As mentioned in the introduction to TheStreet's Market Bracket Challenge we are trying something a little different this year.
We have ranked some of the best-performing and most widely held stocks in the S&P 500, based both on their appreciation over the past four months and their prospects for the coming weeks.
TheStreet picked the top-performing companies based solely on a percentage increase over the past four months. We weeded out companies that were currently the target of an announced deal (exceptions being Time Warner (TWX) and AT&T (T) , because, why not?) and only choose stocks that have a primary listing in the United States.
We picked the top 40 or so stocks based on their performance and also awarded 24 "editorial at-large" bids based on track record, popularity and a staff-wide vote. So when you ask yourself "Why is Apple (AAPL) or Snap (SNAP) or Exxon (XOM) ranked so low? or "Where is Tesla (TSLA) or Microsoft (MSFT) ?" Remember, TheStreet's rankings are based solely on performance, not politics. Sorry Elon Musk and Satya Nadella, despite being storied programs, you just didn't measure up when it counted over the last four months.
The stock performance is decided on shear appreciation and percentage change. It does not take into account dividends of any kind. If a company pays a dividend during the tournament the dividend would not be factored into the performance return.
You can enter here to make your selections. But before that, do a little research and judge how these 64 stocks might perform over the next week or so.
DISCLAIMER: This challenge is for entertainment purposes only. There is not a prize associated with this challenge. All trademarks are the property of their owners. This challenge is not sponsored, endorsed or administered by any such trademark owner. Question can be sent to email@example.com.
NRG Energy (NRG) -- Kudos to utility analysts at Deutsche Bank who spotted potential gains in this traditional and alternative energy generator's shares in November. "In our view, NRG is a tremendous value play, having met or exceeded expectations consistently for two years running," analyst Abe Azar wrote at the time, adding that the only caveat was its GenOn Energy unit's debt. Fast forward through the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 and the company had restructured $1.9 billion of that debt. Along the way, the company also settled with activist investors Elliott Management and Bluescape Energy Partners, who own about 6.9% and 2.5% of the company's common stock, respectively. Asset sales, a restructuring and even a possible sale of the business may be in the cards for NRG after the February settlements.
Close Nov. 11: $11.07
Close March 3: $17.30
Regular season performance: 56.3%
Arconic (ARNC) -- Alcoa CEO Klaus Kleinfeld may have made a slam-dunk decision when he decided to split the company into two. Arconic, which resulted from the Alcoa spinoff, is racing to the hoop in 2017. Shares have gained over 44% YTD and looks to be a dominant force soaring its way through the aerospace industry. But, will Arconic, an Action Alerts PLUS portfolio holding, be able to take its fast-paced offense into our tournament? The aerospace components manufacturer recently sold a large stake in Alcoa in an effort to appease activist investor Elliott Management.
Close Nov. 11: $18.86
Close March 3: $28.09
Regular season performance: 48.9%
Micron Technology (MU) -- The highest ranking representative from the chips and chip equipment division, Micron has run up 132% in the past year and about 50% since the start of TheStreet's regular season on Nov. 11. After a choppy week leading into the tournament, look to see if Micron can keep pace with the markets run-up near 21,000.
Close Nov. 11: $17.67
Close March 3: $25.57
Regular season performance: 44.7%
CSX (CSX) -- Barreling through the lane is transportation powerhouse CSX. The railroad company has looked like a small forward freight-training its way to the hoop this year, as shares are higher over 30% YTD. However, as talented as any team's players in the NCAA Tournament is its coach. Can newly announced CEO Hunter Harrison guide this locomotive and keep in on the right track? Harrison was appointed last week as part of a long-awaited blockbuster settlement with activist Mantle Ridge, whose only current target is CSX.
Close Nov. 11: $34.58
Close March 3: $49.48
Regular season performance: 43.1%
United Rentals (URI) -- Boosted by new pro-infrastructure president, Donald Trump, and the $965 million of its private equity backed peer NES Rentals Holdings II, equipment rental company United Rentals has seen its stock surge by nearly $40 per share, or roughly 45%, this regular season. With playoff season upon us, and nearly half of the first 100 days in the rearview, no one can say for sure whether Trump will truly be able to positively impact America's aging infrastructure like he says he will, but one thing is for certain: Many a crane would be needed to build a 1,000 mile wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. And that would mean United Rentals shares could keep going up, up, up!
