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3 Dow Stocks Begging to Be Bought in December

By Sean Williams – Dec 7, 2021 at 12:51AM

Key Points

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Growth, value, and income investors all have a stock that's ripe for the picking.

As you've probably noticed, volatility has picked up in a big way over the past two weeks. But don't let this distract from the fact that the iconic Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 1.26%) has had a stellar year. Through this past weekend, the price-weighted index comprised of 30 multinational companies was up about 13%.

But just because the Dow, as a whole, has done well in 2021, it doesn't mean bargains can't be found. At the moment, there are three Dow stocks absolutely begging to be bought by growth, value, or income investors in December.

An American flag draped over the New York Stock Exchange, with the Wall St. street sign in the foreground.

Image source: Getty Images.


For growth investors, there's little question that the Dow stock to back the truck up on in December is cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) solution provider (CRM 1.62%).

Like most growth stocks that have been valued at a premium, Salesforce took it on the chin following its fiscal third quarter 2022 operating results, which were released last week. Though Wall Street seemed pleased with the recently completed quarter, the company's sales guidance for fiscal 2023 was essentially in-line with expectations. Since Salesforce has a habit of upping its sales forecast, investors appear worried about a growth slowdown and/or higher near-term costs associated with the recently completed Slack Technologies acquisition.

While these might sound like tangible concerns, they're very short-sighted and don't affect the long-term growth trajectory for Salesforce.

CRM software is a sustainable double-digit growth opportunity through at least the midpoint of this decade, if not well beyond. CRM software, which helps consumer-facing businesses enhance existing client relationships and improve sales, is a no-brainer solution for most service industry companies, but is quickly gaining utility in the financial, healthcare, and industrial sectors.

Salesforce sits on a pedestal within the CRM software space, and no other company even comes close. When IDC examined global CRM spending for 2020, it found that Salesforce accounted for 19.5% of worldwide revenue. That's more than the four closest competitors behind it on a combined basis. This suggests the company isn't going to lose its competitive edge anytime soon.

Growth investors will also appreciate CEO Marc Benioff's penchant for acquisitions. Key buyouts, such as MuleSoft, Tableau, and Slack, have expanded the usefulness of the Salesforce ecosystem, allowed the company to cross-sell its solutions on diverse platforms, and helped it reach a wider array of small-and-medium-sized businesses.

With Benioff expecting full-year sales to grow from $21.3 billion to at least $50 billion in a five-year stretch, any significant pullback in Salesforce's shares represents a surefire buying opportunity.

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Image source: Getty Images.


Value investors, this one's for you! Following a nearly 20% sell-off over the past month, shares of pharmaceutical stock Merck (MRK 0.44%) are now begging to be bought.

"Why the sell-off?" you ask? The answer probably has to do with the early November-released trial results of Pfizer's (PFE 1.04%) COVID-19 oral antiviral treatment. Based on an interim analysis of a phase 2/3 trial, this oral treatment reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% in non-hospitalized adult patients with COVID-19. Meanwhile, Merck's oral COVID-19 pill reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by approximately 50% in COVID-19 patients.  Though these treatments weren't pitted head-to-head, the nominal efficacy award looks to go to Pfizer -- at least based on how investors have reacted since the data release.

But here's the thing: Merck was worth buying well before it delivered encouraging phase 3 results from its oral antiviral study in COVID-19 patients. In fact, COVID-19 treatments don't even need to play a role for Merck to head higher, in my opinion.

The front-and-center reason to be excited about Merck's future is cancer immunotherapy Keytruda. Based on the $4.53 billion in sales generated from Keytruda in the third quarter, it's on pace for more than $18 billion in annual run-rate revenue. If we exclude COVID-19 vaccines, this would make it the second best-selling drug in the world, behind only anti-inflammatory drug Humira. Keytruda is being examined in a number of additional trials (mostly as a combination treatment), which could further expand its label and make it the top-selling non-vaccine drug in the world.

The other exciting growth trend Merck offers is its animal health division. Its focus on both livestock and companion animals has yielded consistent double-digit sales growth. But between the two, companion animals, such as cats and dogs, offer more upside. Year-over-year spending on pets in the U.S. hasn't declined in over a quarter of a century, and pet owners have shown they'll spend whatever is necessary to ensure the well-being of their furry family members.

Following its recent tumble, Merck shares are now valued at a multiple of just 10 times Wall Street's forecasted earnings per share in 2022. That's a bargain for a company delivering steady sales growth.

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Image source: Getty Images.


Finally, for income investors, the third Dow stock begging to be bought in December is telecom behemoth Verizon (VZ 0.59%). Shares are down a hair over 10% in the trailing six-month period.

There look to be two reasons why Verizon is down on its luck in recent months. First, investors have predominantly favored growth stocks over mature income plays. And second, Verizon has had to spend big on spectrum and infrastructure upgrades, which means it's carrying around quite a bit of debt. This debt could be keeping some investors on the sideline.

But similar to Salesforce, the worries surrounding Verizon look to be either overblown or short-term in nature. The company has generated over $40 billion in operating cash flow over the trailing 12 months, and its dividend payout ratio is below 50%. Based on its balance sheet, Verizon's 5% yield is sustainable and its debt servicing is manageable.

Despite being a mature business, Verizon has two organic growth catalysts that could fuel modest upside through mid-decade. First, there's the ongoing rollout of 5G wireless infrastructure. It's been a decade since wireless download speeds were meaningfully improved. The rollout of 5G should lead to a multiyear device upgrade cycle with a steady increase in data consumption. Since data is where Verizon derives its juiciest wireless margins, 5G infrastructure investments should begin paying off handsomely very soon.

The other key growth driver for Verizon is in-home fixed wireless broadband services. Verizon has been an aggressive acquirer of 5G mid-band spectrum in 2021. The expectation is that Verizon can double the number of households it's servicing with fixed wireless broadband services from 15 million in 2021 to 30 million by the end of 2023. 

Verizon may not be the growth story it once was, but a 5% dividend yield and price-to-earnings ratio of a little over nine make it ripe for the picking.

Sean Williams has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends The Motley Fool recommends Verizon Communications. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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