10. Discover Financial Services (DFS)
Company profile: Discover Financial Services, with a $16 billion market value, issues credit cards and acquires transactions. It operates a closed-loop credit card network and also uses third parties to issue its cards.
Investor takeaway: Discover's shares are up 24% this year and have a three-year annualized return of 74%. Analysts give its shares 10 "buy" ratings, six "buy/holds," and nine "holds," according to S&P, which has its shares rated "buy."
9. Salesforce.com (CRM)Company profile: Salesforce.com, with a market value of $18 billion, is the leading provider of hosted customer relationship management, or CRM, software services. It's a big player in the rapidly growing cloud computing sector. Investor takeaway: Salesforce's shares are up 26% this year and have a three-year annualized return of 70%. Analysts differ strongly on this one with S&P recently downgrading it two weeks ago to a "strong sell rating," on competitive and pricing concerns, while other analysts give its shares 17 "buy" ratings, 14 "buy/holds," six "holds," one "weak hold," and six "sells." Fidelity owns almost 15% of its shares, more than double that of the next largest shareholder. 8. Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD) Company profile: Pioneer Natural Resources, with a market value of $13 billion, is an independent exploration and production company with operations throughout the southern and central U.S. Investor takeaway: Pioneer's shares are up 27% this year and have a three-year annualized return of 96%. Analysts give its shares 14 "buy"ratings, six "buy/holds," and seven "holds," according to S&P, which has its shares rated "buy," with a $125 price target, a 10% premium to the current price. 7. National Oilwell Varco (NOV) Company profile: National Oilwell Varco, with a market value of $37 billion, is one of the largest equipment suppliers in the drilling industry. It provides rigs, parts and repair services. Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 28% this year, and have a three-year annualized return of 51%. National Oilwell Varco's 10-year annualized return is a huge 25%. S&P has its shares rated "buy," and its survey of analysts found 17 "buy" ratings, 11 "buy/holds," and one "hold." 6. Valassis Communications ( VCI) Company profile: Valassis Communications, with a $1.1 billion market value, is a marketing services company with several operating segments, including publication inserts, shared mail, and newspaper advertisements. Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 32% this year and have a three-year annualized return of 164%. Analysts give its shares four "buy" ratings, three "buy/holds," and two "holds," according to S&P. Analysts project earnings of $3.05 per share this year, a 17% increase over the prior year.
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