Close Nov. 11: $91.20
Close March 3: $128.72
Regular season performance: 41.1%
Centene (CNC) -- Despite boosting its exposure to the public markets in 2016, Centene shares have climbed $20 since Nov. 11. It's likely that the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is a boon to the healthcare company -- less exposure to those public markets, which were left hanging by mega-insurers in 2016, is a positive financially. Investors should watch whether the bill makes it through Congress without any changes -- it's those changes that could shift tides for Centene.
Close Nov. 11: $50.68
Close March 3: $70.97
Regular season performance: 40%
IDEXX Laboratories (IDXX) -- As people plunk down more cash for their cats and dogs (and a bevy of other exotic creatures they call pets), IDEXX Laboratories shares have seen a huge boost. Shares of the animal healthcare company have climbed nearly $40 since Nov. 11 thanks to increased investor interest and deal activity in the animal health space. Since the animal health market is less regulated than human health in the U.S., humans can spend a fortune on pet insurance, pet medication and veterinary visits. A lingering question, though, is what is the cap on interest?
Close Nov. 11: $109.17
Close March 3: $147.13
Regular season performance: 34.8%
Southwest Airlines (LUV) -- Speculation that Warren Buffett may be slashing into the lane for a takeover have given shares of the discount airline a big-time boost. The Trump optimism-fueled bump for transportation companies hasn't hurt, either.
Close Nov. 11: $43.84
Close March 3: $58.86
Regular season performance: 34.3%
Bank of America (BAC) -- It's been a hell of a year for bank stocks and our country's eponymous financial institution rode that wave to become one of the top seeds in our bracket. Can coach Brian Moynihan and the rest of the brass at BofA continue to steer the bank in the right direction?
Close Nov. 11: $19.02
Close March 3: $25.44
Regular season performance: 33.8%
CBRE Group (CBG) -- Shares of the commercial real estate services firm, CBRE Group, are up over 15% this year as the company's earning during the last quarter of 2016 grew 15.9% to $314.75 million, while it revenue of $3.82 billion increasing 3.2%. CEO Bob Sulentic said on the company's recent earnings call that rising interest rates won't have a material impact on appetite for real estate direct investments.
Close Nov. 11: $27.64
Close March 3: $36.43
Regular season performance: 31.8%
Western Digital (WDC) -- Despite a late season dip, Western Digital continues to look appealing to the experts. "We would be buying additional shares of Western Digital on this morning's selloff," wrote Jim Cramer, TheStreet's founder and manager of the Action Alerts PLUS portfolio, which owns WDC. "Should the stock remain at levels near where the stock currently trades, we will look to add to our position once our restrictions are lifted." The question remains: will the company make a late season push or will it continue to struggle through the tournament?
Close Nov. 11: $58.89
Close March 3: $77.54
Regular season performance: 31.7%
Alaska Air (ALK) , which acquired Virgin America last year, is expanding routes and adding nonstops between the West Coast and Nashville, Raleigh-Durham, N.C., New Orleans, Kona, Hawaii, Albuquerque and Kansas City. The company routinely returns capital to shareholders and increases its dividends, raising dividends 30% between 2013 and 2016. It was rated the best overall performing U.S. airline in 2016 by airfarewatchdog.
Close Nov. 11: $75.23
Close March 3: $98.94
Regular season performance: 31.5%
Seagate Technology (STX) -- Shares of data storage company Seagate Technology are up 36% since November, most recently reporting a strong Q2 earnings beat in January. The acquisitive company, which operates primarily in hard disk drives, completed its last acquisition in August, closing a $645 million deal for Dot Hill Systems.
Close Nov. 11: $37.25
Close March 3: $48.96
Regular season performance: 31.4%
Incyte (INCY) -- Incyte had a shot to be acquired by large player in the drug space such as Gilead (GILD) , according to The Deal, a sister publication of TheStreet. The company is valuable thanks to Jakafi, considered the best drug for myelofibrosis on the market. Incyte also has a promising IDO inhibitor that could be used for cancer immunotherapy. The company's share value has climbed more than $30 since November thanks to rumors that Incyte is the next valuable biotech to be taken out. Just when that deal lands, though, is yet to be seen.
Close Nov. 11: $104.51
Close March 3: $136.91
Regular season performance: 31%
Transocean (RIG) -- Like a big man in the paint, Transocean's oil rigs are a dominant presence in the drilling industry. But Transocean's dominance has been bottled up as shares have sunk over 16% YTD. However, since the start of the season on Nov. 11, Transocean has mounted a comeback, higher nearly 30%. With the odds stacked against them, can this once-dominant force continue to regain its footing in the paint?
