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 Nucor
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 Nucor.
|Factor||What We Want to See||Actual||Pass or Fail?|
|Growth||5-Year Annual Revenue Growth > 15%||4.5%||Fail|
|1-Year Revenue Growth > 12%||41.6%||Pass|
|Margins||Gross Margin > 35%||5.3%||Fail|
|Net Margin > 15%||0.8%||Fail|
|Balance Sheet||Debt to Equity < 50%||59.4%||Fail|
|Current Ratio > 1.3||3.90||Pass|
|Opportunities||Return on Equity > 15%||2.8%||Fail|
|Valuation||Normalized P/E < 20||89.98||Fail|
|Dividends||Current Yield > 2%||3.1%||Pass|
|5-Year Dividend Growth > 10%||36.9%||Pass|
|Total Score||4 out of 10|
Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard and Poor's. Total score = number of passes.
Nucor falls well short of perfection with a score of 4. The steel producer has seen a big rebound from the depths of the recession, but longer term its weak margins and low returns on equity counterbalance its strong dividend history.
Nucor has faced a tough environment for steel producers lately. U.S. Steel
But things are looking up for the company. Nucor has started construction on a new plant in Louisiana, and despite having a debt-to-equity ratio above 50%, the company has a much cleaner balance sheet than Steel Dynamics
As a cyclical stock dependent on strong economic activity, Nucor remains vulnerable to a potential double-dip or weaker-than-normal recovery. But for long-term investors, now may be the time when getting into Nucor makes the most sense.
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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