We asked 10 of our top analysts for one stock that looks especially compelling right now. Here are the companies they singled out.
Jim Gillies: Three things I want to see in a great retail stock: outstanding management, a repeatable business, and a timeless brand. Coach (NYSE:TPR) scores three for three. Long-term management, led by CEO Lew Frankfort has built a reputation for high quality and lifetime customer satisfaction, both of which lead to repeat purchases. For women's handbags, that can cost hundreds of dollars; this positively screams brand strength
Since its 2000 IPO, the stock has risen nearly twentyfold on the back of business execution that has delivered increasing profitability, strong returns on capital, cash generation, and successful business growth. The store base has grown nearly 10% annually. The dividend, introduced in 2009, has quadrupled since its debut (and will probably rise again in 2013). Strategic share repurchases have reduced the share count by more than 20% over the past half-decade. And Coach has done all this leverage-free, and boasts $936 million cash on the balance sheet.
Frankfort is stepping up to the Chairman's seat, with the architect of the company's successful foray into the Asian luxury goods market taking the CEO reins. While I believe this transition will prove seamless, concern over the move, plus the company's own admission that 2013 will be an "investment year" has spooked shareholders. That's put Coach in the bargain bin -- but don't expect it to stay there long. The stock today is worth at least $60, even assuming muted growth going forward. Continuing their long-demonstrated excellent performance could see the stock double over the next five years.
Taylor Muckerman: Adding valuable assets through acquisitions has become a competitive advantage for Kinder Morgan over the last couple of years. This strength has led to its midstream family compiling the largest pipeline system in North America. Why is this important? Because there remains a supreme shortage in the distribution network for the crude oil and natural gas that is currently pumping out of our ground at record levels.
That's why I am focusing on Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (NYSE: KMP), the Master Limited Partnership that resides under the KMI roof. Just like its parent, it recognizes that growing its asset base will be key in the coming years. Realizing this, it decided to acquire strategically located Copano Energy, a deal scheduled to close during the third quarter of this year and be immediately accretive.
Operating in multiple key areas of production -- most notably the Eagle Ford, Woodford, and Barnett shales -- Copano's natural gas gathering and processing assets position KMP to capitalize, once natural gas prices begin to rise, leading to an uptick in production. Until that time comes -- an inevitability in my opinion -- the company's steadily growing distributions should satisfy investors' appetites for immediate income.
Anders Bylund: Rackspace Hosting is an easy choice for new money in March.
I bought shares myself near the end of February. The cloud computing veteran is chock-full of future prospects, but the stock has been saddled recently with high prices. Irrational selling on the heels of a perfectly fine earnings report added serious value to Rackspace's 19% annual earnings growth and rock-solid balance sheet.
The OpenStack cloud computing platform has emerged as a serious selling point for Rackspace's services. Moreover, it positions the company as a major provider of software solutions and support services for other players in the online services sector.
Fellow Fool John Del Vecchio worries that Rackspace's big capital expenses would destroy any serious investing thesis, but I must respectfully disagree. The company is investing heavily into its infrastructure in order to support sustained order growth for the next decade-plus. It's exactly the right thing to do, and the payoff will start to materialize later this year.
And right now, you can buy into this exciting growth stock at a 20% short-term discount. What's not to love about that?
Rich Smith: United Technologies (NYSE:RTX) caught a lot of flak earlier this month, first, over reports that an engine blade produced for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter had developed a crack, and later, over the company's admission that one of its units (Carmel Forge, located in Israel), has been caught falsifying test results on the integrity of engine parts. Yet, UTC's share price keeps going up. Why?
Because headline risk notwithstanding, the stock's a bargain -- and a good stock to buy in March. The stock costs only 16.2 times earnings, and is even cheaper valued on free cash flow. UTC is pegged for 13.6% long-term growth, and pays a 2.4% dividend. It's just notched some significant sales in its Sikorsky segment, bolstering the case for sales growth, and is busily shedding underperforming divisions to focus on its most profitable businesses.
Fairly priced today, and improving profitability rapidly, United Technologies is one great stock to buy in March.
Jason Moser: While there are a number of alternative fuel options for transportation today, natural gas accounts for more than half of all alternative fuels consumed by alternative-fueled vehicles in fleets. And Clean Energy Fuels (NASDAQ:CLNE) is tapping into this market opportunity in a big way.
Given the glut of natural gas resources at home (it's estimated that we have more than 90 years' worth in the U.S. alone), Clean Energy Fuels has set its sights specifically on the trucking industry, with the construction of America's Natural Gas Highway (ANGH) as well as fleet vehicles across the country. ANGH is a network of more than 150 natural gas fueling stations that will accommodate the trucking industry from coast to coast. To put this into perspective, there are an estimated 3.2 million Class 8 trucks on the road today in the U.S., which consume approximately 20,000 gallons of fuel each year. And fleet vehicles from core markets like refuse, transit, and airports are converting to natural gas, as well. For example, Clean Energy Fuels now has 37 airport stations across the country with aggressive fleet expansion throughout, including a recently completed station at Hertz's LAX property.
Investors in Clean Energy Fuels today must be prepared to deal with losses over the next year or two as the buildout continues; however, once completed, the company will hold an enviable competitive advantage. With the committed leadership of co-founders T. Boone Pickens and CEO Andrew Littlefair, Clean Energy Fuels stands to add some serious gains to your portfolio -- naturally.
