Volatility is back in the stock market, following a prolonged sideways stretch for stocks. After essentially no meaningful movement in the broad market since mid-July, the S&P 500 has managed to make intraday moves in excess of 1% in four of the last six trading sessions.
That uptick in volatility isn't necessarily a bad thing, though. The S&P actually spent last week rebounding, climbing 0.91% higher between Monday's open and Friday's close. That puts the S&P on track to finish the year up 8.3% on a total returns basis.
But while stocks are broadly still looking attractive overall in 2016, not all stocks are participating equally in the upward price action. To find the issues that look most likely to outperform in the week ahead, we're turning to a fresh batch of "Rocket Stocks" to buy for gains in September.
For the uninitiated, Rocket Stocks are our list of companies with short-term gain catalysts and longer-term growth potential. To find them, I run a weekly quantitative screen that seeks out stocks with a combination of analyst upgrades and positive earnings surprises to identify rising analyst expectations, a bullish signal for stocks in any market. After all, where analysts' expectations are increasing, institutional cash often follows. In the last 367 weeks, our weekly list of five plays has outperformed the S&P 500's record-breaking run by 80.56%.
Without further ado, here's a look at this week's Rocket Stocks.
Semiconductor giant Intel (INTC) - Get Report is enjoying some strong performance of late. In the last three months, this tech giant has added 18.6% on to its market value, leaving the rest of the stock market in its dust. Last week was particularly strong for Intel. The firm boosted its guidance for the quarter ahead, signaling that the prolonged rout in PC demand could finally be turning around.
More PC sales would be a very big deal for Intel. As the biggest semiconductor company on the planet, Intel supplies approximately 80% of the world's microprocessors, a position that means Intel benefits disproportionately when demand turns positive for devices that use its chips. One side effect of Intel's size is that it's able to push more cash over to R&D than the competition can, a distinction that's largely kept away encroachment from rival companies. The downside of Intel's huge microprocessor exposure has been the fact that as PC sales have slowed and more consumers turn to tablets and other portable devices, Intel has been left playing catch-up in the mobile chip category.
Intel's reaction to wins from rivals in the mobile space has actually been to shift upmarket, selling more high-end server processors to keep up with growing demand for IT infrastructure that's been driven in large part by an influx of new mobile traffic. While that's a strategy that's been working, the scale advantages in the PC market, where Intel is one of the few component suppliers that can still command deep margins, make a turnaround in the PC market potentially very lucrative for Intel.
Buyers are clearly in control of this stock right now. It makes sense to bet alongside them as Intel hits 15-year highs in September.
So much for being boring.
Flux over the future of interest rates has fueled an 11% rally in shares of $51 billion electric utility Southern Co.(SO) - Get Report year-to-date. That market-beating return is being driven in part by Southern's 4.3% dividend yield, a payout that becomes all the more valuable if the Fed does indeed postpone its next rate hike, sending yield-seekers in search of financially stable utilities and other high-yield stock categories for income. Southern Co.'s price trajectory continues to look appealing as we head into the fall months.
Southern is the local power company for more than 4.4 million residential and business customers in the Southeast, with a network that spans Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi. The firm also has considerable exposure to natural gas, with more than half a dozen gas distribution companies, as well as stakes in several midstream natgas operations. Southern's operations are focused in the Southeast, a region where power costs are relatively low and regulators haves historically been considered business-friendly.
Southern has also been a big investor in green power generation. The firm plans on spending more than $1.4 billion on wind energy this year, and it already owns a meaningful solar generation portfolio. Meanwhile, the decision to merge with AGL Resources in July of this year materially boosted the firm's exposure to gas while natgas prices were hovering near multi-year lows. If recent increased demand for natural gas persists, the deal should make Southern look all the more attractive in the quarters ahead.
2016 is shaping up to be a strong year for shares of PayPal(PYPL) - Get Report . After going public in the middle of 2015 and breaking apart from former parent eBay(EBAY) - Get Report , this $48 billion payments firm is up more than 12% since the start of this year. And as more payments move online, PayPal is on track to make new highs this September.
