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Tickers in this Article: AXP, IBM, JPM, V, MA, INTC, WMT, VZ, LEAP, PCS, S
Since that widely followed grandaddy of major stock indices, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, has ticked over the psychologically important 10,000 mark, a quick review of how the index got there may be warranted. Naturally this involves looking at how well or how poorly some of its key constituents have fared so far this year.

Digging Out Of Debt In 8 Steps
Financials Roar
Not surprisingly, given the degree to which the sector sold off in the teeth of last year's financial crisis, the gold and bronze medal winners in the Dow performance category so far into 2009 have been financial stocks. Credit card giant American Express (NYSE: AXP) holds the top spot with an 89 percent gain for the year, and veteran Wall Street investment banker JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) is third with a 49 percent gain.

While signs that U.S. consumers are resuming their spending ways have helped Amex recover, the fact that the company lacks as strong a foothold in the debit card business as its rivals Visa (NYSE: V) and MasterCard (NYSE: MA) is a key disadvantage at a time when consumers are more likely to spend only what they can afford, according to a recent report issued by Swiss broker Credit Suisse. The stock could be due for a pause at this juncture. In contrast, JP Morgan continues to rate a full five-star "Strong Buy" recommendation from independent researcher Standard & Poor's with a 12-month price target more than 20 percent above the current price. (For more on analyst expectations, be sure to read Analyst Forecasts Spell Disaster For Some Stocks.)

Tech Giants Win With Weaker Dollar
Sandwiched between these two top-performing financials is tech giant IBM (NYSE: IBM). With over 50 percent of its revenues now derived from overseas business, IBM stands to gain from continued dollar weakness. Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) also falls into that category.

Cellar Dwellers
At the other end of the performance spectrum stand Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) with year-to-date returns of minus 10 percent and minus 14 percent, respectively. For Wal-Mart, a weak consumer and sluggish retail sales have been main reasons behind the stock's lagging performance. Still, the company shows no reluctance to push into new markets. It recently announced plans to enter the highly competitive mobile telecom marketplace by offering cut-rate wireless plans. The move puts it in direct competition with low-cost vendors like Leap Wireless (Nasdaq: LEAP), MetroPCS Communications (NYSE: PCS) and Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S). Wal-Mart's network partner in the deal is Verizon. Both stocks continue to be rated for a performance turnaround by analysts, with the gap between estimates and market price in the 18 to 21 percent range. (Learn more about telecom in Dial Up Choice Telecom Stocks.)

The Bottom Line
While a large body of research evidence supports the view that stocks exhibiting superior relative performance in one period continue to outperform in the next, there's also quite a bit of anecdotal evidence out there indicating that today's losers can sometimes become tomorrow's winners. Getting a clear reading of the fundamentals is the key to identifying these performance turnaround stars.

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