Large-cap stocks may lack the excitement of their smaller brethren, but they can still make for some of the best investments. That's particularly true if you identify top companies with strong competitive advantages, solid long-term prospects to continue growing, and great management -- and make sure they can be bought at a reasonable price.
As a matter of fact, three Motley Fool contributors recently identified three large-cap stocks they think are worth buying right now: Boeing Co. (NYSE:BA), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), and Nucor Corporation (NYSE:NUE). These are three of the most dominant companies in their industries, enjoying benefits of scale, technological know-how, and strong balance sheets under the control of top-notch management.
Best of all, there is a clear path forward for years of earnings growth, despite their already dominant size, and you don't have to pay a big premium, either. Boeing trades for a reasonable valuation, and there's an argument that Verizon and Nucor are downright cheap today. Keep reading for more insight on these three "buy now" large-cap stocks. One could be perfect for your portfolio.
Still flying high
Daniel Miller (Boeing Co.): Investors that missed Boeing's 227% rise over the past five years are probably wondering if they've missed their buying opportunity.
Despite Boeing's recent rise in share price, there are still plenty of factors that bode well for the company and its investors going forward. One factor is Boeing's improving commercial airplanes segment operating margin, which jumped to 11.4%, compared to the prior year's second-quarter 9%. The driving force behind that improvement was the 787 Dreamliner's increased profitability. Boeing's Dreamliner program should receive another boost as it moves from producing 12 planes per month during 2018 to 14 per month in 2019.
That leads us into another positive factor for long-term investors: Boeing's backlog. The 787 Dreamliner alone added 59 orders during the second quarter and has a total of 650 in the backlog, worth roughly four years of deliveries at 14 per month. Furthermore, Boeing's total order backlog sits at a staggering $488 billion in value, or roughly five years' worth of revenue.
While Boeing is dealing with a constant risk of trade war, it otherwise looks well-positioned to reward shareholders as management anticipates a need for 41,030 global commercial aircraft valued at roughly $6.1 trillion over the next two decades. If the company can keep improving its commercial airplane operating margin, finally get past nagging charges from its KC-46 program, and continue increasing its dividend for shareholders, there's still plenty to like about owning Boeing.
A dividend stock you can rely on
Travis Hoium (Verizon Communication Inc.): One great thing about investing in large-cap stocks is that they can dominate large, profitable, mature markets that aren't likely to be disrupted anytime soon. One such market is wireless communications, where Verizon Communications is the U.S. leader in both size and profitability. The company is part of an oligopoly in U.S. wireless, which consolidates power among four major carriers that have little incentive to compete too hard against one another. Verizon's position as a premium supplier in the oligopoly allows it to leverage its national network to attract and keep customers who value fast wireless speed and a large network.
What I like about Verizon today isn't just its legacy business -- it's the growth potential of the 5G network that's being built today. 5G wireless speeds are 10 to 100 times faster than 4G networks and will enable new technologies like self-driving cars, smart cities, and connected virtual reality devices. Even before 5G hits smartphones, it will also allow Verizon to enter the home wireless market with 5G routers, replacing cable, DSL, and fiber competitors. Later this year, Verizon expects to launch a home 5G router that will allow homeowners to cut the cord for their home internet and get world-class speed. These new offerings should lead to a new phase of growth for the company.
Shares of Verizon trade at just 11.4 times forward earnings estimates and carry a 4.5% dividend yield, both great values for investors. If the 5G market grows to more than a handful of early markets in 2019, we could see this large-cap stock be a growth stock once again and that's why I think it's a great buy today.
The best steelmaker keeps getting better
Jason Hall (Nucor Corporation): The U.S. steel industry is certainly winning right now as tariffs drive imports down and prices up. Nucor, America's biggest and best-run steelmaker, should continue to lead the way, too.
The company crushed it last quarter, delivering one of its best quarterly financial performances ever, beating management's own guidance by a fair margin and setting expectations that business is on track to remain very good in the near term. On the earnings call, CEO John Ferriola said that steel imports fell 7% in the first half of the year, and with more tariffs kicking in to start the second half, the trend should continue as foreign steel that's been propped up by illegal subsidies in its nation of origin are pushed out of the market.
So long as demand for steel remains strong -- something that bears watching under higher prices -- Nucor will benefit from both higher prices, and increased capacity utilization at its facilities, and that could send profits up even higher in the quarters to come.
At the same time, management continues to invest in growth, recently announcing multiple new projects that add more capacity and new capabilities at some of its steelmaking facilities. If Nucor can keep up the momentum, today's price looks attractive. Shares trade for 12.3 times trailing earnings, and if demand remains strong and pricing holds steady, those profits are on track to be much bigger a few years from now.