PayPal's network facilitates online payments between merchants and consumers, as well as consumer-to-consumer payments. The firm's model is built on earning money through transaction fees, and it's been expanding its menu of services in recent years, branching out into consumer lending. PayPal did more than $86 billion in total payment volume last quarter, a huge dollar share for a payment network that still has very limited exposure to brick-and-mortar retail.
The underexposure to physical transactions is something that PayPal has been working to fix in recent years, going up against the biggest card networks through consumer-facing partnerships with major chains such as Home Depot(HD) - Get Report and Macy's(M) - Get Report , as well as merchant offerings with the PayPal Here credit card readers. PayPal's huge base of registered users provides a big benefit for the firm -- consumers are more likely to stay with an online payment solution they already have than give their most personal financial information to another vendor.
Shares trade at a growth premium right now, but they're not getting any cheaper. We're betting on shares this week.
PayPal is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS charitable portfolio. The portfolio ranks the stock a Two, meaning it would buy shares on a pullback. "All in, we are holding onto the name for now and remaining on the sidelines as we continue to learn more from management regarding the impacts of the MA and V deals, and we expect to quantify a decision closer to earnings," wrote Cramer and Research Director Jack Mohr on Friday. "We reiterate our $40 price target as we await visibility into near-, medium- and long- term earnings impact of the myriad deals."
Alcoholic beverage company Constellation Brands(STZ) - Get Report finds itself in pretty attractive positioning in 2016. The firm has grown itself dramatically through a series of prescient acquisitions, the latest of which was the buyout of craft brewer Ballast Point last year in the middle of the surge of demand for upmarket beer labels. That's been enough to push shares to new all-time highs this month.
Constellation ranks among the largest alcoholic beverage companies in the world, with a collection of labels that range from Arbor Mist and Robert Mondavi wine to Corona beer, Svedka vodka and Cook's champagne. There were some doubts about Constellation's $1 billion buyout deal to acquire Ballast Point, but the early indications already look very promising. The move means that beer is now Constellation's single biggest category at approximately two-thirds of earnings, with the fast-growing craft segment well-represented.
At this point, Constellation actually sells more beer than it can produce, outsourcing excess demand to other big brewers. The expansion of its brewing capacity this year should be money well spent as Constellation keeps more of that production (and more of those profits) in-house.
With rising analyst sentiment in shares of Constellation Brands this week, we're betting on shares.
Rounding out our list of Rocket Stocks for this week is electronics retail chain Best Buy(BBY) - Get Report . Best Buy started the year as one of the most hated stocks in the retail space -- but stories of the firm's death have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, shares have rallied almost 30% year-to-date on a total returns basis, leaving most other retailers in a cloud of dust.
Best Buy is the last man standing in the big box electronics store business. The firm's 1,631 store locations give it reach that few other electronics sellers can match. And while that big geographic footprint was seen as a major detractor as recently as a couple of years ago, investors are finally warming to the idea that a big infrastructure can actually come with some big competitive advantages. For instance, Best Buy is finally leveraging that store infrastructure for innovative distribution offerings like ship-from-store at the same time online-fist rivals like Amazon.com(AMZN) - Get Report are scrambling to build out their physical infrastructure.
Best Buy's attractiveness is built on a few important pillars. First, the firm has drastically reduced its cost structure, cutting more than a billion dollars in annual costs through its "Renew Blue" plan. Second, Best Buy has been pushing more consumers to its website, scoring much bigger growth rates than incumbents like Amazon in the most recent quarter. And finally, shares started off the year cheap from a fundamental standpoint.
With a P/E ratio of 12.5, Best Buy is still cheap compared to the rest of the retail industry right now -- and that's providing a bargain buying opportunity for investors willing to buy this stock that nobody was willing to bet on just nine months ago.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.