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Fool.com: Ten to Watch [Special] February 6, 2002

If you're like me, you're always on the lookout for promising investments. I often stumble upon interesting companies and attractive stocks when reading online or print articles, or talking with friends. Since I don't have time to immediately research them, I usually just add them to my watch list -- which now sports some 100 companies that have been added over the past few years.

An online watch list works much like an online portfolio. (You can set up portfolios for yourself at many websites -- even at Fool.com, where you'll have to register for free, if you haven't already.) On mine, whenever I add a company, I pretend I've bought one share, at the stock's going price that day. From then on, I'll be able to see how much the stock has risen or fallen in value since I first noticed it. If it was attractive in some ways before, it may well be much more attractive in the future, if I notice that it has fallen, say, 20%.

Without further ado, here are 10 investment ideas from my watch list (I'll follow up with 10 more next week). Please understand that these are not recommendations. I have not researched these too much at all, nor have I invested in any of them. But perhaps some of them will pique your interest enough that you'll want to research them yourself -- or just add them to your own watch list. (By the way, what's on your watch list? Share your ideas with others on our discussion boards.)

First Industrial Realty Trust(NYSE: FR). This is a REIT (real estate investment trust) -- a company that owns a lot of real estate and that must pay out at least 90% of its income in dividends. The company calls itself "the nation's largest provider of diversified industrial real estate," serving "every aspect of Corporate America's industrial real estate needs." REIT dividends do fluctuate, but First Industrial's dividend yield has recently been north of 8%. (Fool article on REITS.)

TMP Worldwide(Nasdaq: TMPW). TMP Worldwide's flagship offering is Monster.com, the massive job-search website. The company calls itself "the online recruitment leader, the world's largest recruitment advertising agency network, and one of the world's largest executive search and executive selection agencies." The stock is down nearly 30% since I first thought about it as a possible investment, attracted by its leadership in a vital online niche. (Fool articles on TMP Worldwide.) (It's also covered in depth in issue #3 of The Motley Fool Select.)

McDonald's(NYSE: MCD). I've long wanted to own shares in McDonald's, since it seems like a reliable long-term grower, albeit not a rapid grower. Since I've been watching it, its share price has tumbled about 9%. Its dividend yield is around 0.80%. Investing in McDonald's is one way to invest internationally without really leaving home, as about half of the company's revenues are generated outside the United States. (Fool articles on McDonald's.)

Washington Mutual(NYSE: WM). This banking establishment is the nation's largest savings and loan. It's trading with a P/E ratio around 11 and a dividend yield near 2.8%. The shares were much less expensive about two years ago, but they still don't seem astronomical now. The company seems to be well managed, and it's growing. In the last year it announced mergers with Bank United and Dime Bancorp. (Fool articles on Washington Mutual.)

Smithfield Foods(NYSE: SFD). I first learned about this company in our Industry Focus 2002 report (which reviews in detail 18 promising companies). Unknown (or at least overlooked) by most people, it's the world's largest pork producer and processor. With a market cap of only about $2.5 billion and a P/E around 10, the company doesn't look expensive. The stock has fallen some 14% in the past month or so, and it's been a very strong performer for many years -- with EPS growing an astounding annual average of 27% for the past 17 years.

General Electric(NYSE: GE). This is another very solid long-term performer that I'd love to own one day, for the right price. Is the price right, right now? I don't think it's a screaming buy, but it has fallen by a third since I first added to it my list one or more years ago. GE also sports a dividend yield of about 1.8% and a P/E of around 28. If the stock price falls more, I'll really have to take a hard look. (Fool articles on GE.)

Duke Energy(NYSE: DUK). A Fortune 100 company, Duke Energy is a diversified multinational energy company, managing "a dynamic portfolio of natural gas and electric supply, delivery and trading businesses" that generate revenues of more than $50 billion per year. Its share prices have advanced an annual average of about 11% per year -- 17%, if you reinvested dividends in additional shares, such as through a Drip plan. Its P/E was recently 14.6 and its dividend yield 2.8%. (Additional energy companies were profiled in a past issue of The Motley Fool Select.)

Tootsie Roll(NYSE: TR). This is no silly, frivolous company. Over the past 20 years or so, its shares have advanced more than 25% annually, on average, not counting dividends. The company doesn't seem like an amazing bargain right now, even though its share price is some 11% lower than when I added it to my list. Its P/E is about 28, and its dividend yield is 0.7%. Still, it's in an industry I can definitely understand (and enjoy) and it's been managed well for decades. (Fool articles on Tootsie Roll.) 

Merck(NYSE: MRK). Merck has long been one of the top pharmaceutical firms in the world. The industry alone is very attractive, because it typically sports high profit margins and it's defensive. No matter what's going on in the economy, people will take their (often expensive!) medications. Merck recently announced it would spin off its Medco pharmacy benefits management business -- a lower-margin business that brought in more than half of the company's revenues -- so it appears to be getting back to basics. The stock price is near a 52-week low right now, with a P/E of 19 and a dividend yield around 2.3%. (Fool articles on Merck.)

Enron (OTCC: ENRNQ). I'm including this company just as a lesson. It's been sitting on my watch list for more than a year. As with the other companies on this list, I read and heard some great things about it. I was impressed. Thank goodness I didn't buy any shares (though I've certainly bought my share of other disasters). It's here to remind you -- and me -- to be sure and research any company you're thinking of investing in as much as you can. And if you don't really understand a company or its business too well, then you might do well to just steer clear of it. (Fool articles on Enron.)

That's it for now. I'll be back next week with 10 more. In the meantime, if you have comments on any of these companies, share them on our discussion boards. Perhaps you'd like to set me straight, or just offer more input on one or more of these investment ideas. If so, we'd love to hear from you.

And for more investment ideas, be sure to check out our Industry Focus 2002 report and The Motley Fool Select. We offer money-back guarantees for both.

Disclosure: If Selena Maranjian were a Spice Girl, she'd be "Anxious Spice." Fortunately, for her sake and yours, she's not a Spice Girl. Selena doesn't own any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.


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