Investors love an underdog -- which might have something to do with the fact that No. 2 IP networking firm Juniper Networks (JNPR - Get Report) has rallied more than 22% in the last 12 months, while standard bearer Cisco Systems (CSCO) has only managed to make its way 5% higher over the same period.
Juniper's better-than-expected fundamental performance may have something to do with that outperformance too. Either way, JNPR is enjoying some upward momentum, especially after last week's positive earnings call.Juniper designs and sells hardware and software that enable IT infrastructure to communicate and remain secure. The firm has a stellar business in supplying carrier routers, telecom equipment that's been in high demand thanks to network expansion efforts from telcos. It's also grabbing a growing share of the datacenter equipment sold worldwide, another business that's got a stiff tailwind pushing at its back. While the scale difference is substantial between JNPR and Cisco, that also means that any market share Juniper steals from its rivals matters more for it. From a financial standpoint, Juniper is in excellent shape right now. The firm boasts $4.1 billion in cash and investments, more than enough to offset its billion-dollar debt load. Juniper's profit and sales trajectory looks auspicious as we head into 2014. If it can pull a repeat performance next quarter, expect to see another double-digit year for shares.