) -- Spending on holiday shopping probably will decline for the second straight year, according to the National Retail Federation. That means specialty retailers and discounters will be groveling for customers, making their share prices about as attractive as a cheese log or an argyle sweater. The one sure bet is the product Americans can't live without: electronics.
The following stocks aren't typical holiday plays, but they'll gain regardless of fashion trends. In an uncertain retail environment, your safest bet is on perennial winners.
(AMZN - Get Report)
is everyone's favorite stock. The Internet-retail behemoth surprised even the most-bullish analysts with its third-quarter performance. Profit rose 67% to $199 million, or 45 cents a share, as revenue grew 28% to $5.4 billion. When many tech companies are swimming in debt, Amazon has an ideal financial position, with $4 billion of cash and $116 million of debt.
I have been critical of Amazon's stock in recent months because it trades at 77 times trailing earnings and nearly 16 times book value, more expensive than its peers. And a 3.6% net margin is nothing to write home about. Yet investors keep piling into Amazon on the faintest whisper of good news. That trend is likely to continue.
electronic reader, a hand-held device that allows users to download books, magazines and newspapers, is both cutting edge and fairly priced at $259. Although the cost might deter casual readers, for the avid booklover, it's a must-have. Books sell at a significant discount when you download, so purchasing the Kindle is a value proposition for many consumers.