5 Rocket Stocks to Buy This Week

BALTIMORE ( Stockpickr) -- Phew, good thing that's over. August was the worst month for stocks in more than a year: the S&P 500 shed a whopping 3.13% for the month. That little statistic says quite a bit about what kind of environment investors have been enjoying since last May.

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Just in case anyone is unclear, 15 straight months without a 5% dip is a bull market.

And it's "new month, new market" again in September. While the S&P has only climbed 1.4% since the calendar flipped over last week, the tenor of the market has changed. Investors appear willing to step in and buy in the face of scary headlines again. And it couldn't have happened at a better time -- broad market indices were testing their intermediate-term trendline last week. Yes, the uptrend remains intact.

That's creating some buying opportunities this week, and it's why we're turning to a new set of Rocket Stocks.

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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 213 weeks, our weekly list of five plays has outperformed the S&P 500 by 88.3%.

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

Westpac Banking

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Australian financial services giant Westpac Banking ( WBK) has a massive presence Down Under and in New Zealand, a big enough scale to make it the third biggest bank on the continent. Sydney-based Westpac sports more than 1,200 branches that offer products raging from conventional retail and commercial banking to investments. Recent acquisitions have boosted Westpac's exposure to wealth management, hiking its fee-based revenue at a time when investors are getting antsy about the rate-sensitive banking business.

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In a big way, Westpac is a leveraged play on the commodity-driven Australian economy. While the firm was far from insulated from the Great Recession that sparked off in the U.S., its impact was much less jarring in Australia, where housing prices have remained very resilient. A number of protections in the Australian market help to mitigate the risks of the kinds of capital shortfalls that U.S. banks experienced in 2008, destroying large swaths of shareholder value.

Westpac's big branch network makes it the bank of choice for more than 12 million customers, a fact that gives WBK access to a huge cheap deposit base. As a result, the bank is well capitalized and should stay that way. With rising analyst sentiment in Westpac, we're betting on shares.


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Facebook ( FB) has built up some impressive momentum over the course of the summer. I've made it no secret in the past that the social network isn't exactly my favorite stock -- but it's hard to argue with the market's recent love affair with FB. By far, Facebook ranks as the largest social networking site in the world: More than 600 million people use Facebook every day, and a billion use it each month. As the firm gets better at monetizing that enormous user base, the firm should grow into its lofty valuation.

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One of Facebook's biggest detractors is that, unlike other Internet businesses such as Google ( GOOG) or LinkedIn ( LNKD), the firm has to basically derail what its users are doing to earn advertising revenues from them. But the firm is trying to combat that by brute force; with such a massive user count, it can afford to only make money off of a tiny percentage of its users. The highly targeted nature of FB's data should help the firm charge more for space on the site. It's also gaining revenues more directly through premium online games like those made by Zynga ( ZNGA).

Mobile is an exciting growth avenue for Facebook. The firm has been growing its mobile revenue at a breakneck pace, and demographic shifts toward using portable devices should make that mobile monetization all the more important to Facebook's overall value in the years ahead. More than anything else in September, market momentum is the reason to get behind Facebook. This stock has gone from a Wall Street punch line to a Wall Street darling, and there's still money on the table.

Ford Motor

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Shareholders in Ford Motor ( F) are enjoying a knockout year in 2013. That's because the $68 billion automaker has seen its share price climb by more than 31% since the calendar flipped to January, more than doubling the impressive performance that the S&P 500 has turned out. And the ongoing improvements at this Detroit giant are continuing to provide tailwinds right now.

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Investors shouldn't forget that Ford was the only Detroit automaker that didn't go bust in the wake of 2008 -- and the only one that didn't wipe out shareholders (even if it did destroy value to stay afloat). No amount of cost fixes, union deals or economic improvement saved Ford from certain death. Instead, it saved itself by building better cars. Ford's fully revamped line of models now gets top quality marks from review agencies, and they've managed to get car buyers excited about driving behind a blue oval again. The one-two punch of record low interest rates and the oldest car fleet in U.S. history is adding fuel to the fire now, helping Ford achieve stellar sales growth.

There's no question that Ford's improved financials have helped the firm look attractive to investors again. The firm's ability to regain profitability, achieve an investment-grade debt rating, and start issuing a dividend again are all huge milestones. And now, as the black clouds are starting to part over the Eurozone economy, Ford's huge exposure to the continent should start looking less like a liability and more like a big benefit again. Stay tuned for earnings at the end of next month.


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While it's still synonymous with copy machines, Xerox ( XRX) has moved its core business away from big-ticket printers and progressed to become the world's biggest document management and business services firm. That change may sound subtle, but it's important.

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Printing has become commoditized in the last few years. Print quality has essentially become the same across most major black and white laser printer manufacturers, so Xerox has taken its resources from black and white printing tech and moved it over to areas where its R&D can actually build a better mousetrap. At the same time, services are becoming a much more important part of Xerox's business. Servicing printers historically generates more revenues than the printer's original cost, a fact that provides XRX with sticky recurring revenues. Higher-end professional services, such as document outsourcing, are becoming a more important part of XRX's sales as well.

Xerox still earns a material chunk of its sales through office printers and copiers. But as time progresses, building low-moat office equipment should become a smaller and smaller part of XRX's total revenues. As the economy continues to heat up, so is Xerox's top line in 2013.

Home Depot

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As the world's largest home improvement retailer, Home Depot ( HD) has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of recent upside in the housing market. After all, more real estate transaction volume means more to-do lists for new buyers -- and the more equity homeowners build in their properties, the more they're willing to spend. Home Depot's 2,250 big box locations in North America provide just the place to do that.

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But that doesn't mean that HD needs high home prices to stay afloat. The Great Recession revealed to Wall Street that homeowners are willing to spend money on home improvements when times are tough too; just not as aggressively. While Home Depot entered 2008 with too large of a store footprint, it remedied its over-leveraged balance sheet with a successful restructuring program that boosted margins and positioned the firm extremely well for the ensuing rebound.

Home Depot is in good financial shape today with reasonable leverage. Its restructuring efforts left the firm with a much better supply chain management apparatus, which means that it's able to get merchandise on shelves more cheaply and quickly than ever before -- and it can do a better job of pinpointing the products that consumers want to buy. So, as analysts pile into this stock this week, so are we.

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