Editor's note: As part of our partnership with PBS's Nightly Business Report, TheStreet's Bob Walberg joined NBR Monday (watch video and read transcript here) to explain why investors should forget about Europe and buy stocks tied to the U.S. economy.
At what point did we lose control of our own market? U.S. economic data and domestic earnings growth no longer matter -- all investors seem to care about is the status of Europe.
Will Italy default on its debt? Can France avoid a debt downgrade?
the debt crisis? Can Merkel convince the German people that it is in their own best interest to bail out its troubled neighbors? Will anyone step up and create a realistic plan for long-term recovery? Blah, blah, blah.
Europe is like that car crash on the side of the road that we can't help but slow down and gape at. However, the European distraction is making us lose sight of what historically drives U.S. equity prices: earnings, earnings, earnings.
Despite all of the negative headlines out of Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Greece, etc., the simple fact is that earnings in this country continue to grow at double-digit rates. In the third quarter, about 70% of the companies in the
exceeded earnings estimates, with year-over-year growth of nearly 18%.
But nobody cared. The S&P 500 shed 14% during the quarter.
While it is true that corporate America is guiding estimates a little lower for the fourth quarter due to ongoing uncertainty over the situation in Europe, the energy, financial and industrial sectors are still projected to deliver growth of 23.1%, 18.5% and 11.2%, respectively. Yet stocks in all three of these sectors have been clobbered recently amid the deluge of negative reports out of Europe.
Eventually, earnings will win out. With investors so defensive -- cash has been flooding out of equities into the relative safety of the U.S. bond market over the past several months -- any good news out of Europe is likely to trigger a wave of buying in domestic equities.
U.S. stocks are cheaper today than at any time since 2009, even though the domestic economy is ramping up and corporate balance sheets are as healthy as I've ever seen them. The only reason stocks are this cheap is that we are focusing on the wrong story: Europe. It's a messy, sensational drama that is playing out 24/7. Frankly, there's no escaping it.
But don't let the headlines in Europe prevent you from buying shares of good-quality U.S. companies that are benefitting from an improving domestic economy. This is the best buying opportunity in years, and we have our Italian and French friends to thank for it. Below are three stocks that are particularly attractive buys right now.
posted one of the strongest quarters in the exploration and production (E&P) industry, beating estimates on revenues, earnings, production growth and margin expansion. It has a slate of new projects underway as it exploits the $11 billion worth of acquisitions it made in 2010 from
Apache trades at a 20% discount to its peer group, which is head-scratching given the 13%-17% production growth it will post over the next several years -- far above the low single-digit growth expected from its rivals. Shares trade at 7 times estimated 2012 earnings, with a dividend yield of 0.7%. Our price target is $125.
is a play on the strengthening consumer, growth in corporate travel and an expanding international business.
Operationally, American Express continues to deliver low double-digit earnings growth. At 11 times next year's earnings, the stock is cheap relative to its peers and to its historical norm. AXP also sports an attractive 1.6% dividend yield. Our price target for this one is $54.
The industrial sector has been hit hard, and
has not been immune. But the evidence continues to support the truck cycle, and Cummins is the No. 1 player in the industry.
Earnings are expected to grow by 68% in 2011 and then again by 13% in 2012. Trading at 9 times estimated earnings, the stock is a relative bargain, especially given the solid balance sheet and 1.9% dividend yield. We are looking for shares to move to the $115 area.
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Robert Walberg is chief market strategist and editor of Premium Products at
. Prior to joining
, Walberg was founder and president of Chartwell Asset Management, a financial advisory company. Before founding Chartwell, he worked as a financial analyst and columnist for
from 2003 to 2008. Walberg was on the founding team at
from 1996 to 2003, working as chief equity analyst, formulating the company's near-, intermediate- and long-term market positions. He was regularly quoted by
The Wall Street Journal
Investor's Business Daily
and made guest appearances on
ABC World News
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
. Walberg received a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Illinois.