) -- U.S. indices posted modest gains on Monday, helped by holiday sales buzz. These stocks hit 52-week highs.
3. Urban Outfitters
advanced 2.4% to $35.43. Shares of the specialty retailer gained on estimates for a 3.6% increase in holiday retail sales. The stock has jumped 11% over the past month.
: Third-quarter profit increased 5% to $62 million, or 36 cents a shares, as revenue grew 6% to $506 million. The company's gross margin decreased from 45% to 41%, but its operating margin remained steady at 19%. Urban Outfitters has an ideal financial position, with $418 million of cash and no debt.
: We rate Urban Outfitters "buy." Its stock has doubled this year, outperforming major U.S. indices. Urban Outfitters receives outstanding scores from TheStreet's quantitative model, placing it among the top 100 of the 5,000 stocks we track. Still, the shares are expensive relative to those of peers based on trailing earnings, projected earnings, book value, sales and cash flow.
2. Equity Residential
rose 2% to $36. Shares of the residential real estate investment trust rallied on expectations for a rise in the
S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index
, scheduled to be released today. The stock has risen 16% during the past month.
: Third-quarter net income dropped 23% to $136 million and earnings per share plummeted 63% to 3 cents, hurt by a higher share count. Revenue declined 4% to $493 million. Equity Residential's gross and operating margins narrowed from 29% to 27%. The trust holds $657 million of cash and short-term investments, and $9.8 billion of debt. Its debt-to-equity ratio of 2 indicates substantial leverage.
: We rate Equity Residential "hold." Its stock returned 21% this year, more than the Dow, but less than the S&P 500. Although the shares offer a 3.8% dividend yield, higher yields can be found elsewhere with less risk. Some analysts fear that expiration of the first-time buyer tax credit will cause home prices to fall.
1. ConAgra Foods
increased 1.4% to $23.57. Shares of the food maker have risen since Dec. 21, when it reported strong quarterly earnings and raised its forecast. The stock has gained 6% during the past month.
: Fiscal second-quarter profit climbed 43% to $240 million, or 55 cents a share. Revenue fell 3% to $3.2 billion. ConAgra's gross margin expanded from 21% to 26%, and its operating margin widened from 9% to 12%. Its quick ratio, at 0.7, reflects less-than-ideal liquidity. Its 0.7 debt-to-equity ratio indicates reasonable leverage.
: We rate ConAgra Foods "buy." Its stock has returned 43% this year, more than the Dow and S&P 500. As the chart illustrates, ConAgra's stock sells at a discount to those of its peers based on all of our valuation measures. It also has a 3.4% dividend yield with a safe payout ratio of 46%. We give ConAgra a financial strength score of 8.9 out of 10.
-- Reported by Jake Lynch in Boston.