21.7%: that's how much the big S&P 500 index has handed investors from a total returns standpoint in the past 12 months, basically doubling 2016's return by just sitting out the correction in the first couple weeks of last year.
That breakneck performance also pretty much guarantees that anyone who's been long stocks as an asset class is better off than they were a year ago.
As I write, the S&P is hovering just below its all-time highs, positioning that bodes well for the broad market--when stocks are hitting highs, it creates a psychological positive feedback loop for stocks, begetting even more highs. Put simply, the wind is at Mr. Market's back right now.
But while a rising tide is likely to continue to lift all boats, some stocks are better positioned for upside than others. And so, as stocks continue to test uncharted territory this January, we're turning to a fresh set of "Rocket Stocks" that look ready for blastoff in the weeks ahead ...
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 past 383 weeks, our weekly list of five plays has outperformed the S&P 500's record-breaking run by 78.60%.
So, without further ado, here's a look at this week's Rocket Stocks.
Up first on our list of Rocket Stocks this week is communications giant Verizon Communications (VZ) . Verizon has been a strong performer in the past year, handing investors nearly 19% gains in the trailing 12 months. Importantly, the firm also pays out a 4.4% annual dividend check at current price levels, providing an important source of investment income in an environment where that's been hard to come by ...
And while the Fed's call to hike interest rates for the second time in as many years last month has been seen as a threat to dividend stocks, investors are coming to the realization that the small, incremental hikes in interest rates don't pose as big a threat to their income portfolios as previously feared.
One reason that's true in Verizon is this stock's ability to throw off huge cash flows that are reactive to market rates. Verizon's core business is mobile communications--Verizon is the biggest cellular phone carrier in the country, with more than 113 million retail wireless connections. The firm is also the local phone company for around 25% of the U.S., providing fixed line phone, TV, and internet services. By being the biggest, the firm has a huge installed base that it can use to spread out infrastructure costs, providing network quality and coverage that smaller rivals can't.
The next gen FiOS fiber-to-home network is a pricey investment for Verizon, but it's also one that's beginning to pay off long-term. The sale of many of Verizon's legacy fixed line assets at the same time it's pouring money into the fastest home and business data speeds on the market should prove to be prudent as more consumers push an increasing chunk of their content consumption online. Shares of Verizon managed to catch a bid at the end of last week--look for a retest of prior highs from the start of January later this week.