We're watching the market pivot from last year's tax cut euphoria to a much more targeted search for the specific stocks that can keep cash flowing to break records. This is a great time to list a few of our favorites.
Investors aren't always prisoners of their own mood. When the pendulum of sentiment swings to a rational position between fear and greed, the fundamentals decide where stocks trade. That's why a positive year-over-year earnings trend is so crucial: More cash coming in is the best possible argument that the company is worth more.
And especially when 40% of the S&P 500 is still trading within 10% of the highest levels in history, it takes increased profits to push them over the top. But with the market as a whole unlikely to generate more than a measly 2% earnings growth before the 4Q19 numbers roll around almost a year from now, the big benchmarks just aren't going to get that boost any time soon. A swing back to greed might take them through last year's records, but a rational investor simply isn't likely to buy beyond that point.
That's not great for the market as a whole. However, we're not index fund investors. Several of our stocks are already within sight of their historical highs with no real barriers to get in the way of further upside. It's no coincidence that they're tracking much stronger earnings growth than the market as a whole -- that is to say, they're actually growing.
Microsoft (MSFT: $113, flat so far this week) is a great example. Granted, it's the biggest stock on Wall Street now that Amazon and Apple have passed the baton of leadership for the time being, but we're looking for 6% more profit here a year from now. And that growth will be steady, starting with 5% when the company reports its 1Q19 numbers near the end of next month. Compared to a 3% profit decline expected in the market as a whole, it's no surprise this giant is back within 2% of record levels . . . and is unlikely to stop there.
Visa (V: $151, up 1%) tells an even more exuberant story. Management is comfortable with our 12% growth target for the coming year. It's a slowdown from last year's tax-fueled 32% earnings expansion, but it's still enough to keep the stock moving into record territory. Just yesterday Visa came within an inch of its all-time peak. We expect earnings growth to take it at least 12% higher in the next 12 months.
PayPal (PYPL: $97, down 1%) looks like it can give us 19% growth this year. CBRE Group (CBRE: $51, up 2%) can probably squeeze out 8% richer earnings over the same timeframe. If you're looking for stocks that are already within the record-breaking zone and have cash coming in to go over the top, these are two likely suspects. We don't know how high they'll go or how fast they'll get there, but the direction points in the right direction.
Moving along, Twilio (TWLO: $122, down 1%) and Paycom Software (PAYC: $181, flat) deserve to be nudging back within sight of all-time highs because they're likely to bring in a lot more money than ever this year. Paycom can easily boost its earnings 16% in the current quarter (1Q19) and give us roughly that expansion rate throughout the year. Twilio, growing at rates north of 60%, is just in the early stages of scaling to profitability so the numbers are on its side as well.
And while Universal Display (OLED: $152, flat) has a little more heavy lifting to do before its earnings are back at 2016 record levels, year-over-year growth in the 65% range is taking it in the right direction fast. This was a $210 stock a little over a year ago. It can be again.
Finally, we want to shout out Shopify (SHOP: $200, up 5% to a new all-time high), which is already 13% past last year's peak with no ceiling in sight. We're looking for 75% earnings growth here over the next 12 months. On that basis, the stock either has to keep climbing or investors need to retreat from the multiples they currently love. We suspect the first is a lot more likely.