Every investor would love to stumble upon the perfect stock. But will you ever really find a stock that provides everything you could possibly want?

One thing's for sure: You'll never discover truly great investments unless you actively look for them. Let's discuss the ideal qualities of a perfect stock, then decide if Emerson Electric (NYSE: EMR) fits the bill.

The quest for perfection
Stocks that look great based on one factor may prove horrible elsewhere, making due diligence a crucial part of your investing research. The best stocks excel in many different areas, including these important factors:

  • Growth. Expanding businesses show healthy revenue growth. While past growth is no guarantee that revenue will keep rising, it's certainly a better sign than a stagnant top line.
  • Margins. Higher sales mean nothing if a company can't produce profits from them. Strong margins ensure that company can turn revenue into profit.
  • Balance sheet. At debt-laden companies, banks and bondholders compete with shareholders for management's attention. Companies with strong balance sheets don't have to worry about the distraction of debt.
  • Money-making opportunities. Return on equity helps measure how well a company is finding opportunities to turn its resources into profitable business endeavors.
  • Valuation. You can't afford to pay too much for even the best companies. By using normalized figures, you can see how a stock's simple earnings multiple fits into a longer-term context.
  • Dividends. For tangible proof of profits, a check to shareholders every three months can't be beat. Companies with solid dividends and strong commitments to increasing payouts treat shareholders well.

With those factors in mind, let's take a closer look at Emerson Electric.


What We Want to See


Pass or Fail?

Growth 5-Year Annual Revenue Growth > 15% 3.2% Fail
  1-Year Revenue Growth > 12% 10.3% Fail
Margins Gross Margin > 35% 39.4% Pass
  Net Margin > 15% 9.9% Fail
Balance Sheet Debt to Equity < 50% 54.4% Fail
  Current Ratio > 1.3 1.39 Pass
Opportunities Return on Equity > 15% 23.2% Pass
Valuation Normalized P/E < 20 17.47 Pass
Dividends Current Yield > 2% 3.1% Pass
  5-Year Dividend Growth > 10% 9.1% Fail
  Total Score   5 out of 10

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Total score = number of passes.

Since we looked at Emerson Electric last year, the company has maintained its five-point score. The stock, however, has languished behind the overall market even in a fairly good environment for utility stocks generally.

Emerson makes technology that helps companies cut back on their power usage and boost their energy efficiency. Emerson has a number of high-profile companies on its customer list, including Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL). It also won a contract from Quanta Services (NYSE: PWR) to supply power inverters for a huge photovoltaic power generation facility in California. That project started generating power late last year for NRG Energy's (NYSE: NRG) solar division, which is handling commercial operations alongside partner Eurus Energy America.

Emerson had a tough quarter late last year, though. Flooding in Thailand disrupted its supply chain, forcing it to delay production of various types of electronics. That sent net income down 23%, and earnings missed expectations. Moreover, now that General Electric (NYSE: GE) has recovered from its finance-driven disaster during the financial crisis, it will be an increasingly tough competitor in the energy efficiency space.

Nevertheless, Emerson has a lot of promise, with a strong dividend yield and reasonable valuation. If energy prices stay high, then the services and products that Emerson provides will hold their value -- and the stock should rebound from its recent weakness.

Keep searching
No stock is a sure thing, but some stocks are a lot closer to perfect than others. By looking for the perfect stock, you'll go a long way toward improving your investing prowess and learning how to separate out the best investments from the rest.

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Click here to add Emerson Electric to My Watchlist, which can find all of our Foolish analysis on it and all your other stocks.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Emerson Electric and Apple, as well as creating a bull call spread position in Apple. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool has a disclosure policy.