The Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) hit more than 50 all-time record highs in 2013, pushing many of its components to very lofty valuations. But in some cases, the growth prospects behind those stocks makes even what seem to be premium prices justified. With that in mind, let's take a closer look at Visa (NYSE:V), Nike (NYSE:NKE), Boeing (NYSE:BA), and Home Depot (NYSE:HD) to see whether their shares are really overpriced or whether they have the growth potential that could make their shares look like bargains in hindsight.
Visa leads the Dow with a forward earnings multiple of 24.9, making it look pricey even despite its status as the leading card network in the world. But Visa has done a great job of maintaining high-paced growth, with a 27% average annual growth rate over the past five years and with analysts projecting 19% growth over the next five years. With many calling for the end of cash-based transactions as a needless waste in fees and theft, Visa is well-positioned to take advantage of the continuing trend toward electronic payments.
Nike's forward multiple of 24 makes puts it second on the Dow's list of high-priced stocks, but it too has been in the vanguard of the important high-growth area of athletic shoes and apparel. For decades, Nike has built an impressive world-renowned brand, with a stable of respected athletes providing endorsements and lending their names to high-value products that help drive demand across the globe. With the Brazilian World Cup acting as a global stage for the company, Nike hopes to build its soccer line over rival Adidas and increase its growth rates even further. Still, with analysts only expecting 12% growth for Nike in the next five years, the company needs to eke out every ounce of potential in order to justify its valuation.
Boeing carries a forward multiple of 19.7, which looks high compared with expected growth of around 11% in future years. But Boeing has been cashing in on huge aircraft orders, starting 2014 on the same foot in continuing its dominance of the skies as airlines remain hungry to replace their aging fleets with more fuel-efficient newer models. The big question facing Boeing is whether all these orders are merely accelerating demand that will lead to sluggish prospects in future years. For now, though, the company is doing everything it can simply to make good on its existing commitments, with backlogs that take years for the company to fill.
Home Depot's 19.2 forward multiple is fairly high as well, but analysts have higher expectations of its future growth rates, pegging them at around 17%. The long-dormant housing market is a big part of the reason behind the optimism about Home Depot, as the home-improvement retailer has managed to a good job of holding its own even before housing starting perking up again. If price increases persist, then it could unlock a new wave of pent-up demand for home improvement and renovation projects, giving Home Depot another leg up for its stock.
Don't stop thinking about value
Just because a stock has a high valuation doesn't mean it's not worth paying up for. Looking at the growth prospects for these companies, investing in high-multiple stocks could still turn out well for your portfolio in the long run.
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Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter: @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool recommends Home Depot, Nike, and Visa and owns shares of Nike and Visa. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't 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.