Close Nov. 11: $10.37
Close March 3: $13.53
Regular season performance: 30.5%
Broadcom (AVGO) -- Don't let the ticker fool you; this isn't the Avago Technologies of yesteryear. This chipmaker is a heavy supplier for Apple's iPhone and is on a tear. We're not sure it's slowing down anytime soon. The stock has spiked 30% over the past 6 months due to recent M&A activity as well as demand for the company's chips.
Close Nov. 11: $167.54
Close March 3: $218.32
Regular season performance: 30.3%
Albemarle (ALB) -- Specialty chemicals firm Albemarle started off the season in November by consolidating company control in one position when it assigned Chief Executive Officer Luke Kissam the chairman's role. By December the firm had managed to increase the price of select brominated flame retardants and bromine derivatives by 5%, and its stock had risen to $85.68 from $81 a share. During the same period the firm retired debt with the net proceeds from the sale of its Chemetall Surface Treatment segment. And, the company, that specializes in modern battery metal lithium, expanded its agreement with the Chilean government to provide Albemarle with sufficient lithium to produce over 80,000 MT annually of technical and battery grade product over the next 27 years at its expanding battery grade manufacturing facilities in La Negra, Antofagasta.
Close Nov. 11: $80.43
Close March 3: $104.77
Regular season performance: 30.3%
Apple (AAPL) -- What'd you expect, Kodak? Think again, 1989. The world's largest tech company by market cap has performed well over the course of the TheStreet's regular season, and of course, is seeded highly in our rankings. This Action Alerts PLUS holding could be the beneficiary of a potential tax holiday in the U.S. that could unlock almost $200 billion in cash. The perennial powerhouse will likely prove to be a tough out in the coming weeks as it remains atop the mobile phone space and all signs point to a blockbuster iPhone 8 release in the fall.
Close Nov. 11: $108.43
Close March 3: $139.78
Regular season performance:28.9%
Citizens Financial Group (CFG) -- The regional bank, based in Providence, R.I., saw its total revenue jump to $5.3 billion, up 9%, with strong net interest income and an 8% average loan growth.
Close Nov. 11: $29.85
Close March 3: $38.31
Regular season performance: 28.3%
Applied Materials (AMAT) -- A 25% run-up in Applied Materials' stock over the past 4 months has propelled the chipmaking equipment manufacturer to tops in its division and into TheStreet's top 64 stocks. Applied Materials was at one point the apple of Tokyo Electron's eye, but that deal ended up being scuttled. Will another company swoop in and take a run at Applied Materials or will the company keep chugging along in a promising industry and streak past its competition?
Close Nov. 11: $28.82
Close March 3: $36.87
Regular season performance: 27.9%
Skyworks Solutions (SWKS) -- Look for chipmaker Skyworks to pick up assists as Apple and Samsung introduce new devices this year. The company builds components for everything from smart cars and IoT devices to gaming consoles and real-life electronic warfare platforms. When Barclays upped its price target from $85 to $100 in March, the firm suggested Skyworks will return cash to shareholders rather than spend on M&A.
Close Nov. 11: $74.51
Close March 3: $94.92
Regular season performance: 27.4%
Analog Devices (ADI) -- Chipmaker Analog Devices just closed its $14.8 billion purchase of Linear Technology (LLTC) . Pacific Crest raised its target from $95 to $98 per share, noting that the acquisition could drive cash flow and boost earnings from $3.08 per share in 2016 to $5 per share in 2020. Chief Accounting Officer Eileen Wynne moves to the front court as interim replacement for CFO David Zisner, who moves on to venture opportunities.
Close Nov. 11: $65.32
Close March 3: $83.18
Regular season performance: 27.3%
HCA Holdings (HCA) -- As the uncertainty surrounding the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act dissipates, HCA Holdings shares are soaring. The for-profit hospital operator has benefited from more information on how the federal government will fund Medicare and Medicaid, as well as the public health markets. An aging population (which uses Medicare to pay for health services) is certainly a boon to the company, and likely can account for at least part of the company's share boost.
Close Nov. 11: $69.58
Close March 3: $88.53
Regular season performance: 27.2%
Comerica (CMA) -- Comerica, like many other financial services companies, has seen its stock pop during the "Trump rally" following the presidential election. Interest rate increases and a rise in energy prices have have pushed the company to a win during it latest quarter, beating analysts' estimates. Shares are up 6.3% so far this year.
