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 Rockwell Automation
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 Rockwell Automation.
What We Want to See
Pass or Fail?
|Growth||5-year annual revenue growth > 15%||1.1%||Fail|
|1-year revenue growth > 12%||22.4%||Pass|
|Margins||Gross margin > 35%||39.8%||Pass|
|Net margin > 15%||10.4%||Fail|
|Balance sheet||Debt to equity < 50%||57.1%||Fail|
|Current ratio > 1.3||2.35||Pass|
|Opportunities||Return on equity > 15%||34.7%||Pass|
|Valuation||Normalized P/E < 20||33.33||Fail|
|Dividends||Current yield > 2%||1.5%||Fail|
|5-year dividend growth > 10%||8.8%||Fail|
|Total Score||4 out of 10|
Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. Total score = number of passes.
With just four points, Rockwell Automation falls well short of perfection. The industrial company suffered from slow growth during the recession but has seen business pick back up more recently.
Rockwell works with manufacturers to try to automate industrial processes to increase productivity. Having targeted several niches ranging from power and energy management to information solutions, the company is positioning itself toward the growth areas of the future.
But Rockwell isn't alone in its industry. It faces competition from huge players including ABB
The trade-off, though, is that Rockwell carries a premium valuation. That's consistent with the strong results and positive guidance that the company gave investors in its most recent earnings report. But for Rockwell to reach perfection, it will have to build on its recent successes with further sales growth and further improvement on the dividend front.
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.
Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. ABB is a Motley Fool Global Gains selection. Emerson Electric is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. 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.