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BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Conservative investors may well want to consider stocks with the highest market values, especially those with a U.S. focus.
An analysis of their valuations by Fidelity Investments concludes they are selling at 20-year lows and "appear significantly undervalued" and, thus, ready for a breakout after a decade of middling performance.
Mega-cap stocks, represented in the study by the 200 biggest companies in the
Russell 1000 Index, have traded at an average trailing price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of about 19 over the past 20 years, but currently have a P/E of less than 14, a low for the 20-year period. They would need to rise more than 20% just to revert back to their historical norm, the report said.
And on a relative valuation basis, they are also trading at a 20%-plus discount to midcap stocks now.
Matt Fruhan, one of the report's authors and portfolio manager of the $1.8 billion
Fidelity Mega-Cap Stock Fund(FGRTX), wrote that, adding to their appeal, the mega caps are typically stocks of high-quality, predictable companies paying healthy dividends. And they're clearly in a position to increase them, given that as of mid-July, the companies in the study had a trailing 12-month free cash flow yield of 6.5% and a dividend yield of only 2.2%, which gives them plenty of room "to close that gap and substantially increase their dividend payout."
"If this valuation gap persists and tax policy continues to treat dividends similarly to capital appreciation, which we should know more about after the fall elections, we expect some management teams to shift free cash flow away from buying back shares in favor of returning capital to shareholders in the form of dividends," said the report's co-author, Fidelity institutional portfolio manager Naveed Rahman. "The opportunity to increase dividends substantially is one of the many reasons we believe mega caps are so attractive."
The report concludes that "the recent extended underperformance against midcaps, suggests that the equity market may be poised for another shift in leadership toward mega caps," although for now, the biggest stocks are "persistently under-owned" by most active investors, even those with portfolio allocations to large-cap mutual funds.
The Fidelity Mega-Cap fund is up 11.8% this year versus the
S&P 500's 10% gain, and it is up an average 14% annually over three years, about that of the S&P 500's performance.
The fund's top five holdings, making up almost 21% of its portfolio, include iPhone maker
Apple(AAPL), banking giant
Wells Fargo(WFC - Get Report), investment house
JPMorgan Chase(JPM), oil and chemicals conglomerate
ExxonMobil(XOM), and another oil giant,
To take a conservative mega-cap investment approach a step further, investors may find a xenophobic strategy of picking the stocks of those companies with most of their revenues coming from domestic sources a way to further mitigate risk, given Europe's sovereign debt miasma and China's wobbly economy.
With that in mind, here are eight stocks in the Fidelity Mega-Cap Fund with a decidedly domestic focus to their revenue sources, in inverse order of their share-price gains this year: