BALTIMORE (Stockpickr) -- The big S&P 500 index is starting off a new week having ended eight out of the last 10 sessions higher. That's not a bad place to be. The market averages ended last week at the highest levels investors have seen almost two months, signaling what looks like the end of this summer's correction.
And as earnings season starts to hit its stride this week, with 35 S&P components reporting their numbers to Wall Street, expect some more buying pressure to get injected into the market. That doesn't mean that it makes sense to start buying stocks blindly in October. 2015 has been a year when individual sectors have had extremely divergent performance. That makes it extra important to focus on leaders as the broad market comes back from its correction.
So to find the opportunities set to outperform this week, we're turning to a fresh set of Rocket Stocks worth buying.
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 319 weeks, our weekly list of five plays has outperformed the S&P 500's record run by 77.66%.
Without further ado, here's a look at this week's Rocket Stocks.
Up first is beverage behemoth Coca-Cola (KO) - Get Report . At a glance, it may look like Coke has lost some of its fizz this year, as shares have struggled to hold on to breakeven in 2015. But Coke is bumping up to test some fresh highs this week -- and that could spell additional upside for anyone who owns this stock heading into earnings.
Coca-Cola is the largest non-alcoholic beverage producer in the world. The firm's powerhouse brands total more than 500 names, including Sprite, Dasani, Fanta and Powerade, in addition to its namesake brand. Coke's distribution network spans more than 200 countries, and helps the firm move product in volume at an extremely low cost. That infrastructure is extremely difficult for competing beverage companies to replicate -- and that gives Coca-Cola some important advantages, particularly in acquiring new brands that aren't able to stay consistently profitable on their own.
When you sell $46 billion in beverages, it's often hard to move the growth needle. So Coke has made some interesting bets to engage consumers here in the firm's most mature markets. The introduction of the Freestyle touchscreen soda fountain back in 2009 and the firm's investment in Keurig Green Mountain (GMCR) and partnership on the Kold home sola machine provide potential upside in the food service and consumer channels by introducing some novelty -- something that the segment had been without.
With rising analyst sentiment in shares of Coke, we're betting on this Rocket Stock.
Aerospace giant Boeing(BA) - Get Report has managed to hold onto its gains in 2015, despite the recent correction that's dragged its peers into negative territory. Since the calendar flipped to January, Boeing is up nearly 10% including dividend payouts -- up big vs. the negative territory in the S&P. And Boeing looks likely to keep that momentum alive as we head deeper into the final stretch of the year.
Most investors know Boeing best for its commercial aviation business. The firm is one of only two major builders of large airliners, splitting the market with Europe's Airbus. But the firm also owns a defense systems business that's historically contributed about half of total sales. As airline profits soared and government contracts got more challenging, Boeing has moved its mix far more towards the airliner business; commercial aircraft now make up about 70% of overall sales today. And Boeing's massive $495 billion backlog means that the firm has a very clear picture of what sales will look like for the years to come.
Boeing has spent significant time and money developing new products, like the 787 Dreamliner and the 737 MAX. With some of the huge R&D costs already sunk, expect Boeing to enjoy strong revenues as those new aircraft roll off the firm's assembly lines in large numbers. Boeing's new airframes are dramatically more efficient (for instance, the company estimates that the 737 MAX is 8% cheaper to operate per seat mile), and that gives airlines a huge incentive to spend money on upgrading their fleets.
In the meantime, keep an eye out for third quarter earnings for Boeing, which are set to hit in the middle of next week.
Low oil prices have been a major problem over at ConocoPhillips(COP) - Get Report , one of the largest oil and gas E&P firms on the planet. Shares are down nearly 19% since the beginning of 2015, making this stock a particularly nasty casualty of the decline in crude oil prices. But ConocoPhillips is starting to show some upside momentum this fall -- and that could help shares make up for lost time.
This firm's scale is massive. Last year, ConocoPhillips generated 879,000 barrels of liquids per day and 3.9 billion cubic feet of natural gas. And proven reserves currently ring up at 9.2 billion barrels of oil equivalent. The decision to unload its midstream operations back in 2012 was poorly timed, but it still makes ConocoPhillips a pure-play E&P stock, positioning that should pay off in a big way again even under moderately priced oil.
The recent drama in oil prices also presents an important opportunity for large, well-capitalized producers such as ConocoPhillips. As smaller, less financially stable firms become distressed under unprofitable oil prices, ConocoPhillips has the wherewithal to acquire those projects at fire sale prices. Likewise, many investors don't realize that many of the projects that aren't profitable today are still cash flow positive, which means that ConocoPhillips can keep producing for the benefit of shareholders even at current price levels.
We'll get our next peek at ConocoPhillips' performance when management reports earnings numbers at the end of the month.
Salesforce.com(CRM) - Get Report hasn't stopped rallying in 2015. This $50 billion software company is up 27% since the beginning of January, stomping the S&P's not-even-breakeven performance by comparison. And with shares within 3.5% of 52-week highs as of Friday's trading session, this stock's leadership looks likely to keep moving higher this fall.
Salesforce's software enables more than 100,000 customers to run business applications that interact with their customer lists, doing everything from sending newsletters to tracking sales. The mission critical nature of that toolbox means that customers are willing to keep re-upping when the next subscription payment comes due. And because CRM's software packages tend to be deeply integrated in customers' other systems, switching costs are extremely high.
The firm's willingness (and ability) to forsake short-term profits in the name of long-term growth has been a major factor in Salesforce's leadership in the CRM software niche. And as the firm introduces additional add-ons to its core platform, it should be able to boost margins without sacrificing those growth investments. In 2015, Salesforce.com remains one of the strongest ways for investors to get exposure to the cloud. Expect to see this stock's revenue continue its upside trajectory in 2016.
Specialty retailer L Brands(LB) - Get Report continues to benefit from increased consumer spending in 2015. The firm -- which owns brands such as Victoria's Secret, Bath & Body Works, Henry Bendel and La Senza -- is a staple at shopping malls all across the continent. All told, L Brands boasts 3,619 store locations, in addition to online and catalog channels.
The shining star in L Brands' portfolio is Victoria's Secret, followed closely by Bath & Body Works. The intimate apparel and soap and fragrance chains account for approximately 90% of sales -- and both offer extremely high margins with equally high levels of consumer stickiness. Those high barriers to entry make it difficult for newcomers to steal share, even if they're trying to do just that.
L Brands is primarily a North American retailer; only about 4% of sales come from overseas. That huge exposure to familiar markets has been a very good thing in recent years, as the strength of the dollar has punished firms that earn excessive revenues in foreign currencies. That said, there's considerable room for growth in international markets, particularly given the thick margins that L Brands generates today.
With rising analyst sentiment in shares this week, we're betting on this Rocket Stock retailer.
Disclosure: This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.