This coming week, investors will start focusing on earnings as companies begin reporting their results for the third quarter. After years of solid growth, expectations are low this time around, as tough year-over-year comparisons at many companies are seen holding overall earnings growth in check.
But if you only focus on a single quarter's results, you can end up making the wrong investment decisions about a stock, especially if it's poised to recover strongly in the future. So to avoid any short-term mistakes, let's look at the 30 stocks in the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) to pick out the companies that are best positioned for strong growth not necessarily for the coming quarter but rather throughout 2013.
A tale of two recoveries
When you sort the Dow 30 by expected earnings growth from 2012 and 2013, you can see two distinct groups of companies emerge. Some of the companies expected to see earnings rebound next year are those that have had the most trouble bouncing back from the recession and the Panic of 2008, and because of that laggard performance, the success they're finding now is amplified on a percentage basis as earnings start to rise more substantially. But other companies on the list hit the ground running as soon as the recession ended and have seen their growth accelerate over time. From an investment standpoint, both groups present interesting opportunities, but you might never think of them as being similar if you didn't look at them from precisely this angle.
Clearly belonging to the first camp is Bank of America (NYSE:BAC). The stock has already had a stellar 2012, with its stock soaring more than 50% as the banking giant stabilizes after its near-brush with disaster during the financial crisis. B of A has taken plenty of steps to try to boost earnings, including its sale of inefficient non-core assets as well as implementing an expense-cutting program that could save the company $8 billion annually. Given macroeconomic threats around the world, B of A isn't out of the woods yet, but the bank could well double its earnings per share in 2013 while still retaining room for long-term growth.
Alcoa (NYSE:AA) is another down-and-out stock with growth potential. After having seen Alcoa get beaten down this year, analysts are hoping for the aluminum giant to triple its earnings next year. But that would merely return the company to 2011 earnings levels. Moreover, fundamental conditions in the industry remain weak, which could leave investors waiting longer for Alcoa to reach its full potential.
More exciting, though, are Boeing (NYSE:BA) and United Technologies (NYSE:UTX), both of which are profiting from an increase in industrial activity generally and the aerospace industry in particular. Boeing has enjoyed nearly unprecedented volumes of new orders recently, setting the stage for tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue coming into the aircraft maker's coffers over the next decade. But the challenge Boeing faces is making good on its delivery commitments, as unexpected problems and delays have forced the company to push back its schedules in the past. Still, even though much of the actual financial impact of big plane orders will take years to show up in financial statements, analysts expect a 19% jump in earnings per share for Boeing next year.
The trends in aerospace also play a key role for United Tech going forward. With its recent acquisition of Goodrich, the conglomerate hopes to supply aircraft landing gear to manufacturers around the world. So as long as Boeing, Airbus, and other airplane manufacturers continue to enjoy the success they've had, United Tech could ride on their coattails and generate the 17% gain in earnings per share for 2013 that analysts expect the company to produce.
Go for growth
After a year that has seen far more optimism than many people expected, 2013 is shaping up to be a make-or-break year for many companies. Watching where the growth will be next year can point you in the right direction for interesting investment opportunities.
Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on Twitter, @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't 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.