4 American Icons You Can Buy Today

Happy July 4! As you sit back in a lawn chair or turn on the grill, take a look at which companies have also attended your Independence Day celebration. Perhaps one or two of them will be portfolio winners.  

The Car
While only the second-largest automaker in the country, Ford (NYSE: F  ) represents the American auto industry in many ways. Since the days of Henry Ford and his revolutionary assembly line, the company has grown to become the 10th-ranked company in the 2011 Fortune 500 list. In one of the great turnaround stories of the recession, Ford CEO Alan Mulally steered the carmaker, which many had taken for dead, back to profitability. On Tuesday, the company announced that U.S. sales have exceeded expectations and increased 7% from last year, a promising sign for the recovering company.

Looking abroad, Ford's small European division has suffered less than General Motors' European unit, and Ford is poised for a rapid recovery. Ford has announced plans to continue its major investment -- $5 billion and counting -- in the Asia-Pacific and Africa regions. While growing investments and other costs are keeping profits low, rising sales should lead to future profitability as the company streamlines operations. Moreover, part of the automaker's successful recovery plan was to create a single, unified product line for worldwide distribution, which will keep costs lower in the future.

And as Ford partners with burgeoning rule breaker Westport Innovations (Nasdaq: WPRT  ) to offer a natural gas option on Ford's F-250 and F-350 pickup trucks, the automaker is looking forward to improve the sustainability of its products. This is one small demonstration of Ford's forward-looking nature and willingness to adapt.

The Beer
Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE: BUD  ) has taken off over the past few weeks. Up 30% on the year, the brewer most recently surged after it announced plans to buy out the remaining 50% stake in Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo that it didn't already own. Grupo Modelo produces the Corona and Modelo brands and controls a large swath of the Mexican beer market. After Belgian-Brazilian brewing company InBev acquired Anheuser-Busch in 2008, the joint company has continued to expand. Today, it is well positioned as the world's largest brewer, controlling nearly 25% of the world's beer market.

Anheuser-Busch has also occupied the rare position of a fast-growing stock that also sports a dividend -- in this case a 1.7% yield. However, it's questionable whether the share price can keep rising at its current clip, as the rise was mostly driven by the recent acquisition. With the company's price at an all-time high, be aware that Anheuser-Busch might not be worth the high valuation right now.

The Lawnmower
You probably mowed the lawn before the guests showed up today, and perhaps you got the job done with a classic ride-on mower from Deere (NYSE: DE  ) . However, the John Deere maker produces industrial-grade products as well and is the leading manufacturer of agricultural machinery in the world. In addition, this company has a sizable construction and forestry equipment division.

Deere has only limited exposure to the faltering European continent, with 60% of sales coming from the United States. The industrial company has a yield of 2.3%, a low P/E of 11.25, and a five-year earnings growth estimate that beats the broad market. As the world's population expands and moves into the middle class, more people will need more food, and Deere will be there, ready to harvest some profits.

As fellow Fool Rex Moore noted in an article on Tuesday, Deere's balance sheet is loaded with $1.1 billion of goodwill and other intangibles, a potential warning sign. While excessive intangible assets can lead to a plummeting share price if the assets don't amount to their stated value, Deere seems to be avoiding this risk. As the company continues to invest in U.S. manufacturing, expect this company to continue to grow and reward shareholders accordingly.

The Hamburger
Although plenty of us prefer it were not so, many people around the world associate the United States with the golden arches of McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) . The world's largest chain of fast-food restaurants serves 68 million customers every single day, spanning 119 countries. The company has suffered somewhat in 2012, declining 11.75% compared with the Dow's 5.86% gain. Much of the drop can be attributed to McDonald's heavy European presence, as European stores accounted for 38% of the company's operating income last year and same-store sales came in below expectations. Moreover, a strengthening dollar creates headwinds for the fast-food company internationally.

After being the best-performing stock on the Dow in 2011, the extension of the economic crisis to all corners of the globe has certainly slowed McDonald's rise. Still, I expect that the fast-food giant will continue to expand internationally, potentially offering investors future profits. As shares now trade below $90 after topping $100 in January, Fool Andrew Tonner recently decided to pick up some for his Real Money Portfolio. Moreover, with an ever-increasing yield of 3.2%, this looks like a solid value addition to any income investor's portfolio.

To stay up to date on your favorite companies, American classics or not, be sure to take advantage of the free My Watchlist feature:

Fool contributor Charlie Kannel owns no shares of the companies mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Westport Innovations, McDonald's, and Ford. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of McDonald's, Ford, and Westport Innovations and creating a synthetic long position in Ford Motor. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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