Close Nov. 11: $57.83
Close March 3: $73.46
Regular season performance: 27%
NetApp (NTAP) -- Shares have rocketed since mid-February when the storage reported a third-quarter earnings beat and scored price increases from UBS, Deutsche Bank, William Blair, BMO Capital Markets, Jefferies and others. Nothing but NetApp? Hardly. Analysts found upside in a mixed quarter. Although UBS raised its target from $32 to $37 per share, the bank cited concerns about NetApps "worrisome" discounts and questioned how long "the good times last" while the company cuts prices. Meanwhile, NetApp has to box out Dell EMC and storage startups. Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is upping its game with the $1 billion acquisition of Nimble Storage (NMBL) . Investors study the Xs and Os ahead of the April 5 analyst day.
Close Nov. 11: $33.86
Close March 3: $42.80
Regular season performance: 26.4%
United Continental Holdings (UAL) -- Warren Buffett's beefed-up position in the airline--9.12%, making him the largest individual stakeholder -- has investors trying to chase him down. Investors also have confidence in United Continental's new management team below CEO Oscar Munoz.
Close Nov. 11: $60.25
Close March 3: $75.59
Regular season performance: 25.5%
Borg Warner (BWA) -- Borg Warner, the Auburn Hills, MI-based engine and drivetrain maker best-known to the public as the sponsor of the Indianapolis 500 auto race Trophy, began the period by rolling out its first electric drive module for use in in two pure electric vehicles from a major Chinese automaker that is expected to begin production this summer. The shares traded just over $34 at the time. Kudos to The Street's Bruce Kamich for catching the trend early and writing in late November that "BorgWarner has basically traded sideways for much of the year but a pending upside breakout is likely to reward traders and investors with nice returns in the weeks ahead." The shares continued rising through the new year and got more support from unexpectedly strong U.S. auto sales at the end of 2016, and by mid-January told investors to expect 5% To 7% compound annual organic growth rate from net new business backlog over the next three years.
Close Nov. 11: $34.38
Close March 3: $42.96
Regular season performance: 25%
Anthem (ANTM) -- Health insurance giant Anthem has finally shrugged off the specter of looming Department of Justice litigation over its attempted acquisition of Cigna (CI) . Yes, Anthem no longer has those extra assets to add to its portfolio, but the insurer is flush with cash and ready to take on the uncertainties of the future of the Affordable Care Act. The company's value has increased manifold since President Donald Trump was elected, and while some of that value add could have been the eponymous Trump Bump, at least a little has got to be investors' faith that the healthcare giant is poised to do well in the new world of healthcare.
Close Nov. 11: $133.68
Close March 3: $166.00
Regular season performance: 24.2%
Goldman Sachs (GS) -- You might wonder why Lloyd Blankfein & Co. didn't win a higher seeding after their chart-topping run on the blue-chip Dow Jones index since Donald Trump's election. Does the firm have what it takes to be a bracket-buster? It profited handsomely from fixed-income trading growth in the second half of last year, after all. And a number of its alums hold prominent posts in Trump's new -- and pro-business -- administration. Think Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House strategist Steve Bannon, both of whom are likely to play a role as Trump tries to loosen regulations on Wall Street.
Close Nov. 11: $203.94
Close March 3: $252.89
Regular season performance: 24%
Philip Morris International (PM) -- Got 'em, smoke 'em. Philip Morris has been smoking hot since November as, once again, speculation percolated that the company could look to combine with fellow cigarette maker Altria. Will it actually happen and when remain the two big questions the New York based company will need to answer. Until then, you'll have to rely on fundamentals to buoy the stock through the tournament.
Close Nov. 11: $88.95
Close March 3: $110.21
Regular season performance: 23.9%
Qorvo (QRVO) -- Chipmaker Qorvo, which got 37% of its revenue from its largest customer (believed to be Apple) last quarter, reported fiscal third quarter revenue of $826.3 million (up 33% annually) and adjusted EPS of $1.35, beating consensus estimates of $821 million and $1.26. But it also guided for fourth quarter adjusted EPS of $0.70 to $0.90, easily below consensus estimates of $716.6 million and $1.01. Still, all signs point to blockbuster year for the next-gen iPhone and if hints drop that Qorvo can land even just one customer and diversify its revenue look for the stock to rocket. If not, our experts expect a tepid performance during the tournament as we wait for the iPhone 8 shoe to fall.
