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9 State of the Union stocks that could win big

12:42 AM
9 State of the Union stocks that could win big

Before President Obama delivers his spiel tonight, you should be looking for the companies poised to benefit from his initiatives.

Picking stocks in the various sectors is tricky, because until press releases are made in contract wins, you never know who the only winners are. In many cases, contracts are awarded to smaller regional players, and there are no assurances that they will win.

But there are several companies that come to mind that have won in the past and some that could win after the news comes down the road.

Jobs will be the major theme of tonight's State of the Union address. Democratic lawmakers generally emphasize spending to increase jobs and economic activity, while Republicans favor tax cuts. Growing public concern about the deficit and the fact that Senate Democrats lost their supermajority with the special Senate election in Massachusetts is causing the President to call for some tax cuts and a three-year spending freeze in the hopes of gaining some bipartisan support for his agenda.

Obama is expected to call for tax incentives and loans to help accelerate small-business hiring, an extension of unemployment benefits, incentives for families to make homes more energy-efficient, additional funding to help state and local governments keep public-sector employees on the payroll and an infrastructure package.

Possible components of the infrastructure package include increased spending for highways; public transportation, including grants to repair subway, light rail and commuter rail systems; clean-water programs; and public housing.

On the tax side, there is interest among Democratic lawmakers to (a) include another year of bonus depreciation where companies can write off 50% of the cost of equipment purchases in the first year (b) increase the small-business expensing limit and (c) expand the clean-energy-manufacturing tax credit.

For clean water or cleaner water, one go-to stock has tended to be Calgon Carbon (CCC) to remove organic compounds from water, and it has cleaning for air and liquids. General Electric (GE), of course, of owns Ionics now and has all of the infrastructure for desalination plants. Tetra Tech (TTEK) has many operations in remediation services and is a water play and a construction services play for water, clean-up and more.

The alternative energy space has been too broad on single political events even in picking the solar leaders, but in infrastructure one area that has seen specific notes is Itron (ITRI) for its smart meters. It just needs the caveat that this has been ongoing and much of those benefits have already been granted out.

Trinity Industries (TRN) may be diversified, but it has potential business to win in the rail transport and in infrastructure awards as it calls itself the only full-line U.S. manufacturer of highway guardrail and crash cushions. Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corporation (WAB), or Wabtec, also has numerous lines it can participate in from rail cars themselves to multiple required systems in operating railroads.

In addition to the jobs initiative, fighting for middle-class families will also likely be a focus of tonight's speech. For stocks that will benefit from this, I suggest looking at education and personal care stocks.

As far as care for the elderly, a pure play there might be a company like Almost Family (AFAM) for its visiting nurses and personal care for the elderly or for people with special needs. Also included in that group would be Gentiva Health Services Inc. (GTIV).

As far as helping children in learning, a fairly recent company is Archipelago Learning (ARCL), which helps K-12 students and educators. Unfortunately this is a crowded field that is run mostly by private companies customized to specific standards in reading, math, science and social studies.

By Tony Brush and Jon Ogg

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