The stock market has gotten off to a rather volatile start in 2015, leading many to believe that this aging bull market might finally be coming to an end.
As a long-term-oriented investor, though, I personally don't worry about the market's moody behavior. Instead, I look for certain qualities in stocks that should produce market-beating returns over lengthy periods of time (10 years or more). At the top of this list, I tend to find that decent dividend yields, stable cash flows, and top-notch management can see a company and its stock through even the worst markets.
AbbVie (NYSE:ABBV), Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN), and Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) are three stocks that possess these qualities in spades, making them some of my favorite large cap picks for 2015. With this in mind, let's take a deeper look at these three top healthcare names.
AbbVie has a lot to offer investors in 2015
It's not often that a company announces that earnings per share should grow by more than 30% during the year and the result is a subsequent drop in share price. But that's precisely what's happened to AbbVie.
After giving a rather strong outlook for 2015, AbbVie's shares have fallen close to 4%. Even so, I see this pullback as a buying opportunity for savvy investors.
On the face of it, this drop in share price is occurring because the Street was actually expecting even stronger guidance, mainly because of AbbVie's multiyear deal with Express Scripts for its new hepatitis C therapy Viekira Pak.
A 30% growth rate is nothing to sneeze at, though. And AbbVie's shares look cheap in the wake of this guidance, with a forward price-to-earnings ratio of roughly 14.
This astounding growth should also keep the company flush with cash, which management has used to handsomely reward shareholders via dividend increases. Indeed, management kicked off 2015 by increasing the dividend by 17%, from $0.42 to $0.49 per share. With more free cash coming down the pike, I fully expect another dividend increase before year's end.
The upside surprise shareholders should look for this year is a key acquisition that puts AbbVie on the growth path past Humira's looming patent expiration. Management has proven adept at sidestepping potential landmines, and the time seems right to deal with this overhanging issue.
Amgen's growth engine is kicking into high gear
Amgen seemingly fell into a coma between 2000 and 2011 growth-wise, failing to do much in terms of growing its top-line. But that's about to change in a huge way.
This year, the biotech giant is expected to report late-stage trial data or file regulatory submissions for a whopping 10 clinical candidates (see below). The most anticipated experimental drug of the bunch, though, is the PCSK9 inhibitor Evolocumab, a potent new type of treatment for bad cholesterol that has megablockbuster potential.
These newer drugs, in conjunction with Amgen's existing products, are projected to grow EPS by a whopping 20% in 2015, and by double-digits, on average, for the next five years.
In anticipation of this nice boost in earnings, management has already upped the dividend for 2015 by 30% to 0.79 a share. And like AbbVie, I think another dividend increase is more than likely this year, giving investors ample reasons to dig deeper into this top biotech.
Pfizer's story is still unfolding, but big things are coming
Pfizer is in the midst of what amounts to a total reboot, but the end of this process doesn't appear to be far away.
Because of plummeting revenues for behemoth legacy products like Celebrex, Pfizer's newer growth products like Prevnar 13 haven't been able to move the needle in terms of the company's top or bottom lines. Management has nonetheless put a plan into action to change this scenario.
After reorganizing the company into three operational segments last year, I think Pfizer is now getting ready to jettison its problematic legacy products via a sale, combined with the buyout of another major pharma.
If this scenario comes to pass and the company's highly anticipated breast cancer drug palbociclib gains approval this April, Pfizer should easily be a top-performing large stock in 2015.
On the dividend front, Pfizer also joined its peers AbbVie and Amgen recently by increasing its dividend by 7.7% to $0.28 a share, on a quarterly basis -- keeping it perched atop the list of best dividend stocks.