2016 is off to a rocky start, leaving many investors concerned that it could be a down year in the equity markets. That means that individual stock selection will be more important than in the past few years. Despite the prospect of a lower market, increasing interest rates, and even the possibility of a recession, there are several stocks that could move in a positive direction.

Below are seven stocks that could surprise in 2016.

CVS Health Corp. (CVS)

Woonsocket, RI, based CVS Health Corp. is the largest pharmacy health care provider in the U.S., with over 200,000 employees working in more than 9,500 stores in 46 states. The company had total revenues of nearly $140 billion in 2014, and currently projects earnings growth of nearly 13% for 2016.

CVS is a favorite with analysts, and it's easy to see why. Pharmaceuticals have been on a steady growth path for decades, and CVS is the leading distributor at the retail level. The company made solid steps toward growth in 2015, purchasing Omnicare for $12.9 billion, and buying 1,600 Target pharmacies. The company also has more than 1,100-minute clinics (drawing more than 27 million patient visits), and has plans to open 1,500 by 2017.

Other key statistics on CVS:

  • Current price: about $91
  • 52-week high/low: $113.65 - $81.37
  • Dividend yield: 1.43%
  • P/E ratio - trailing twelve months: 20.30
  • Traded on: NYSE

Facebook Inc. (FB)

Facebook Inc. is another favorite of analysts, and one of the four "FANG" stocks (Facebook, Apple, Netflix, and Google) who led the S&P 500 throughout 2015. The P/E based on current earnings looks to be a bit rich, but the company is expected to increase earnings by nearly 33% in 2016. Given that Facebook is a staple among fund managers, that increase in earnings could support a still higher share price as the year unfolds.

A dozen years after its founding, Facebook continues to grow in stunning fashion. The company recently reported $17.9 billion in revenue for the 2015 fiscal year, an increase of 44% over the 2014 total of just under $12.5 billion. Net income of $3.69 billion outpaced 2014 net income by 25.5%.

Other statistics on Facebook:

  • Current price: about $99
  • 52-week high/low: $117.59 - $72.00
  • Dividend yield: N/A
  • P/E ratio - trailing twelve months: 76.96
  • Traded on: NASDAQ

AbbVie Inc. (ABBV)

Another solid performer from the pharmaceutical industry, AbbVie Inc. not only boasts nearly $22 billion in sales, but it also pays a high dividend, currently yielding 3.38%. In addition to the high yield, they are expecting earnings growth of 17.22% in 2016. That could make AbbVie a solid performer for the year ahead.

The company's primary product is the drug Humira, which is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. This product is likely to grow in demand as the population ages, not just in the U.S., but around the world.

Other statistics on AbbVie:

  • Current price: about $53
  • 52-week high/low: $71.60 - $45.45
  • Dividend yield: 4.26%
  • P/E ratio - trailing twelve months: 17.05
  • Traded on: NYSE

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)

Johnson & Johnson, with more than $70 billion in sales in 2015, is a long-time Wall Street favorite. It's position as a leader in the healthcare field as well as it's above average dividend payout makes it a steady performer. As well, the company has been increasing its dividend steadily for more than 50 years, which could raise its investment value should the stock market turn in a turbulent year.

Other statistics on Johnson & Johnson:

  • Current price: about $102
  • 52-week high/low: $105.49 - $81.79
  • Dividend yield: 2.95%
  • P/E ratio - trailing twelve months: 18.58
  • Traded on: NYSE

Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV)

Southwest has been making steady progress in the highly competitive airline industry. Founded in 1967 and based in Dallas, Texas, the company has become the largest domestic airline in the U.S. and is gradually expanding into international markets. The company has its planes flying at an enviable 85% of capacity, achieving operational efficiencies that are only enhanced by low fuel prices.

Southwest racked up nearly $20 billion in revenues in 2015 and is currently trading at a very attractive 11.4 times trailing twelve months earnings. 2016 earnings are projected to grow by 22.03%, which will make its P/E even more attractive.

Other statistics on Southwest Airlines:

  • Current price: about $35
  • 52-week high/low: $51.34 - $31.36
  • Dividend yield: .86%
  • P/E ratio - trailing twelve months: 10.66
  • Traded on: NYSE

Dollar Tree Inc. (DLTR)

Founded in 1986 and based in Chesapeake, Virginia, Dollar Tree Inc. is the parent company of several dollar-based retail outlets, with nearly 14,000 stores throughout the U.S. The company had $8.6 billion in revenues for its 2015 fiscal year but is projected to see 41.3% earnings growth in its 2016 fiscal year. The company purchased Family Dollar during 2015, which should only push sales higher. As a deep discount chain, Dollar Tree stands to benefit should the economy sink into a recession in the coming year.

Other statistics on Dollar Tree:

  • Current price: about $75
  • 52-week high/low: $84.22 - $60.31
  • Dividend yield: N/A
  • P/E ratio - trailing twelve months: 61.31
  • Traded on: NASDAQ

Phillips 66 (PSX)

Phillips 66 is an oil company stock—but they’re getting clobbered, right? Precisely. And that means that one or more companies, or maybe the whole sector, could experience a turnaround in 2016. Phillips 66 looks to be a likely candidate for recovery. This call is, however, a bit speculative. Analysts' consensus for 2016 is that earnings will fall by about 9%.

Revenues fell in 2014, and again in 2015, due to the general decline in oil prices across the board. Low oil prices result in higher profit margins for the company. Further, the company is expanding into natural gas pipelines, processing facilities and petrochemical production. The low P/E on this stock doesn't hurt either, as it represents a bargain when compared to the general market.

Other statistics on Phillips 66:

  • Current price: about $75
  • 52-week high/low: $94.12 - $69.79
  • Dividend yield: 2.99%
  • P/E ratio - trailing twelve months: 8.75
  • Traded on: NYSE

The Bottom Line

Choppy markets call for more careful stock selection. The bargains are still out there, even if they’re getting harder to find. Use this list as a starting point for your 2016 stock research.

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