Close Nov. 11: $53.52
Close March 3: $66.21
Regular season performance: 23.7%
Digital Realty Trust (DLR) -- The age of the data center is upon us and Digital Realty Trust, which owns about 156 data centers in 11 countries, has surely benefited. With the acquisition of Telx in October 2015 the company expanded its outreach. That growth has continued both organically and inorganically and the company doesn't seem to be slowing down.
Close Nov. 11: $87.93
Close March 3: $108.33
Regular season performance: 23.2%
Boeing (BA) -- Much like Tom Izzo-coached teams in March, Boeing just keeps rolling on. Pointed tweets from President Donald Trump about the cost of refurbishing Air Force One have bounced off the company's fuselage. The company has a hefty backlog of commercial orders of around 5,700 planes, which has burnished investor confidence.
Close Nov. 11:$148.52
Close March 3: $182.18
Regular season performance: 22.7%
Illumina (ILMN) -- Genetic analysis maker Illumina has been on the rebound lately, after struggling to keep shares afloat in the fall. The company's stock bottomed out mid December, hitting $120 per share at a low after news that it cut guidance for the coming year. But Illumina is bouncing back after announcing that it would introduce a line of new products, genomic sequencers that can contribute to the Human Genome Project.
Close Nov. 11: $137.71
Close March 3: $168.50
Regular season performance: 22.4%
Lam Research (LRCX) -- After remarkable run-up that can be traced back to September, the Fremont, Calif.-based provider of wafer fabrication equipment and services to the semiconductor industry has hit a bit of a rough patch in the last week or so. That said, the company, which competes against the likes of Applied Material (AMAT) and Tokyo Electron, will likely continue to see strong sales as its chips are used in emerging technology including a range of electronic products, including cell phones, tablets, computers, storage devices, and networking equipment.
Close Nov. 11: $97.49
Close March 3: $118.62
Regular season performance: 21.7%
Deere & Co. (DE) -- Tractor maker John Deere is another beneficiary of the Trump administration's anticipated construction boom. The president even touted Deere's tractors, along with Caterpillar's (CAT) , in a speech last year about his planned border wall: "The Great Wall of China -- built 2,000 years ago -- is 13,000 miles, folks. And they didn't have Caterpillar tractors -- cause I only want to use Caterpillar, if you wanna know the truth. Or John Deere. [I] buy a lot of equipment from John Deere. I love John Deere, too." Caterpillar is sidelined with a tax probe, but John Deere recently lost one of its biggest fans: Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway exited its stake in February.
Close Nov. 11: $91.10
Close March 3: $110.83
Regular season performance: 21.7%
Morgan Stanley (MS) -- It's tough to credit head coach James P. Gorman for the bank's run-up over the past four months though the executive hasn't done anything to shoot his company in the foot. Morgan Stanley ranks just ahead of its investment banking brethren JPMorgan Chase (JPM) . "It has been an amazing ride from when the stock of MS was nearly on its back in late 2008 and only 10 bucks a share," said Robert Lang, a columnist at TheStreet's premium site Real Money in a piece on March 6. "The comeback certainly was helped by a friendly Fed and government. Today, banks are in much better shape and possibly may be able to withstand another shock to the system."
Close Nov. 11: $38.47
Close March 3: $46.83
Regular season performance: 21.7%
Netflix (NFLX) -- The world's dominant streaming video operator took home an Oscar last month and looks to pull off some mild upsets on the way to a March Market Madness title. It's scoring from outside with original films and shows, laying up comedy specials, muscling its way into reality-TV and contemplating a drive to talk shows. And what other bid profile can give you "Glory Road"?
Close Nov. 11: $114.78
Close March 3: $139.14
Regular season performance: 21.2%
Clorox (CLX) - Clorox has a lot of momentum coming into the tournament this year following a strong second quarter earnings showing in February. The stock climbed about 9% in the four weeks following the earnings release and is approaching its all time high of $138.39. Momentum is everything is sports and Clorox has plenty of it. Look for Clorox to use that momentum to breeze through the early rounds of this tournament.
Close Nov. 11: $113.05
Close March 3: $136.92
Regular season performance: 21.1%
Exelon (EXC) -- This Chicago-based utility has been on an epic run since bottoming out at around $30 per share in early November. The stock is priced by most Wall Street analysts at around $38 per share, according to information from FactSet. Can its power trip continue? Stay tuned.
