So far, 2014 has been a pretty quiet year for stocks -- but that hasn't stopped Cisco Systems (CSCO) from turning out double-digit performance year-to-date/ Since the calendar flipped to January, Cisco is up more than 10%. And that relative strength looks primed to continue in shares of this $126 billion Rocket Stock.
Cisco is the world's largest supplier of the equipment and software used to connect devices. And now, with internet traffic still growing at a breakneck pace, demand for Cisco's mission-critical routers and switches remains strong for enterprise customers. Size is a big advantage in the network infrastructure space. Because Cisco's gear is designed to plug-and-play with other Cisco components, IT department ts that buy Cisco products can often see much lower integration and ongoing technical support costs. That gives Cisco an important economic moat right now, even if competition is trying to move in on its business.
Despite some missteps in its strategy over the last few years (CSCO shuttered its consumer-facing businesses in the wake of consistent losses), Cisco enjoys some impressive execution today. The firm boasts net profit margins approaching 20%, and a balance sheet that carries nearly $30 billion in net cash and investments. That's enough dry powder to pay for more than 20% of Cisco's outstanding shares at current prices, a big risk-reducer in this market today.
At the same time investors are bemoaning lofty valuations in other corners of the tech sector, Cisco sports a bargain price tag.