Buying and holding high-quality stocks is a fantastic way to predictably generate wealth over long periods of time. For investors looking for relative stability in the stock market, it pays to consider large-cap stocks -- that is, generally speaking, businesses with a market capitalization of at least $10 billion.
But not all large-cap stocks are created equal. So we asked three top Motley Fool contributors to each choose a large-cap stock they believe investors would do well to consider buying this month. Read on to learn why they chose McDonald's (MCD 0.09%), Dover (DOV -1.75%), and Microsoft (MSFT -0.39%).
Thriving in good markets and bad
Steve Symington (McDonald's): Even as the broader markets have stumbled amid rising trade tensions and macroeconomic concerns, McDonald's has rallied to fresh all-time highs as investors celebrate the fast-food giant's improved U.S. market results. To be sure, domestic comparable-store sales growth has accelerated to 4.5% to start 2019 (up from a stagnant 2% in recent quarters) as McDonald's enters the final year of its "Velocity Growth Plan," nicely complementing the 6% comps increase achieved by international locations and indicating that the ambitious three-year initiative is starting to yield fruit.
That's not to say McDonald's has an easy path to sustained profit growth going forward. The fast-food niche is exceptionally competitive, and food costs will almost certainly increase in the coming quarters thanks to an outbreak of African swine fever that industry experts predict will not only increase pork prices for at least two years as a direct consequence, but also bolster chicken and beef prices as the world supplements its appetite for protein.
Here again, however, McDonald's is well-versed when it comes to mitigating the impact of such events, however extreme: CEO Steve Easterbrook has already stepped out to say the outbreak "hurts McDonald's a little," but should be largely minimized by the company's "well-established supply chain and hedge" capabilities.
As other, less dominant restaurant chains suffer, I think McDonald's should be poised to continue outperforming.
An industrials player with a great dividend pedigree
Keith Noonan (Dover): With a market capitalization of roughly $13.5 billion, Dover is a company that sits toward the smaller end of the large-cap spectrum. It also tends not to grab headlines to the same extent than its more exciting large-cap peers do, but the industrial equipment company has an appealing returned-income profile and a sturdy business that make it a worthwhile candidate for investors seeking dependable performers.
The company's business revolves around products like pumps and fluid systems for gas refueling and other industrial uses, commercial refrigeration systems, and food services equipment. That might look a bit boring when compared against the more highly scalable businesses of some other prominent large caps. However, boring can be an attractive characteristic -- particularly with markets seeing volatility tied to the uncertain outlook on international trade.
Many of the product categories that Dover specializes in appear unlikely to see a rush of disruptive competitors, and management has said that the company is actually experiencing some positive sales trends stemming from recent tariffs levied against China. Then there's the dividend. Dover has delivered annual payout growth for 63 years running -- one of the best dividend-growth track records of any publicly traded company, and it's got a low payout ratio at just 46% of both trailing free cash flow and earnings. There's room for profits to keep climbing as well.
The company expects to end 2019 with adjusted earnings per share of roughly $5.75 at the midpoint of its target, representing year-over-year growth of roughly 16%. That target values the stock at roughly 16 times the year's expected earnings. When you factor in the company's solid 2% yield and stellar payout growth history, ongoing cost-reduction efforts, and further expansion potential through organic growth for its core industrial segments and new acquisitions, Dover stock looks to present solid value.
Bet on this tech titan
Chris Neiger (Microsoft): If you haven't taken a look at Microsoft lately, it's time to revisit the company. Microsoft has successfully transitioned from a Windows operating system and Office software company to a cloud computing juggernaut with impressive growth.
Take, for instance, the company's sales in its productivity and business processes segment (which includes its Office 365 products and LinkedIn sales) that grew more than 14% in third-quarter 2019. Sales in this segment were helped by the company's impressive Office 365 Commercial cloud revenue growth of 30% compared to the year-ago quarter.
But Microsoft's cloud strategy involves far more than just taking its Office software and putting it in the cloud. The company has also built the second-largest cloud computing platform, behind Amazon's Web Service (AWS), with its Azure product. Azure's sales have snowballed over the past few years, and in the most recent quarter they grew 73% year over year.
Microsoft's impressive moves in the cloud have helped the company grow overall sales and earnings as well. Revenue jumped 14% in the third quarter to $30.6 billion, and diluted earnings per share were $1.14, an increase of 20% from the year-ago quarter.
The cloud computing market will be worth $278 billion by 2021, up from $175 billion last year, which should allow Microsoft to benefit further as this market expands -- all of which means that investors looking for a fantastic large-cap stock should consider Microsoft right now.