5 Rocket Stocks to Buy in September

BALTIMORE ( Stockpickr) -- Stocks are bouncing hard this morning, an important leg higher after a pretty brutal week to finish off August. The S&P 500 sold off 1.84% last week, capping off a month-long correction for the month.

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Since the start of August, the big index has shed 3.13%. That's not just the worst month so far in 2012 -- it's the worst one-month run for stocks since May 2012.

But the first trading session of September is kicking off this week, and with the new month, investors can expect a new market. That's why we're turning to a new set of Rocket Stocks for this week.

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 212 weeks, our weekly list of five plays has outperformed the S&P 500 by 87%.

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Without further ado, here's a look at this week's Rocket Stocks.


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First up is online travel site Priceline.com ( PCLN). 2013 has been a blockbuster year for Priceline. Shares of the $48 billion name have rallied more than 50% since the calendar flipped over to January, coming to within grabbing distance of the $1,000 per share level along the way. That momentum should play a big role in PCLN's upside ability for the rest of the year.

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Priceline dug out an economic moat by becoming the most popular "Name Your Own Price" travel site, connecting bargain-conscious consumers with excess inventory that hotels and airlines were trying to fill at lower prices. The firm has some big growth opportunities in international markets. As travelers abroad embrace travel sites (particularly in emerging markets like Asia and Latin America), Priceline's revenue has been steadily climbing higher. Priceline's experience in the U.S. market as a travel aggregator gives it a leg up over foreign competitors trying to establish the same business overseas.

Competitive advantages are hard to come by in more mature markets. That's why Priceline acquired Kayak earlier this year. The purchase gave PCLN a travel media site that serves as a stronger online destination than a commerce site alone, a key to capturing travel shoppers' eyes.

With rising analyst sentiment in shares of Priceline this week, we're betting on shares.


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Cruise line operator Carnival ( CCL) has seen some rough seas in recent years. Costa Concordia, the ocean liner that ran aground off the coast of Italy last January, was one of Carnival's ships. So was the Carnival Triumph, which suffered an engine fire earlier this year, leaving passengers adrift for four days. But despite PR nightmares and freak accidents, the world's largest cruise operator has some attractive tailwinds pushing at its back this summer.

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Carnival owns more than 100 ships that fly the flags of its wide spectrum of brands. In addition to Carnival's namesake line, the firm's portfolio includes names like Holland America, Cunard, Princess, and more than a half-dozen other lines. That diversification gives Carnival exposure to vacationers in all income brackets and on three continents. As the cruise industry continues to grow in popularity, especially as cruise-hungry baby boomers reach their retirement years at record rates, Carnival's upside potential is continuing to increase. And the conspicuous mess-ups of the last couple of years are helping investors grab a bargain price tag right now.

There's no question that the cruise industry is capital-intense: new ships can ring up at a price tag of around $1 billion. But Carnival is entering the tail end of its buying cycle, and limited deliveries should help boost profits in the next couple of years. From a financial standpoint, Carnival's best-in-breed balance sheet gives it the wherewithal to handle unexpected rough seas. And while fuel costs have been rising materially over the years, CCL indexes its prices to the cost of oil, reducing risk and taking the need for commodity hedging off the table. Expect CCL's fortunes to turn with the tide.


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LinkedIn ( LNKD), on the other hand, has posted some stellar numbers in 2013 -- and shares have doubled over that time as a result. The professional social network boasts more than 218 million members, a growing contingent of whom are based outside the U.S. LinkedIn is investors' favorite social networking stock, and for good reason: it's the only one that actually makes money by helping its users do what they were trying to do when they logged in.

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While other social media firms earn revenue by distracting their users from what they're trying to do (and getting them to click on ads while stalking their friends, for instance), LNKD makes money by helping users with the exact task they're trying to accomplish: find a job, network or hire someone. That seems like a small distinction, but it's core to LinkedIn's ability to maximize the money it makes off of each user. That difference comes through right in the numbers: LNKD is able to earn more money per user and better engage its user base than any of its social networking peers, around $8 per average user. That's a full 45% higher than Facebook's ( FB) per-user revenues.

I've said before that LinkedIn isn't a bargain - and that's true. It's the best social networking stock by far, but its price tag is sky-high too. But what LNKD lacks in value, it makes up for from a momentum standpoint. For now, this Rocket Stock isn't showing any signs of slowing down its climb.


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Railroads may seem like an antiquated means of transportation, but in many ways, they're one of the most advanced ways to transport goods -- particularly hefty commodities. In the last few years, CSX ( CSX) has done its part in making the advantages of rail abundantly clear: the $25 billion rail firm has made leaps and bounds in efficiency since the Great Recession started, and it's attracting plenty of freight dollars as a result.

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CSX owns 21,000 miles of track spread across the eastern U.S., specializing in shipping coal, chemicals and intermodal containers across its network. When other industries were shoring up their businesses in 2007 and 2008, CSX was too -- and investors shouldn't ignore the margin improvement it's been able to accomplish.

In a world with triple-digit crude oil prices, trains make a lot of sense for freight shippers. While trucking (the biggest alternative to rail freight) is generally a more simple solution for a distribution chain, it's also more expensive -- generally four times more expensive than train shipping per ton. That's a material difference as fuel costs cause shipping costs to swell. CSX also has a big advantage in its location. The firm's tracks are focused on the eastern U.S., where the majority of the population is located; that means that products going to the big cities on the eastern seaboard need to use CSX's track.

We're betting on shares of this Rocket Stock this week.


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Last up on our list of Rocket Stocks is Cigna ( CI), the health insurer for more than 13 million Americans. Technically, Cigna's biggest business isn't insuring its subscribers. Instead, it manages policies for employers in exchange for a fee. That seems like a small distinction, but in fact, it means that the risks of a health insurance plan fall on the shoulders of employers rather than Cigna's balance sheet. Instead, the firm earns a pre-set fee for its expertise.

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Scale matters in the health insurance industry, and even though Cigna's 13 million members put it on the smaller side of the insurance spectrum, they're big enough to provide some advantages. For instance, Cigna's size has a big impact on its ability to negotiate with health care providers, who bill their services at a preset rate to Cigna members. More members means more pricing power.

New Obamacare provisions are set to go into effect in a month - and that means that insurers could be feeling the crunch very soon as insurance services start to go through an exchange designed (in theory, anyway) to lower costs for consumers. Cigna's focus on employer-sponsored plans should spare it from the impact that many of its peers are likely to see on their income statements.

To see all of this week's Rocket Stocks in action, check out the Rocket Stocks portfolio at Stockpickr.

-- Written by Jonas Elmerraji in Baltimore.


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At the time of publication, author had no positions in stocks mentioned.

Jonas Elmerraji, CMT, is a senior market analyst at Agora Financial in Baltimore and a contributor to TheStreet. Before that, he managed a portfolio of stocks for an investment advisory returned 15% in 2008. He has been featured in Forbes , Investor's Business Daily, and on CNBC.com. Jonas holds a degree in financial economics from UMBC and the Chartered Market Technician designation.

Follow Jonas on Twitter @JonasElmerraji