Close Nov. 11: $30.00
Close March 3: $36.32
Regular season performance: 21.1%
JPMorgan Chase (JPM) -- You don't want to bet against JPMorgan. Its seeding may not be particularly high in this bracket, but it's still the largest lender in the U.S., with some $2.5 billion in assets. And while most banks have benefited from a market rally since Donald Trump's election, few did as well as JPMorgan, whose performance on the Dow Jones was second only to Goldman's. Not only has CEO Jamie Dimon steered the bank through challenges from the financial crisis to last year's oil slump, he continues to advocate using its "fortress" balance sheet to keep investing despite temporary downturns.
Close Nov. 11: $76.69
Close March 3: $92.80
Regular season performance: 21%
CBS (CBS) -- CBS may have missed on its last earnings report, but the network owner boasts a strong online front court with CBS All Access and Showtime, each with more than a million subscribers. Shooting guard Stephen Colbert has been on fire in recent weeks, trumping the apolitical Jimmy Fallon of Comcast's (CMCSA) NBCUniversal. CEO Les Moonves' company has sold his radio unit to further focus on core television programming. That makes for a lean machine come game time. After all, does anyone really really want to bet against an entry that broadcasts "One Shining Moment" after airing the championship game?
Close Nov. 11: $57.74
Close March 3: $68.24
Regular season performance: 18.2%
Facebook (FB) --Facebook is kind of like the Duke of the S&P 500--dominant, consistent and easily able to scoop up all the best talent around. If it starts to fall behind in an important area, you can bet Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's own Coach K, will quickly shift gears and adapt - just ask Snapchat and Twitter. As with Duke, it's hard to bet against Action Alerts PLUS portfolio holding Facebook, even if its recent stock performance isn't quite as stellar as that of some of its rivals.
Close Nov. 11: $119.02
Close March 3: $137.17
Regular season performance: 15.2%
AT&T (T) -- The wireless business may be on slow growth but AT&T has shown a willingness to do deal, which might be the same a signing free agents or landing big recruits. First it was DirecTV, and more recently, Time Warner (TWX) , a mega-deal that will require the blessings of Washington. AT&T is making a big bet on the convergence of broadband with content as illustrated by its latest toy, DirecTV Now, a pay-TV streaming platform.
Close Nov. 11: $36.51
Close March 3: $42.01
Regular season performance: 15.1%
Amazon.com (AMZN) -- With its relentless commitment to innovation, Amazon puts the 'A' in FANG, representing the ultimate combination of speed, strength and stamina. Jeff Bezos has his team tossing up three-pointers and even half-court shots with abandon, knowing that if even just a few of those long shots connect, the company will be well-positioned to win. Its rivals know that as soon as Amazon enters a given business, the shot clock starts ticking for them, but not necessarily for Amazon.
Close Nov. 11: $739.01
Close March 3: $849.88
Regular season performance: 15%
Costco Wholesale (COST) -- Costco shares have been a slam dunk, recently touching an all-time high, as the company continues to prove it has a business model that is semi-resistant to hard-charging Amazon. The company stands to get a big profit boost over the next two years of more than $265 million as it hikes membership fees on 35 million people in the U.S. and Canada. There is one foul here, however: Costco's online business continues to get limited attention by executives, who are more focused on lowering prices at the chain's humongous warehouses.
Close Nov. 11: $149.36
Close March 3: $170.26
Regular season performance: 14%
Walt Disney (DIS) -- Disney can roll out a Fab Five ("Captain America: Civil War," "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," "Finding Dory," "Zootopia," "The Jungle Book") that topped the global box office last year. It has a "Beauty" and a "Beast" ready to go during the tourney. While its sports network may not be as large as it once was, it's still the heavyweight champion even if some fans want to whistle CEO Bob Iger for running the floor with Mr. Trump. Is Disney a force to be reckoned with or a paper tiger in our tournament?
Close Nov. 11: $97.68
Close March 3: $111.24
Regular season performance: 13.9%
Wells Fargo (WFC) -- The company that branded itself as the "good bank" after the financial crisis took a bruising last year when it agreed to a $185 million settlement over more than 2 million unauthorized accounts -- opened for unwitting customers by workers trying to meet aggressive sales targets. Its team has undergone a shakeup since, with several high-ranking players getting cut and CEO John Stumpf retiring. Still, Wells Fargo is a huge company that's been around for more than 100 years and it's already starting to rebuild relationships with clients. Customer loyalty scores rose in January for the third straight month, though they're still lower than a year ago.
