The bull market that lifted all of Wall Street in late 2009 is still running strong. However, we are at last starting to see a rotation away from "junk stocks" into higher-quality stocks. Not all companies will succeed in this environment, but the ones that do will be richly rewarded.
In the long run, this is actually great news for Wall Street even if it causes some short-term volatility. The focus on quality and the rotation out of bad stocks now means investors are concerned with what really matters -- real numbers -- and not just investment fads or tricks of the market. Companies with strong sales and earnings are flying high, and those that don't have good earnings are falling away.
To help make sure you are in the stocks that are rising in this environment, following are my top five stocks for March.
Top Stock No. 1: Baidu
Baidu is flying high after its February earnings report, which included a 48% jump in profits and a significant earnings surprise on strong revenue growth. I expect continued success for this Chinese stock in March and beyond.
I rate Baidu a strong buy.
Top Stock No. 2: AmBev
AmBev, formally known as Companhia de Bebidas das Americas and translated to "the American Beverage Company," is seeing great growth right now. In fact, ABV plans to boost beer output by 15% in 2010 and invest more than $1 billion to bring its capacity up. This is a great move since Brazil's growing middle class is rapidly getting more expensive tastes when it comes to drinking. What's more, the prospects of a hot summer and the excitement of World Cup soccer driving football-frenzied Brazilians to the pub should add up to great sales for ABV.
AmBev dominates the Brazilian beer market with brands such as Antarctica, Brahma and Skol. Additionally, the company sells Pepsi brands, Lipton iced tea and other drinks like mineral water and sports drinks. As an emerging middle class in Latin America acquires Western tastes, I expect big things from this company.
I rate AmBev a strong buy.
Top Stock No. 3: Cognizant Technology Solutions
Cognizant Technology Solutions is a leading IT firm that provides a wide array of data and software services to businesses around the world. The company enjoys big margins because most of Cognizant Tech's software development centers and employees are located in India. Outsourcing has been big business as corporations in the developed world look to cut costs, and Cognizant is really cashing in on this trend.
In February, the company posted very impressive profit and revenue, and raised guidance for 2010 above Wall Street estimates. Specifically, it earned $144 million, or 47 cents a share, on the quarter. That's up 28% from $112.3 million, or 38 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue also jumped 20% to $902.7 million. These are great results that indicate Cognizant is a strong investment right now.
I rate CTSH a strong buy.
Top Stock No. 4: Ford
Ford continues to gobble up market share from GMand Chrysler. And now, Ford is giving Toyota a run for its money in the wake of some very costly recall announcements for the Japanese auto giant.
In early February, Ford announced that its January sales jumped 25%. Car sales made up the bulk of the gains, rising 43% over last year, while sales of trucks and SUVs rose 15%.
Some of this growth is due to a dismal January a year ago, when sales dipped to a 26-year low due to the financial crisis, but this growth is far beyond what Wall Street was expecting. In the wake of Toyota's recall fiasco, I expect February numbers to be equally impressive. That makes Ford a knockout buy for March.
I recommend you buy Ford stock as long as it trades for less than $15 a share.
Top Stock No. 5: Priceline.com
f you want to know why I like Priceline.com so much, consider that shares of this stock leaped by almost 10% the day after its latest earnings report. On Feb. 17, the company reported that its quarterly profit more than doubled and sales grew 33% thanks to a rebound in consumer sentiment.
The real power of Priceline lies in the company's "name your own price" model. Because the online travel site allows users to haggle on airfares and hotels, it is a huge resource for businesses and vacationers looking to save a few bucks on their trips. I expect big things from Priceline as we enter the summer travel season, so load up on this stock now.
Priceline.com is a strong buy.
By Louis Navellier of Investor Place