BALTIMORE (Stockpickr) -- End-of-the-year economic data continues to push stocks as investors weigh in on just how well the economy rebounded in 2009.
That fact could play out well for investors who are long the market right now as sentiment sways away from moving stocks lower ahead of the holidays -- particularly after a lackluster week ending Dec. 18.
Expect the market to move bizarrely this week. The market is scheduled to close early on Dec. 24 and remain closed all day on Christmas day, so Wall Street vacations could play into volume irregularities. All told, that shouldn't affect our Rocket Stock plays too much.
Our weekly Rocket Stocks list, which takes a look at beaten-down stocks with near-term growth catalysts and long-term growth potential, has had a stellar run since we brought it back in July of 2009. In the trailing 22 weeks, Rocket Stocks have outperformed the
by 44.47% -- in a total cumulative rally of 62.02%.
Here's a look at
, which IPO'd in mid-2008, is no stranger to our Rocket Stocks list.
While financial services companies have gotten slammed in the credit crunch, Visa, which only facilitates electronic transactions of its branded cards, has prospered. For the first time ever this year, the company's debit card transactions actually outpaced credit transactions as cautious consumers eschewed borrowing in favor of cash in the bank. And with the holiday season right before us, the company's biggest volume quarter could bring gains in the coming week.
Visa's revenues increased 10% in 2009 -- a number that impressed and surprised analysts. That's just the latest performance metric that shows the company's growth story off to Wall Street. Visa has a huge competitive advantage in that its network is almost ubiquitous, particularly in the debit card world. While number-one rival
has worked hard to build up a base of debit users, Visa's brand and early entry into the niche have made MasterCard's entry tenuous by comparison. All told, 60% of payment cards in the world carry the Visa logo.
As investors seek out a strong consumer sentiment brand this week, Visa shares could benefit.
Long lines may be a thing of the past at many restaurant chains, but garnering discretionary dollars hasn't been too challenging for
Chipotle Mexican Grill
The Mexican-food chain, once owned by fast food goliath
, prides itself on its simple menu of fresh ingredients and naturally raised meats. Consumers seem responsive to the idea; sales have increased 107% since the company's 2005 year-end.
Now Chipotle management is betting that those long lines here in the U.S. can translate well overseas. The chain opened its first restaurant abroad last year in Toronto, Canada, and has designs on expanding to Europe as well. The company's first London location is currently scheduled to open in April of 2010.
With a history of beating expectations and a growth story despite a slowed economy, we're betting on Chipotle this week for all the right reasons.
Despite a significantly shortened workweek this week, retail drugstore chain
plans on announcing its first-quarter 2010 earnings today at 8:30 a.m.
That announcement could be a solid catalyst for growth in the coming week if the company is able to exceed analyst expectations of 48 cents per share.
Of course, a pre-earnings play adds additional risk to the Rocket Stock portfolio, particularly ahead of a lower-than-normal volume week, but several factors make Walgreen worth the risk. For starters, the company has a history of stronger organic growth than its peers, many of which are relegated to increasing their top line numbers through acquisitions. Likewise, the company's in-store clinics could prove to be just the sort of high-growth opportunity the company needs as healthcare reform sits in limbo on Capitol Hill.
For more stocks that made this week's cut, including
, check out the
-- Written by Jonas Elmerraji in Baltimore.
At the time of publication, author had no positions in stocks mentioned.
Jonas Elmerraji is the editor and portfolio manager of the Rhino Stock Report, a free investment advisory that returned 15% in 2008. He is a contributor to numerous financial outlets, including Forbes and Investopedia, and has been featured in Investor's Business Daily, in Consumer's Digest and on MSNBC.com.