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2 Bellwether Stocks to Watch as Macro Headwinds Weigh on Markets

Stocks in this article: BA GE

Chris Lau, Kapitall: Bellwether stocks can provide insight to what’s in store for a sector or markets. 

After more than 400 days without a correction of 10% or more, stock markets worldwide finally began to capitulate this month. Words like sell-off, capitulation, correction, and doom may hit the headlines in the days ahead. 

But despite the red numbers filling stock quote pages, the recent drop in markets merely erased gains made in December 2013. There are still plenty of investing ideas to consider, especially among bellwether stocks.

December drop on Nasdaq and S&P 500 in perspective

Click on the interactive charts below to see data over time. Sourced from Zacks Investment Research.

Investors should pay attention to bellwether stocks to gauge what is ahead for markets.

GE (GE) and Boeing (BA) are two examples – both up sharply in the last year. GE’s GECAS unit, an aircraft leasing unit, ordered 40 Boeing jets on January 20. Boeing is outperforming GE, and has several years of backorders that could support steady revenue despite the fear of weaker market conditions.

GE currently pays a higher dividend of 3.14%, compared to a yield of 1.42% from Boeing:

GE shares pulled back recently because operating profit margin targets were not met in the last quarter. This target was reduced in 2012 and in 2013.

Asset sales

If weak stock markets suggest weak economic conditions, then companies will opt to improve their balance sheet by selling assets. GE’s asset purchases, however, suggest the firm is eager to grow revenue instead.

The company spent $550 million to buy one of Cameron International’s (CAM) divisions. This will boost GE’s exposure to the shale oil and gas sector.

If markets take a turn for the worse, the rising fear may give investors an opportunity to enter bellwether stocks at a discount. Boeing and GE are two companies investors should add to their watch list.

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