Editor's note: Our Pre-Memorial Day special examines military-related stocks and how to buy, sell or trade them. This feature includes a video by Gregg Greenberg, Defense-Stock Domination; and articles by Marc Courtenay One Priced to Buy; Robert Weinstein Bigger Guns, Bigger Profits; Richard Saintvilus Boeing's Offense Is Defense; Richard Suttmeier Sequester Survivors; and Richard Cox Bullish Earnings Support Defense.
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- First off, here's your current-events quiz for the day. Who is the U.S. Secretary of Defense? If you don't know off the top of your head, don't feel bad, because I didn't either.
Chuck Hagel was sworn in as the 24th Secretary of Defense on Feb. 27, 2013, becoming the first enlisted combat veteran to lead the Department of Defense. You may recall that he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996 and represented Nebraska until 2009.
Secretary Hagel was also a businessman earlier in his career. During the 1980s he co-founded Vanguard Cellular Systems, which became one of the largest independent cellular networks in the country. Secretary Hagel also served as president of McCarthy & Company, an Omaha, Neb.-based investment bank.He understands war, the defense industry and -- from what I've read about him -- big business and international economics. As a senator, Hagel chaired the Foreign Relations International Economic Policy, Export and Trade Promotion Subcommittee and the Banking Committee's International Trade and Finance and Securities Subcommittees.
So when it comes to the Big Four defense contractors, Boeing (BA), Lockheed Martin (LMT), Raytheon (RTN) and Northrop Grumman (NOC), all should feel more secure with Secretary Hagel's background and credentials. The question I'd now like to pose is, which of these companies is the most attractively priced? Each has had a nice run higher in 2013. Lockheed Martin currently has the best dividend yield-to-price (around 4.3%) and Boeing has the lowest (1.97%). Shares will cool down in a stock market correction.
NOC goes ex-dividend on May 23, 2013, which means you would have had to own it by the close of the market on May 22 to be eligible for this quarter's dividend. If you're considering NOC at this point, you should be able to lock in a yield-to-price of around 3.03%. NOC shares were recently trading for more than $80, up nearly 20% this year. Its price-to-earnings ratio of 10.3 is less than the S&P 500's 17.7. This is an important metric for value investors.
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