(INTC - Get Report)
The company's recent preannouncement to the downside left people scratching their heads. How much was an actual macro decline, courtesy the gigantic European market for hardware vs. a problem in component parts out of Thailand that has shut down the personal computer supply chain. The company told us not to worry and things will bounce back rather quickly in the first quarter. I say you can stick with the stock because of its almost-4% yield, but don't expect a return to the glory days of growth. It's still too levered to PCs and not enough to smartphones.
(IBM - Get Report)
burning up the joint. I think that it can earn $15 next year and I think that a 14x multiple for those earnings, given IBM's consistency, is not out of the realm. That means IBM could count up to $210 by year end. I am not that concerned about Europe here, even though the company does have large European business, because IBM has been able to put up good numbers despite European weakness and I think it can continue to do so. Some criticize the company for boosting its bottom line through aggressive share repurchases, but I believe the market's thrilled to see the numbers and the company, under a new CEO, will continue to be rewarded.
Johnson & Johnson
(JNJ - Get Report)
. I thought that the FDA would be tougher on JNJ CEO William Weldon for the numerous infractions this company committed, but it looks like the wrist slaps are all that JNJ is going to get. Meanwhile, you have a decent dividend and a drug stock that has lagged so many others in the group despite a beefed-up pipeline and a return to the drug store aisles with all of its offerings. This might be a pick to go to $70 without too much of a stretch.
(JPM - Get Report)
. Here's a stock that might have to dip more before it can rally, one of those stocks that could have an undeserved swoon because of a wave of nationalizations in Europe. I think JPM's well hedged against any calamity over there as it was well hedged when it happened here. But in the end it is a bank and you are not going to see banks come to life until Europe's woes are put behind them. I don't think that can happen in 2012. The problems are too deep. So, while I think JPM will do everything it can to try to distinguish itself, including more dividend boosts, it won't be able to grow enough to satisfy the market and I bet it ends the year where it began.
. We are going to have to say goodbye to Kraft as we know it as this Dow sleeper is splitting into two, the slow-growing grocery business and the much-faster-growing snack business. Consider this break up like the one that split
(MO - Get Report)
Phillip Morris International
(PM - Get Report)
, both pieces being terrific. But if you want yield, you go with the Kraft grocery business, a true cash cow. If you want growth and a higher P/E, then Kraft snacks will be for you. You can win both ways, no need to sell either.
(MCD - Get Report)
. Long one of my favorite stocks in the Dow, I had no idea that it could put on this many points and finish the year up more than 20%. That's staggering, especially when you consider that France and Germany were standouts. That's right, France and Germany, two markets that were black holes for just about everyone else. I don't know how much more McDonald's can do for an encore. I could see the stock rallying another 10% in 2012 on the late-night hours and the continued expansion in emerging markets. Just an exceedingly well-run company.
(MRK - Get Report)
. The deal with Schering-Plough, after initially not showing all that much upside, has started to really help the bottom line, allowing Merck to put through a nice dividend boost giving it an almost-5% yield. Merck's got a mid-single-digit growth rate but that could be accelerating so it wouldn't be a stretch to see this stock trade to $42, which would still give it an outsized yield and a valuation not all that stretched vs. its slower-growing competitors.
(MMM - Get Report)
. Boy, this one confounds me. MMM has multiple growth levers, a fantastic record on dividends -- just about the best there is -- terrific Asian growth prospects, but it has become a serial earnings-per-share disappointer and is finishing down for the year. I believe it could be one of the steals of the Dow if China starts cutting rates dramatically. And I believe it could trade to the high 80s where it would still be inexpensive on its growth rate. The company has let so many people down, though. It might take all year to rebuild that credibility.
(MSFT - Get Report)
. A down year for Mr. Softee despite some radical changes, including the admission of Skype into the fold. I think that the company better lay out a vision for Skype that shows how they are actually going to profit from it or it would not surprise me to see the stock staying right into the mid-$20s, with the best part of the appreciation coming from that plus-3% yield. The PC cycle just isn't going to drive enough profit and the gaming business, while good, still can't move the needle enough to matter.
(PFE - Get Report)
. No more big profit margins with Lipitor, but the company's acting as if the fall-off won't matter much and it remains committed to buying back shares and boosting its dividend as demonstrated by the surprise 10% hike in December. I think that the combination of stability and safety that Pfizer gives you makes it attractive again for 2012 and it can inch up to $24.
Procter & Gamble's
(PG - Get Report)
still trying to deal with commodity inflation, the sale of its Pringles division and aggressive competition from the likes of
(CL - Get Report)
. That said, PG is a huge user of a variety of plastics and surfactants and that means raw costs have probably peaked. With a better-than-3% yield and 9% growth, I think that buyers will reward this one by taking it to $70, where it still would be inexpensive vs. Colgate. Still, PG needs a hit, some new product that can put points on the growth board. And it doesn't have one that I can tell, which is why you will have to be satisfied with a pickup of just five points.
(TRV - Get Report)
. Here's the best insurance company in the world and it can't get out of its own way. CEO Jay Fishman has been captaining this conservative financial and he hasn't been given much credit for all of the great work he is doing because people are loath to back a company that, in the end, has to take premiums and find something worthy and non-risky to do with them. I think that the problem here is that Travelers already trades at one of the higher multiples in the finance business, so it's hard to see the stock moving much over $60 a share. If the economy begins to recover in 2012 and you expect the Fed to start raising rates, Travelers could show some upside beyond that.
(UTX - Get Report)
paid way too much for Goodrich, a move that came right before the big European-inspired breakdown. That, plus the fact that its elevator and heating and air conditioning businesses are seen as totally hostage to worldwide growth, keeps this one stuck in a range, albeit slightly higher than where it is now. I don't expect it to return to $91, the level it hit during the summer of 2011, anytime soon. But $80 seems reasonable if it can get its earnings per share for 2012 above $5.50. I am sure the Goodrich deal will pay off someday because of how strong the aerospace market is, but if you want exposure to that you should just buy Boeing.
(VZ - Get Report)
. First full year of a new CEO, now that Ivan Seidenberg is retiring and I think that Lowell McAdam will just continue to deliver that consistent growth we like so much. The only issue here is that I don't see much acceleration of growth and the stock already sells at about two times its growth rate, so I would think that it would be difficult to get VZ much past $40. With the dividend, that's still a decent combined return.
(WMT - Get Report)
a creeper, creeping higher and higher, slowly, mounting a 7% advance in 2011. I think that Wal-Mart will not be able to replicate that advance and people will have to settle for something more on the order of 5% to the upside. I write that because that last quarter showed some structural weakness for the retailer as it seemed to be making a comeback of sorts. The problem with Wal-Mart is that it has neither the growth nor the dividend of the two other retailers in the Dow, Home Depot and McDonald's, if you are willing to lump restaurants into retail, so those are simply better bets than the Bentonville giant.
Action Alerts PLUS, which Cramer co-manages as a charitable trust, is long AA, AXP, DD, IBM, KO, T and UN.