This column was originally published on RealMoney on Oct. 13 at 10:18 a.m. EDT. It's being republished as a bonus for TheStreet.com readers.Even when the market is in the tank, there are always a few stocks making new highs. Lately, they have been scarce, but the ones that are making the trek are an interesting bunch. One that just has to jump out at you is Johnson Controls ( JCI), a $12 billion maker of car parts. If you believed that auto suppliers would be reeling in the wake of the bankruptcy of group leader Delphi ( DPHIQ), you'd be right. Most are. So how has this one bucked the trend, shooting to an all-time high during Wednesday's session? It turns out that investors are excited about Johnson Controls because it has become an island of stability in a very rough sea. It's not just because its building control system business has been pretty good, balancing out the horror show of the U.S. auto business. It's in part because Johnson has been successfully innovating -- it announced this week that it had received an order to develop a hybrid battery for an unnamed European automaker -- and acquiring to eke out marginal new growth. The touchstone for the company's advance was an analyst meeting this week that wasn't nearly as scary as many had feared. Johnson revealed that its three-year automotive backlog would come in a touch below guidance -- but it was not nearly as bad as expected. Indeed, it was good enough to make investors believe that Johnson could drive some strong revenue and earnings growth through 2007 and use the improved cash flow to pay off debt, boost its dividend and maybe make more acquisitions. If the company can do all that it promised, it could even be accorded a price-to-earnings multiple more suited to a decent midsized conglomerate than a muddled auto-parts supplier. The idea among bulls is that if it's seen that Johnson could haul in more than $6 a share in 2007 and squeak out just a 13 multiple, next year the stock could start to motor into the $70s and beyond.
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