry operating margin at 10%. TTM pre-tax margin at 16.54% vs. industry pre-tax margin at 9.33%.

9. Aetna (NYSE: AET  ) : Operates as a diversified health care benefits company in the United States. Market cap of $14.35B. TTM gross margin at 29.65% vs. industry gross margin at 21.03%. TTM operating margin at 9.68% vs. industry operating margin at 8.43%. TTM pre-tax margin at 8.25% vs. industry pre-tax margin at 6.79%.

10. Hershey (NYSE: HSY  ) : Engages in manufacturing, marketing, selling, and distributing various chocolate and confectionery products, pantry items, and gum and mint refreshment products worldwide. Market cap of $13.23B. TTM gross margin at 46.01% vs. industry gross margin at 33.20%. TTM operating margin at 17.78% vs. industry operating margin at 12.09%. TTM pre-tax margin at 15.93% vs. industry pre-tax margin at 9.53%.

Interactive Chart: Press Play to compare changes in analyst ratings over the last two years for the stocks mentioned above. Analyst ratings sourced from Zacks Investment Research.


Kapitall's Rebecca Lipman does not own any of the shares mentioned above. Profitability data sourced from Fidelity.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Aon. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Paychex and Aon. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a synthetic long position in Monsanto. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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