Close Nov. 11: $51.73
Close March 3: $58.89
Regular season performance: 13.8%
Home Depot (HD) -- Home Depot has been such an all-star type talent that it's almost scary. While big name bricks-and-mortar retailers like Macy's (M) and Sears (SHLD) crumble, the home improvement retailer continues to have runaway success. In large part, that's due to the ongoing recovery of the U.S. housing market and surging stock prices that are spurring people to invest in their homes. But it's also because Home Depot remains relentless in trying to improve its operations to meet the ever-changing needs of consumers. Adding to its MVP-like resume: the company loves hiking its dividend by 'bigly' amounts.
Close Nov. 11: $129.85
Close March 3: $147.81
Regular season performance: 13.8%
Time Warner (TWX) -- Jeff Bewkes' crew may live or die on news related to its megamerger with AT&T. Sure, its Warner Bros. arm has "Kong: Skull Island" debuting right before action tips off and "CHiPs" dribbling into theaters as our bracket plays out, but news from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai or Tweeter-in-Chief Donald Trump could wreak havoc with Time Warner's chance to advance. On the flip side, Time Warner networks do host the real action on the hardcourt along with CBS, so maybe you want to gamble on a spate of scintillating matchups boosting the stock, too.
Close Nov. 11: $86.80
Close March 3: $98.73
Regular season performance: 13.7%
Kraft Heinz (KHC) -- Deal speculation elevated shares of Kraft Heinz even before the food giant withdrew its $143 billion offer for Unilever (UL) . Berkshire Hathaway- and 3G Capital-backed Kraft Heinz is a master of cutting costs, and whoever it does buy can expect significant post-integration synergies.
Close Nov. 11: $81.21
Close March 3: $91.50
Regular season performance: 12.7%
General Motors (GM) -- General Motors is retrenching into its core U.S. business much like how Virginia's pack-line defense protects the paint. The automaker is selling its European brands (including Opel) to PSA Group, the maker of Peugeot, for $2.3 billion. The deal gives GM about $2 billion in cash to use for share buybacks.
Close Nov. 11: $34.02
Close March 3: $38.23
Regular season performance: 12.4%
Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) -- Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway continued to grow at a double-digit rate in its latest quarter as the Oracle of Omaha remains bullish about America's future. But does America remain bullish about Berkshire's future?
Close Nov. 11: $175.68
Close March 3: $156.92
Regular season performance: 12%
McDonald's (MCD) -- In 1974, Mickey D's founder and lifelong baseball fan Ray Kroc purchased the San Diego Padres. Based on the team's lack of success during his ownership, maybe he should have bought a basketball franchise. Similarly, having an attachment to a company may not always make it the best stock pick.
Close Nov. 11: $114.22
Close March 3: $127.90
Regular season performance: 12%
Comcast (CMCSA) -- The NBC owner is an Action Alerts Plus holding, so that's some rooting interest right there. Comcast also fields a well-rounded squad including a movie studio with two of 2017's three top-grossing films to date, America's largest cable provider and a theme park outfit that recently agreed to take full control of Universal Studios Japan. The company also has some sexiness, recently making a splash with a $500 million Snap investment. This 13 seed is a live dog.
Close Nov. 11: $33.23
Close March 3: $37.22
Regular season performance: 12%
Nike (NKE) - You will be seeing a lot of Nike apparel on the court during the NCAA March Madness tournament this year, giving the ubiquitous sports apparel maker a lot of (not so free) advertising. Sports apparel is currently a crowded and competitive field, not unlike the tournament, but Nike remains the big dog in the sector.
Close Nov. 11: $50.77
Close March 3: $56.70
Regular season performance: 11.7%
IBM (IBM) -- Would Watson predict a strong run for this equity "blue blood" in our pool or would the fundamentals and technicals say otherwise? IBM shares are up 30% in the last year, so it's natural to question how much Big Blue has left in the tank. Let's see if Coach Rometty can pull off some March magic.
Close Nov. 11: $161.27
Close March 3: $180.05
Regular season performance: 11.6%
Alphabet (GOOGL) -- Alphabet might be the North Carolina to Facebook's Duke - another storied institution with an intimidating assemblage of talent. The engine of Alphabet's growth-its Michael Jordan, if you will-has always been its search ads, which have given it plenty of free cash with which to pursue its moonshot bets, some of which have panned out, and many of which have yet to be proven. The promising thing, at least from Wall Street's perspective, is that CFO Ruth Porat has managed to bring some restraint and fiscal discipline to these 'other bets.' Chances are good that at least one of these will eventually result in another championship ring or two for Action Alerts PLUS portfolio holding Alphabet.
