The stock with the lowest beta was Abbott Laboratories (ABT) at 0.30. The drug maker's shares also have a healthy forward annual yield of 3.8% at current levels in the low 50s. The stock closed Monday at $50.75, down 21 cents.
Abbott has beaten Wall Street's earnings expectations in the past eight quarters but it's not really doing much more than that, typically coming in a penny ahead. Jefferies & Co. initiated coverage of the stock with a buy rating last week and a 12-month price target of $60, saying Abbott trades at an "unwarranted discount" to its peers.
"Fears of new competition to Humira are overdone, in our view, and have clouded investors' ability to appreciate the company's growth potential," the firm said on Sept. 20. "We see numerous R&D catalysts and above-consensus revenue and EPS projections which should unlock significant value over the next 12 months."
The other drug company on the list was Baxter International (BAX) checking in with a beta of 0.53 and a forward annual yield of 2.3%. The stock finished Monday at $54.33, up 1.6%, and has held up well so far in 2011, rising more than 6%.Wall Street is pretty bullish on Baxter with 14 of the 20 analysts covering the stock at either strong buy (6) or buy (8) with a median 12-month price target of $67 implying potential upside of 24% from current levels. Big oil is also well represented with Chevron (CVX) and Exxon Mobil (XOM). The stocks have betas of 0.77 and 0.51 respectively with forward annual dividend yields of 3.4% and 2.7%. Exxon shares closed Monday at $71.72, enjoying a 3%-plus bounce. The Dow component is an earnings juggernaut with net income seen topping $40 billion in 2011 on revenue of more than $470 billion. With a forward price-to-earnings multiple of 8X, the stock trades at a discount to the S&P 500, which is trading at around 12X. Chevron is even cheaper with a forward P-E of 6.9X, and after closing Monday at $91.49, it's down a little over 1% year-to-date. Wall Street is very bullish on Chevron right now with 19 of the 23 analysts covering the stock rating it at either strong buy (9) or buy (10). Two big retail names also make the cut with Target (TGT) and Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) coming in with betas of 0.91 and 0.32 respectively, and dividend yields of 2.3% and 2.9%. Dow component Wal-Mart has topped out on growth in its U.S. stores for now, struggling to deliver same-store sales at its domestic locations, and its stock has stalled as well, falling 6% so far in 2011. The shares closed Monday at $51.83, up 2%. Target has fared worse, however, with shares down nearly 20% this year, although the recent furious excitement about the launch of the Missoni line of products may be a sign of better things to come. The stock finished Monday at $50.62, up 3%.
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