Last week's usually quiet truncated trading session was anything but uneventful, as the big stock market averages all managed to close at new all-time high prices by Black Friday's 1 p.m. close.
The odds favored a retry of the S&P 500's high-water mark at some point during the statistically bullish period between Thanksgiving week and the end of the calendar year -- albeit not quite so soon. Clearly, the buyers are back in control of this market. And the good news for investors is that owning equity leaders could hold the keys to even bigger stock gains as we round out the year.
To find the stocks that look predisposed to outperform here, we're turning to a new set of Rocket Stocks worth buying for gains.
In case you're not familiar, 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 375 weeks, our weekly list of five plays has outperformed the S&P 500's record-breaking run by 81.29%.
So, here's a look at this week's Rocket Stocks.
Up first is Verizon Communications (VZ) . Verizon has been a clear-cut example of a stock market leader in 2016 -- while the S&P just crossed the 10% total return threshold for this year, megacap Verizon is up materially more, handing investors 14.6% total returns since the calendar flipped to January. And after spending the past couple of months correcting, Verizon is rebounding in an attempt to retake the 52-week highs it hit back at the end of the summer.
Verizon is the biggest cellular carrier in the country, with more than 113 million retail wireless connections. That mobile business is Verizon's cash cow -- it contributed 93% of Verizon's operating income last year. The firm is also the local phone company for about a fifth of the U.S., providing fixed-line phone, TV and Internet services. Verizon owns valuable infrastructure as consumers increasingly move to "cut the cord." Because TV is a secondary service for Verizon's fixed-line unit, the firm is a net winner when consumers opt to upgrade to its FiOS high-speed Internet service even if they don't purchase a high-end cable plan.
Because of its size, Verizon has a big advantage over competing mobile and fixed-line carriers. For instance, it's able to invest far more into its network, ensuring that it has a quality advantage that provides some semblance of an economic moat in a marketplace that's been creeping towards commoditization in recent years. Faster, more reliable coverage in more places is something consumers are clearly willing to pay a premium for -- and the subscriber numbers show that Verizon is uniquely able to offer that.