Let's say that you find yourself as a contestant on Jeopardy!, and realize that Alex Trebek is a bit creepier in person than he is on television.
"I'll take Wall Street 2008 for $400, Alex," you tenuously suggest.
"Wal-Mart and McDonald's," says Trebek, realizing that you are a bit creepier in person, too.
What do you do?
Buzz in, my friend! Those are the only two companies in the 30-stock Dow Jones Industrial Average to close out the year with positive gains. Ka-ching!
Frugality is in
It seems obvious in retrospect. McDonald's
Do you really think that will change in 2009? The economy isn't getting any stronger. Catalysts are unlikely to kick in until later this year at the earliest. McDonald's and Wal-Mart "bucked" the trend last year by posting higher comps and improving financials. That is likely to continue.
This doesn't mean that the two companies are growing at breakneck speeds. Analysts see profits growing by just 6% at McDonald's and 8% at Wal-Mart over the next year. It's not much, but at least they're both heading in the right direction.
The stocks aren't cheap, but they aren't exactly expensive, trading at forward earnings multiples in the mid-teens. I can definitely see both stocks closing out 2009 in the black again. So which of the other 28 stocks in the Dow will follow suit?
I can think of at least three more components that are well-positioned and priced perfectly after taking dips in 2008.
I went to Disney World last week. The holidays are usually a zany time to head out to the Florida theme parks, but I figured that recessionary fears would keep the crowds in check. Boy, was I wrong. It was wall-to-wall mouse ears.
We saw a line about 40 people deep, so my son suggested that we stand in it because they must be giving something away. We asked the guy in front of us what the line was for, and he said he was just there to buy some coffee.
One afternoon we ducked out to Downtown Disney, figuring that the Disney retail and entertainment marketplace would provide a little more elbow room. Nope. It took us 35 minutes to get ice cream. Ice cream!
Obviously I'm not going to base a buy thesis on a crowded theme park, but if this is supposed to be Disney's soft spot during an economic downturn, I can only imagine how the rest of the company is humming along.
Sure, a dearth of advertising is going to sting ABC, but many of Disney's networks -- like Disney Channel and ESPN -- get a steady flow of cable subscription revenue to smooth things out. Disney is now just trading at 11 times the $2.11 a share that analysts see the family entertainment giant earning this year. It's hard to turn that down.
It's been a rough few years for the orange apron. It apparently isn't going to get any better in the near term. Wall Street sees revenue and earnings falling this fiscal year (which ends this month) as well as the next. Between the moribund housing market and consumers unable -- and unwilling -- to tap credit lines for home improvement projects, there doesn't seem to be a lot of excitement for Home Depot these days.
I don't see it that way. I think Home Depot and arch-rival Lowe's
Ever since Mark Hurd took over as CEO of HP, the computing and printing giant has topped Wall Street's bottom-line targets. Hurd's success at HP has come mostly through margin expansion. With the near-term horizon murky on the revenue front and cynics questioning just how much more margin expansion Hurd can squeeze out of HP, this may be my riskiest pick.
However, the market is already way ahead of me with the pessimism. HP shares are trading for around 10 times this year's projected earnings. Even as companies scale back on system purchases, consumers are still flocking to HP's low-priced desktops, laptops, and netbooks. As long as Hurd keeps delivering more than he's promising, I'll bank on HP.
More than five victors
Ideally, there will be more than just five Dow winners. I have always been a big fan of Johnson & Johnson
I am not so keen on the energy and financial stocks that take up a lot of room on the Dow 30 gauge, but an economic rebound that comes sooner rather than later will naturally reflect kindly there.
Let's just hope that, when Trebek gets ready to offer up the Wall Street 2009 category, the list of Dow 30 winners is more of a mouthful.
Resolve to read these other stories:
Johnson & Johnson is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Wal-Mart Stores and The Home Depot are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Walt Disney is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has never been a television game show contestant. He does own shares in Disney. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.