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LONDON -- Shopping for shares isn't easy; there's so much on offer these days! I feel spoiled for choice. Here are five stocks I've added to my basket lately, but should I take any of them to the checkout?
Make mine a BLT!
Where monetary policy goes, so go mining stocks. Commodity prices soared at the end of last year, after European Central Bank chairman Mario Draghi launched his long-term financing operation in a bid to avert a eurozone meltdown, before sinking in the spring. Draghi worked his magic again on miners in the summer when he promised to "do whatever it takes" to save the euro, helped by the Federal Reserve pulling QE3 out of a hat. Can the major miners dig out some decent growth without central banker stimulus? When I recently asked whether I should buy BHP Billiton (LSE: BLT.L ) , I decided I wasn't man enough right now. With Chinese GDP growth shrinking to 7.4% a year, I'm not feeling any tougher.
I also asked if should I buy SSE (LSE: SSE.L). The time to do that was at the start of the year, when it was on sale around 12 pounds. Now you have to pay around 14.60 pounds, over 20% more. Investors are switching onto the utility company's sparky 5.6% yield. Better still, SSE is targeting inflation-busting dividend increases in the years to come. I thought it looked pricey a week or two ago, but, like our utility bills, that hasn't stopped it getting even pricier. Below the line, many Fools were skeptical about SSE. Jongleur100 put the downside succinctly: "Energy as political football, electoral expediency and constantly shifting macro-economics of oil-gas-nuclear. Very attractive yield, yes, but can it be sustained?"
Growing market share, successful brand building, and five years of rising profits, sales and dividends. Who wouldn't want to stock up on Unilever (LSE: ULVR.L)? This household goods giant, whose brands include Ben & Jerry's, Persil, and Dove soap, is mopping up in emerging markets such as China and Eastern Europe. Unilever scrubs up nicely, especially with a tasty 4% yield, but it does suffer from one indelible stain. Most of the good news is in the price, with the stock trading on a price-to-earnings ratio of nearly 18 times earnings. This is why savvy investors love it when stock markets crash: It gives them the chance to buy great companies like Unilever on the cheap. If we're due some turbulence, Unilever will top my shopping list.
Nobody likes being called silly, especially when it's true. I sold Lloyds Banking Group (LSE: LLOY.L ) for 26 pence at the start of the year, then watched in agony as its share price rose to 41 pence. Fool.co.uk user cairey01 rightly claimed I was "silly to sell early," arguing that "Lloyds could be one of those shares that just steadily creep up." Frankly, I agree. So, should I buy Lloyds now? Well, I'm wary of getting sucked into the stock today, given that it has risen 50% since July. As events in Spain intensify, there may be a better buying opportunity ahead. Or maybe I'm just being silly.
When I asked if should I buy AstraZeneca (LSE: AZN..L), I could only find one positive reason: its healthy 6.1% dividend. But wiser men than this Fool think differently. Legendary income fund manager Neil Woodford holds it in high esteem, as several Fools noted below the line. What does he know that we don't? Despite his recommendation, I'm still not buying, though. AstraZeneca has a long way to go to convince the market it has a rosy future.
Eight more ideas
So which other stocks is Woodford investing in? You can find out by downloading our free, in-depth report, "Eight Top Blue Chips Held by Britain's Super Investor."
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