The stock market, as measured by the S&P 500 index, logged a new high on Friday, and six of my stock holdings went along for the ride. I occasionally enjoy marking new highs with a little haiku -- or "high-ku." Here are six attempts at putting the "amuse" in "To Educate, Amuse and Enrich."
RPM International (NYSE: RPM )
Caulk, paint, and flooring.
Forty straight dividend hikes;
RPM may not be a household name, but several of its brands, like Rustoleum paints and DAP caulks, are likely to be found in most homes. However, most of the sales -- about 62% last quarter -- are industrial, with the remainder coming from consumer products. Sales are geographically diverse, with 41% of fiscal 2013 revenue coming from outside the U.S. RPM recently logged its 40th consecutive dividend hike. For all the positives, the price is a little steep at nearly 30 times earnings.
Becton, Dickinson (NYSE: BDX )
Nothing in the news.
Looks fairly valued.
Becton makes medical supplies, devices, laboratory equipment, and diagnostic products. I like that many of its products are disposable, meaning there's a steady demand. Becton has a nearly recession-proof business model and good dividend; it's likely to underperform a bull market but hold up pretty well if a bear comes out of hibernation. At 1.9%, the dividend won't send hearts racing, but if the long track record holds, shareholders should get a raise in November. The stock trades at a below-market P/E ratio, partly because the new medical-device tax in the Affordable Care Act is expected to nick earnings.
General Electric (NYSE: GE )
Profit's down, stock's up.
CEO sees earnings growth,
GE was in big trouble during the financial crisis. The dividend was slashed, and the company scrambled to raise cash. Over the past few years, things have been improving. The dividend is back and growing, the financial business is being scaled back, and the latest quarterly earnings statement reported a record backlog. GE's diversified business model, order backlog, de-emphasis of the financial business, and nice dividend yield are attractive, and I think the stock deserves to trade at a premium to the market.
Graham (NYSE: GHM )
Reports this Friday.
Graham manufactures vacuum systems and heat transfer equipment used in petrochemicals, refining, alternative energy, power plants, and process industries. Nearly half its revenue comes from outside the U.S. Balance sheets don't come much stronger than this one -- $193 thousand in debt and $53 million, or $5.30 a share, in cash. About the only knock is the stock's high valuation of 30 times last year's earnings. The company reports on Friday, for those who'd like to learn more.
NN (NASDAQ: NNBR )
A small-cap industrial,
Just rolling along.
NN manufactures bearing components, plastic parts, and precision metal parts for the automotive, drilling, and other industrial industries. Last fiscal year, sales were split nearly evenly between domestic and foreign. After running into trouble during the financial crisis, the company has paid down debt and restored its dividend earlier this year. A business that's growing as the economy picks up, global market exposure, and a reasonable valuation are the positives. Risks include a new CEO and a business model that's tightly tied to the economic cycle.
TAL (NYSE: TAL )
Lease boxes, pay shareholders
If trade grows, it grows.
TAL is in the business of leasing shipping containers. The company sports a 5%-plus yield and has been steadily cranking up the payout every quarter for the last three years. The bull case is a high, growing dividend at a reasonable price and the fact that an improving economy -- even a sluggish one -- should be good for trade and demand for shipping containers. The bear case is lots of debt.
Short story made shorter
These six companies are diversified across market capitalization: There are two each of large caps, midcaps, and small caps. The small-cap Russell 2000 index and large-cap S&P 100 index also hit new 52-week highs on Friday, which indicates that stocks across the market cap spectrum joined the party.
Five of the six companies are levered to economic activity, such as construction, manufacturing, energy, or trade. Becton, a health care company, is the only one of the six that isn't in an economically sensitive sector.
Even after hitting new highs, four of the six still trade below the S&P 500's trailing price-to-earnings ratio as shown below.
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