Tue09232014

Business & Real Estate

A new year means new ups and downs

Despite the one-day sell-off experienced on the first day of 2014 trading, the outlook appears to be relatively positive. The market trend is bullish, and investors can still find reasonably valued stocks to assemble a diversified portfolio.

Change is the one constant in the stock market, and investors should be watching how public sentiment looks for a correction. Preparing for a coming storm is difficult and unpredictable and tells investors that sell-offs are typically triggered by underappreciated or unexpected events.

Interest rates will rise after the Federal Reserve signaled that it plans to cut back on its bond-buying program. This will become a worry, as the impact on bond yields will affect utility and telecom stocks. Inflation is widely expected to remain tame, but it could also become troubling.

Given the market’s strong performance in recent months, a correction could occur at any time – and every correction has the potential to turn into a bear market.

While I anticipate a few ups and downs, I predict that by the end of 2014, the Dow Jones industrial average will be up slightly from today’s valuation.

Two Town Crier “50” companies recently made headlines.

• Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO; $22.10) provides a complete line of routers and switching products that correct and manage communications among local and wide area computer networks employing a variety of protocols.

Those credentials still carry weight, but in the wake of Cisco’s disappointing target of an 8-10 percent decline in revenue for the January quarter, the network giant’s stock could stagnate in the near term.

Cisco blamed its gloomy outlook on weakness in emerging markets and a cautious spending forecast by corporate executives. The company’s plans to introduce complex new switching and routing platforms and invest in service and software businesses should help boost sales.

Cisco stock yields a 3.3 percent dividend, roughly four times the industry average. TheStreet Ratings team has issued a buy rating for Cisco, making the stock price’s recent decline an opportunity.

• Google Inc. (GOOG; $1,118.07) shares gained 51 percent in 2013, easily outpacing the 33 percent average return for the S&P 1500 technology stock groupings and leaving investors to wonder whether there is much more room to increase.

Within the industry, 39 brokers and analysts have provided a buy rating for Google stock, with only one a hold in the upgrade and downgrade history. The reason: Google holds a commanding 67 percent share of the U.S. search market. Microsoft stands in a distant second place with an 18 percent slice.

The upcoming Winter Olympics and World Cup Soccer tournaments should accelerate advertising growth.

The stock’s valuation is reasonable considering its projected growth. Google is expected to earn $49.64 per share in the 12 months ending September 2014, a growth of 17 percent.

Google is one of two companies on the S&P 500 index to increase annual cash from operations by double digits in each of the past 10 years, and Google should extend the streak in 2014. The company pays no dividends.

Google is embracing a moon-shot mentality for its next venture. In December, Google acquired Boston Dynamics, a company that builds robots, and in the past six months eight other robot companies.

Clyde Noel is a Los Altos Hills resident and longtime investor in stocks.

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