Editors' pick: Originally published Oct. 31.
As we approach the most wonderful time of the year, questions abound as to whether it will be wonderful for the markets.
Amid the continued swirl of political rhetoric and speculation about the likelihood and timing of a shoe dropping for the stock market, holiday sales prospects still look good.
"All of the fundamentals are in a good place, giving strength to consumers and leading us to believe that this will be a very positive holiday season, according to Matthew Shay, chief executive and president of the National Retail Federation, the world's largest retail trade association.
This month, the NRF said that it expects sales next month and in December, excluding autos, gas and restaurants, to increase by 3.6% to $655.8 billion.
This figure is significantly higher than the 10-year average increase of 2.5% and above the seven-year average of 3.4% since the beginning of the recovery in 2009.
The NRF forecast is based on an economic model using several indicators including consumer credit, disposable personal income and previous monthly retail sales releases.
The retail sector usually gets a shot in the arm from holiday shoppers, but other businesses can also benefit from a strong season. These may include, for example, companies with heavy gaming-related revenue or those providing popular pit stops for weary shoppers.
According to survey results published by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, a global consulting firm, in its 2016 Holiday Outlook report, "Shoppers told us they plan to spend 10% more this holiday season, an average of $1,121 each. And consumers with annual household incomes less than $50,000 told us they will increase their percentage spending levels even more than consumers overall."
The NRF said that while recently released indicators such as hiring, inflation and retail sales "have not been robust," it remains "cautiously optimistic that the pace of economic activity will pick up in the near term."
Notwithstanding geopolitical uncertainty, slower global growth and uncertainty related to the presidential election, the NRF said that "The American consumer is resilient, and its spending power should never be underestimated."
Citigroup analyst Kate McShane wrote in a research note, "Although we have seen somewhat mixed results year to date ... we are cautiously optimistic for holiday 2016 given the solid macro-economic backdrop, encouraging spending projections from industry sources" and trends compared with 2015.
Using our guru-based stock screening models, here are five picks that could brighten the holidays:
1. Apple (AAPL) - Get Report
The maker of the Apple Watch, iPad, iPhone and Mac, among other technology products, earns a perfect score under our Warren E. Buffett-based investment methodology based on its predictable and expanding earnings per share as well as its historical EPS growth rate of 23.5% based on three-, four- and five-year averages. Average return on total capital over both the past three and 10 years is 27%, more than double this model's requirement of 12%, and management's use of retained earnings over the past 10 years reflects a return of 28.6%.
Our Peter Lynch-based model likes Apple's price-earnings-growth ratio based on three-, four- and five-year averages of 0.57, which indicates fairness of price.
Apple is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. See how Cramer rates the stock here. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells AAPL? Learn more now.
2. Sony (SNE) - Get Report
This company designs, develops, manufactures and sells various kinds of electronic equipment, instruments and devices for consumer, industrial and professional markets, as well as game consoles and software. Under our Kenneth Fisher-based investment strategy, Sony earns solid marks for its price-sales ratio of 0.53, which signals that this stock is attractively valued.
This model also favors the company's modest leverage, with debt representing 33.18% of equity. Our James O'Shaughnessy-based stock screen likes Sony's market capitalization of $40.3 billion and healthy cash flow per share of $4.17, which is well above the market mean of $1.39.
Trailing 12-month sales of $75.73 billion more than satisfy the requirement to exceed the market mean of $20.42 billion by 1.5 times.
3. Starbucks (SBUX) - Get Report
This company purchases and roasts coffee that it sells, along with tea, other beverages and a range of fresh food items, through company-operated stores as well as grocery and other stores.
Under our Lynch-based investment model, Starbucks is considered a fast-grower and earns high marks for its price-earnings ratio of 30. For companies with sales of more than $1 billion, the P/E must be below 40 to pass.
To meet this model's requirements, a company's EPS growth must fall between 20% and 50% to ensure sustainability, and Starbucks passes with 24.2% based on three-, four- and five-year averages.
Starbucks is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. See how Cramer rates the stock here. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells SBUX? Learn more now.
(VFC) - Get Report
This company designs, manufactures, markets and distributes branded lifestyle apparel, footwear and related products with primary brands including The North Face, Timberland and Vans. Our Buffett-based screen likes the durable competitive advantage that VFC enjoys through its strong brand presence as well as the company's predictable and stable 10-year average EPS growth of 10.5%.
Return on total capital, which includes all debt, over the past three years of 16.1% exceeds the required minimum of 12%, and management's use of retained earnings reflects a return of 15%.
5. Williams-Sonoma (WSM) - Get Report
This multi-channel specialty retailer of products for the home operates through both brick-and-mortar and ecommerce segments. Our Lynch-based strategy considers Williams-Sonoma a true stalwart based on its moderate earnings growth of 11.26% and annual sales of $5.07 billion.
This model favors the company's modest leverage, with debt 10.82% of equity, as well as its EPS of $3.34. Our Fisher-based stock screen favors the company's price-sales ratio of 0.81, which is required to fall between 0.75 and 1.5, and free cash flow per share of $2.32.
This model also gives high marks to the company's three-year average profit margin of 6.39%, versus the required minimum of 5%.
At the time of publication, John Reese and his private clients were long AAPL and VFC.