Close Nov. 11: $771.75
Close March 3: $849.08
Regular season performance: 10%
Chevron (CVX) -- A 6% gain in four months isn't exactly a double-double, but for a $200 billion-in-market-capitalization oil company that is currently struggling through a lower-for-longer commodity price environment, it's not half bad. Along with a number of fossil fuel powerhouses, Chevron is undergoing a rebuilding season, and having a tough go of it. The integrated oil major is slashing spending, shipping off unwanted assets and focusing on the fundamentals. But company followers are not willing to count out this perennial contender just yet. Jefferies analysts released a note during the first full week of March touting Chevron's best-in-class position in West Texas' lucrative Permian Basin and reiterating their belief that its portfolio is the most strategically advantaged in the super-major sector. Not to mention the company trades at the lowest enterprise value to debt-adjusted cash flow within its peer groups, meaning it has the most room to grow after turning the ship around.
Close Nov. 11: $106.64
Close March 3: $113.55
Regular season performance: 6.5%
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) -- The diversified healthcare powerhouse has managed to avoid most of the headwinds posed by President Donald Trump when it comes to health care. The stock should continue to tick higher given its robust pipeline of drugs both at the market and in the pipeline. Let's not forget a potential tax holiday that could be a windfall for the blue-chip from New Brunswick N.J.
Close Nov. 11: $118.47
Close March 3: $123.79
Regular season performance: 4.5%
Coca-Cola (KO) -- Coca-Cola is another company that will have a heavy advertising presence during this year's tournament. The company is even sponsoring a concert in Phoenix the weekend leading up to the championship round on April 3. Unfortunately for Coke, its namesake flagship product has experienced a steady decline in consumption, leading to a need for innovation. Whether the company can regain the taste of consumers remains to be seen, but this stock is a long-shot to go deep into the tournament.
Close Nov. 11: $41.03
Close March 3: $42.48
Regular season performance: 3.5%
General Electric (GE) -- General Electric cleaned house in the offseason, but is not yet being fully rewarded for its efforts. In 2016, the company completed a multi-year effort to shed the bulk of its financial assets in a bid to lose the costly "Financially Significant Institution" label it earned in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. GE, a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS charitable portfolio is no longer Too Big to Fail, but Wall Street doesn't seem to think it's lean and mean enough yet, either. The industrial conglomerate's shares are flat since the election after surging by nearly 10% in the first month following Donald Trump's ascension. Indeed, the company is still working its way through a massive noncore divestiture program as it aims to clean up the backcourt and focus on its key assets. In March, GE shipped off its waste water unit to French water and waste treatment company Suez SA for $3.2 billion as it works to gain regulator approval for the acquisition of Baker Hughes. In December, the company also said it would sell its $3 billion industrial solutions business. Neverthless, GE may need to do more than pare assets this playoff season if it hopes to regain investor confidence after a weak fourth quarter. The company has actually had a negative return over the last 4 months, but its status a premier Blue-chipper and its play in a tough conference (energy) the company deserved a bid to the tourney.
Close Nov. 11: $30.71
Close March 3: $30.12
Regular season performance: -1.9%
Exxon Mobil (XOM) -- The nation's largest energy company began November being tagged by one Wall Street analyst as "an overvalued dividend aristocrat"; the analyst added that the firm's rich dividend and share buyback plans, combined with continuing soft oil prices, would weigh on the share price. That prognosis has generally held up. Throw in an unexpected Upstream asset impairment charge of about $2 billion in the firm's fourth quarter mainly related to dry gas operations with undeveloped acreage in the Rocky Mountains region of the U.S., and you've got two strikes against Exxon. The firm remains in the spotlight as its former CEO Rex Tillerson is now the Secretary of State. He's being watched closely as his new role will have dramatic effects on the energy industry and beyond. One of the two companies to make our top 64 despite having a negative gain over the regular season. That said, this blue-chipper is a favorite among investors and its play in a tough conference (energy) allowed us to grant a bid to the tourney.
Close Nov. 11: $85.67
Close March 3: $82.46
Regular season performance: -3.7%
Snap (SNAP) -- A true "at-large" bid, Snap has returned to earth after a phenomenal first day of trading. A late add to TheStreet's bracket, does this fledgling self-described camera company have what it takes to become a real Cinderella story in this year's bracket or will it fizzle out like an over-seeded Top-5 conference underperformer? Anything is possible, but this 16-seed has an uphill battle to advance.
Close Nov. 11: N/A
Close March 3: $27.09
Regular season performance: N/A