Tim Beyers: Every portfolio needs a battleground stock -- a company so loved, and so equally reviled, that imperfect pricing of the underlying business is bound to occur. You know the sorts of stocks I'm talking about: Apple, Sirius XM, and my pick for this month's must-own, Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA).
I'm in Austin, Texas for the annual South By Southwest Conference, in part, to hear CEO and co-founder Elon Musk talk up the merits of his electric car manufacturer in the wake of a mixed Q4 earnings report and a high-profile fight with The New York Times. Expect bearish investors to growl at whatever bold claims he makes from the floor.
You know what? It doesn't matter. The truth is, we don't know exactly how the Tesla story will end. What we do know is that Musk personally controls nearly 24% of Tesla's shares outstanding, which means he has a lot to lose if the company fails. We also know that production is ramping up to 500 cars per week from 400 just a few months ago, while the stock trades for a little more than twice expected 2013 revenue, which is on track to quadruple.
All that's keeping Tesla down is skepticism that an electric can take hold on a mass scale. Ford's five-fold increase in January hybrid sales -- a natural bridge between all-gas and all-electric -- suggests that these skeptics are well on their way to being proven wrong.
Dan Caplinger: March is setting up to be an interesting month for Silver Wheaton. As a silver-streaming company, Silver Wheaton doesn't mine precious metals but, rather, offers financing to mining companies in exchange for part of their production. Although the company has focused mostly on silver streams, late last month, Silver Wheaton completed a large gold-streaming deal with Brazil's Vale to provide $1.9 billion in cash to Vale in exchange for streams from Vale's Salobo mine in Brazil, as well as its Canadian Sudbury mines. As part of the terms of that deal, though, Silver Wheaton also issued warrants that allow Vale to buy 10 million Silver Wheaton shares at any time over the next 10 years for a price of $65 per share. With the stock currently trading at less than half that price, the deal indicates confidence both within Silver Wheaton and at Vale that the silver-streamer has plenty of upside potential. Watch for more news about the Vale agreement and other potential deals in the pipeline when Silver Wheaton reports its quarterly earnings on March 22.
Brian Orelli: Navidea Biopharmaceuticals looks like a good pickup in March, ahead of the Food and Drug Administration decision on the biotech's lymph node detection agent Lymphoseek. The FDA is expected to make a decision by April 30, 2013.
This isn't the first time Navidea has been in front of the firing squad. Last year, the FDA rejected Lymphoseek, but the issues seem to be limited to third-party manufacturing facilities rather than with the drug itself. Assuming Navidea's concluded correctly that its contractors have taken care of business, the diagnostic looks like it has an excellent shot at getting approved.
Despite the high likelihood of success, Navidea trades substantially below where it did before the last FDA decision. You're getting a more-likely approval for cheaper. Sounds like a good deal to me.
Investors should be careful though. If it runs up too much, I wouldn't be surprised to see the typical sell-the-launch mentality that's become rampant for small biotechs launching their first drug. Navidea could turn from a good buy in March to a good sell in April if its valuation gets out of hand.
Justin Loiseau: The world of utilities is changing fast, and NextEra Energy is ahead of the rest. As the largest producer of renewable energy in the United States, NextEra's energy portfolio has more diversity than any other major player.
Even as NextEra leads in innovation, its bottom line hasn't felt the squeeze. The company just beat analyst earnings estimates for Q4 2012, and its 22.9% operating margin is better than over 80% of its competitors.
Sales are slowing down for utilities, and picking progressive companies will pay off more than grabbing the biggest dividend. NextEra's below-average 3.7% yield won't win any favors with income investors, but its low payout ratio and steady cash flow should guarantee its sustainability, which is more than one can say for Atlantic Power's recently slashed 10% yield.
NextEra shares are up 24% in the past year, but the company's pricing is still reasonable if you consider the increasing importance of bottom line numbers. Give yourself a break from March Madness and electrify your earnings with NextEra today.
Matt DiLallo: As Americans, we want energy independence that doesn't cost us our beautiful environmental surroundings. We've discovered enough natural gas and oil trapped beneath our soil to give us hope that energy independence might one day be a reality. Unfortunately, it takes a whole lot of water to get it, which doesn't sit well with our environmental leanings.
That water, which is pumped down a well along with sand and chemicals, is a critical part of the fracking process we're using to unlock our vast energy potential. Let's just say that when the water returns to the surface, it's not fit for human consumption. Enter Heckmann, an environmental services company that's in the business of transporting, treating, and then recycling or properly disposing of all that frack water. While the company is growing rapidly by rolling up its competition, the market has all but disposed of its potential.
At issue, the market sees Heckman as a play on the growth of natural gas. What it's missing is that 70% of Heckmann's revenue is actually derived from liquids and oil-focused plays. It's also punishing Heckmann's growth-by-acquisition model, which has muddied its financials. However, when you clean out some of the mess, you'll see a company that's producing underlying earnings potential that will be realized as we keep on fracking. Right now, the market's judgment is clouded by these misconceptions, which allows investors buying today the opportunity to really clean up as Heckmann's market position and financial picture begin to clear up.