Now more than ever, a comfortable retirement depends on secure, stable investments. Unfortunately, the right stocks for retirement won't just fall into your lap. In this series, I look at 10 measures to show what makes a great retirement-oriented stock.
Corning (NYSE: GLW ) has a long tradition of making glass products of all sorts. Yet what Corning is most famous for now is its use of glass-making knowledge to bring advances in technology, ranging from optical networks that carry huge amounts of data to durable displays for TVs as well as smartphones and other mobile devices. With such a big shift, can Corning keep up the pace and capitalize on its success? Below, we'll revisit how Corning does on our 10-point scale.
The right stocks for retirees
With decades to go before you need to tap your investments, you can take greater risks, weighing the chance of big losses against the potential for mind-blowing returns. But as retirement approaches, you no longer have the luxury of waiting out a downturn.
Sure, you still want good returns, but you also need to manage your risk and protect yourself against bear markets, which can maul your finances at the worst possible time. The right stocks combine both of these elements in a single investment.
When scrutinizing a stock, retirees should look for:
- Size. Most retirees would rather not take a flyer on unproven businesses. Bigger companies may lack their smaller counterparts' growth potential, but they do offer greater security.
- Consistency. While many investors look for fast-growing companies, conservative investors want to see steady, consistent gains in revenue, free cash flow, and other key metrics. Slow growth won't make headlines, but it will help prevent the kind of ugly surprises that suddenly torpedo a stock's share price.
- Stock stability. Conservative retirement investors prefer investments that move less dramatically than typical stocks, and they particularly want to avoid big losses. These investments will give up some gains during bull markets, but they won't fall as far or as fast during bear markets. Beta measures volatility, but we also want a track record of solid performance as well.
- Valuation. No one can afford to pay too much for a stock, even if its prospects are good. Using normalized earnings multiples helps smooth out one-time effects, giving you a longer-term context.
- Dividends. Most of all, retirees look for stocks that can provide income through dividends. Retirees want healthy payouts now and consistent dividend growth over time -- as long as it doesn't jeopardize the company's financial health.
With those factors in mind, let's take a closer look at Corning.
What We Want to See
Pass or Fail?
|Size||Market cap > $10 billion||$18.7 billion||Pass|
|Consistency||Revenue growth > 0% in at least four of five past years||4 years||Pass|
|Free cash flow growth > 0% in at least four of past five years||3 years||Fail|
|Stock stability||Beta < 0.9||1.40||Fail|
|Worst loss in past five years no greater than 20%||(59.8%)||Fail|
|Valuation||Normalized P/E < 18||10.17||Pass|
|Dividends||Current yield > 2%||2.4%||Pass|
|5-year dividend growth > 10%||8.4%||Fail|
|Streak of dividend increases >= 10 years||1 year||Fail|
|Payout ratio < 75%||15.4%||Pass|
|Total score||5 out of 10|
Source: S&P Capital IQ. Total score = number of passes.
Since we looked at Corning last year, the company has kept its five-point score. But the stock has lost almost a quarter of its value over the past year as concerns about slowdowns in Asia and Europe have investors increasingly jumpy.
Corning has its hands in many industries. Although displays and telecommunication applications make up the majority of its revenue, it also produces specialty materials and has divisions focusing on environmental technologies and life sciences.
With the smartphone revolution at full strength, Corning's Gorilla Glass is an important part of the company's growth. With Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) , Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) , and Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Motorola Mobility division among its big customers, Corning has tied its wagon to some pretty fast horses.
Unfortunately, Corning's bread-and-butter display business has held it back. In the first quarter, net income fell 38% because margins on displays were lower. With Sony (NYSE: SNE ) and other display makers struggling, Corning needs a different growth driver to sustain its forward momentum.
For retirees and other conservative investors, a recent dividend increase is a nice thing to see from Corning. But with plenty of uncertainty about whether future growth will materialize, you may prefer to wait and see what Corning does next before adding it to your retirement portfolio.
Finding exactly the right stock to retire with is a tough task, but it's not impossible. Searching for the best candidates will help improve your investing skills, and teach you how to separate the right stocks from the risky ones.
If you really want to retire rich, no one stock will get the job done. Instead, you need to know how to prepare for your golden years. The Motley Fool's latest special report will give you all the details you need to get a smart investing plan going, plus it reveals three smart stocks for a rich retirement. But don't waste another minute -- click here and read it today.
Also, with Corning looking to Apple for success, you may want to learn about that company as well. Get the latest on the iDevice giant in the Fool's premium report on Apple.
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