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Stock Surprises: 3 Companies Ready to Beat the Odds

While conservative plays can move you up the gridiron, sometimes you need the long ball, which is exactly the situation speculative stocks to buy specializes in. No, you’re not going to bet your lifesavings on these ideas. And no, you shouldn’t expect a smooth ride.

However, what you can expect is the possibility of significant upside returns. Given that the equities market in some angles can be viewed a zero-sum game, it’s inevitable that certain companies will draw the ire of investors. Nevertheless, the subsequent downside can go on for far longer than is rational. Those who recognize the hidden value can be rewarded handsomely.

Of course, there’s always the other side of the tale. In many cases, embattled organizations continue their downward trek. To minimize this risk factor, I’m focusing this list of speculative stocks to buy on enterprises that enjoy analyst backing.

So, if you’re ready, let’s dive in!

APA (APA)

A hydrocarbon exploration company, APA (NASDAQ:APA) doesn’t exactly align with contemporary energy sentiments. With seemingly everyone talking about green and renewable infrastructures, an upstream player in the fossil fuel industry appears anachronistic. Nevertheless, with hydrocarbons commanding high energy density, this commodity won’t be going away anytime soon.

However, APA stock trades as if it’s about to. Since the beginning of the year, shares lost 18% of equity value. In the trailing 52 weeks, they’re down almost 25%. But what’s odd is that the consensus of analysts believe that the company’s top line will expand this year and next. In 2023, sales hit $8.3 billion. In the current year, this figure should land at $8.7 billion and $9.86 billion in the next.

As for the high-side estimate, APA could ring up nearly $9.9 billion in sales this year and $12.62 billion in 2025. Fundamentally, if the economy fully normalizes, you’d expect more people to hit the road. That should accelerate consumption, driving up demand for hydrocarbon exploration specialists.

Overall, analysts rate shares a moderate buy with a $42.06 average price target. Thus, it’s one of the speculative stocks to buy.

Wolfspeed (WOLF)

A developer and manufacturer of wide-bandgap semiconductors, Wolfspeed (NYSE:WOLF) enjoys a powerful narrative. Essentially, this special class of computer chip offers significant advantages over its traditional counterpart, including less space imposition, quicker performance and more reliability and efficiency. Given the intense interest recently in artificial intelligence, wide-bandgap semiconductors could help swing the needle.

Unfortunately, Wolfspeed suffers from company-specific issues that have caused turmoil for WOLF stock. Since the start of the year, shares have lost nearly 41% of market value. In the past 52 weeks, the company gave up about 65%. Much of this pain centers on revenue projection shortfalls. In 2023, the company posted sales of $921.9 million. However, analysts believe that 2024 sales would only amount to $833.29 million.

I’m not so sure I believe this. In Q4 last year, Wolfspeed generated revenue of $208.4 million, up nearly 20% from the year-ago period. Further, analysts see a huge sales haul of $1.18 billion in 2025. So, pushing up the timetable doesn’t seem unreasonable based on rising demand for advanced semiconductors.

To close, analysts anticipate shares to hit $43.56 over the next 12 months. That’s over 70% upside potential, making WOLF one of the high-risk, high-reward stocks to buy.

Vuzix (VUZI)

Just several cents shy from being a literal penny stocks, Vuzix (NASDAQ:VUZI) represents extraordinary risk – let me start right there. If you’re looking for a reliable investment that you can trust through thick and thin, VUZI ain’t it. However, if you’re seeking speculation and fully understand the volatility risks involved, Vuzix could be intriguing.

Fundamentally, as a technology enterprise focused on wearable virtual reality and augment reality display innovations, the company stands on fertile ground. According to Grand View Research, the global VR sector reached a valuation of just under $60 billion in 2022. Analysts believe that the space could expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.5% to 2030. At the culmination point, the industry could be worth $435.36 billion.

As for Vuzix, the company posted revenue of $13.15 million in 2023. For next year, the Street pegs sales to land at $15.14 million, 15% increase over the prior year’s result. That’s on average. The high-side target calls for sales of $17 million or over 29% up.

Looking ahead, analysts forecast shares to hit $3.50, implying nearly 119% upside potential. If so, that would easily make VUZI one of the stocks to buy.

On the date of publication, Josh Enomoto did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

A former senior business analyst for Sony Electronics, Josh Enomoto has helped broker major contracts with Fortune Global 500 companies. Over the past several years, he has delivered unique, critical insights for the investment markets, as well as various other industries including legal, construction management, and healthcare. Tweet him at @EnomotoMedia.

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3 Stocks to Dump Before the Next Market Downturn

The fortunes of these companies appear to be dimming.

Many prominent Wall Street analysts and well-regarded economists are predicting a potential market downturn, or even a crash, this year. Observers say this is particularly likely if the economy falls into a recession, as some people continue to expect.

While these dire forecasts seem unlikely in the near term, one never knows. Equity markets can change quickly and stocks can decline sharply with little warning. It was only last summer that the market experienced its most recent correction, with the benchmark S&P 500 index dropping more than 10% before rallying in late October through the end of the year.

With the prospect of a market correction ever present, it is prudent for investors to regularly review their portfolio and get rid of underperformers. Jettisoning poor performing stocks before a broader market decline is always advisable. Here are three stocks to dump before the next market downturn.

Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD)

Warner Bros. Discovery (NASDAQ:WBD) laid an egg with its latest earnings, sending its stock down 10% as a result. The entertainment company reported a bigger-than-expected loss for the fourth quarter of 2023. Warner Bros announced a loss of 16 cents a share compared to a loss of 7 cents that was expected by Wall Street. Revenue also disappointed, totaling $10.28 billion — below forecasts of $10.35 billion. Revenue was down 17% from a year earlier. That was largely due to a 14% decline in the company’s linear television advertising revenue.

Warner Bros. Discovery did its best to put a positive spin on the results, playing up the fact that it generated $3.31 billion in free cash flow during the quarter. Management also emphasized that their flagship subscription streaming service, Max, ended 2023 profitable for the first time with full-year earnings of $103 million. But investors were having none of it and quickly hit the “sell” button on WBD stock. Most concerning to the long-term outlook for Warner Bros is the $44.20 billion of debt that the company is saddled with. WBD stock is down 45% in the last 12 months.

Rivian Automotive (RIVN)

Storm clouds continue to gather over Rivian Automotive (NASDAQ:RIVN). The electric vehicle maker just reported earnings that missed analysts’ forecasts across the board. The struggling EV maker announced a Q4 2023 loss of $1.58 a share on revenue of $1.30 billion. The top and bottom-line numbers fell short of Wall Street expectations that had called for a loss of $1.35 per share and revenue of $1.32 billion. Analysts and investors were quick to condemn the company’s print. RIVN stock has dropped 38% since the company’s latest earnings were made public.

Like Warner Bros. Discovery, Rivian did its best to spin, or at least downplay the poor results, announcing that it plans to cut 10% of its salaried workforce. Rivian currently has 16,700 total employees. It’s not known exactly how many are salaried workers and will be targeted in the upcoming layoffs. Rivian also stressed that it delivered 50,122 vehicles last year, up from 20,332 in 2022. However, for this year, the company is guiding for 57,000 EV sales. Wall Street was looking for sales of 66,000 vehicles in 2024. RIVN stock is down 42% in the past year and down 93% since its 2021 market debut.

Boeing Co. (BA)

Aircraft manufacturer Boeing (NYSE:BA) is trying to get its house in order after a panel blew off one of its jets mid-flight at the start of the year. Most recently, the company announced that it is replacing the head of its troubled 737 Max program. The 737 program’s current head, Ed Clark, is leaving the company altogether. He is being replaced by Katie Ringgold, a company insider, who will become the president of the struggling 737 Max line. At the same time, Boeing named Elizabeth Lund to the new position of Senior Vice President of Quality for the commercial airplane unit.

The executive shuffle comes after a Jan. 5 accident aboard an Alaska Airlines flight caused a new crisis of confidence at Boeing. The recent blown off panel is the latest in a series of quality problems on Boeing aircraft that have delayed deliveries to customers and hurt the company’s earnings. The commercial airplane maker has been struggling to recover since fatal crashes of its Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft in 2018 and 2019 killed 346 people. The company now faces increased scrutiny and restrictions from federal regulators, not to mention growing skepticism from investors.

BA stock is down 20% so far this year, and trading 54% lower than where it was five years ago, making it a stock to dump before the next market downturn.

On the date of publication, Joel Baglole did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Joel Baglole has been a business journalist for 20 years. He spent five years as a staff reporter at The Wall Street Journal, and has also written for The Washington Post and Toronto Star newspapers, as well as financial websites such as The Motley Fool and Investopedia.

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3 Dividend Kings That Have the Highest Payouts in the Market 

Dividend growth investors have a rare chance to pick up high-yielding dividend stocks

Penny stocks and startups might be great for speculation, but building a retirement portfolio requires more stability. Preparing for the golden years requires a blend of growth, safety and, more importantly, income. While doubling your money in a week is exciting, investing should be anything but.

Dividend growth investors require income and, of course, dividend growth—and Dividend Kings should be at the top of your list. These high-quality dividend stocks have consistently increased their dividend payments for at least the last 50 years. Price action might fluctuate, and past performance may not indicate the future—but these three royals mix consistency and high yields that are excellent for long-term investments. They are also the highest-yielding stocks on the Dividend Kings list today.

3M Company (MMM)

Source: JPstock / Shutterstock.com

If one were to look up the definition of “jack of all trades,” 3M (NYSE:MMM) would be a prime example. Its wide range of products makes it a very diversified company, perfect for investors looking to add a piece of exposure to different industries and a cushion during times when diversification is more critical. It also has a record of 100-plus years of dividend payouts (making it a Dividend Zombie) and 64 years of consecutive dividend growth.

3M had quite a bumpy 2023, with sales falling flat and several high-profile lawsuits taking a sizable chunk of its bottom line for the entire year. Analysts are also expressing caution regarding the stock, giving it a “Hold” recommendation. Prices have taken the brunt of the bad news, falling significantly since its last quarterly report. 

This might seem like a collection of reasons not to buy MMM to some, but to me, it looks like a golden opportunity to scoop up a high-yield Dividend King at bargain prices. The company’s estimated full-year earnings per share (EPS) of $9.35 to $9.75 for 2024 also gives me confidence that it can still provide consistent dividend growth. The litigations are largely out of the way and are already priced in. The potential for recovery and its well-established Dividend King status makes me extremely bullish on 3M. 

Today, 3M boasts a 6.5% annual dividend yield and an annual dividend rate of $6.04 per share.

Leggett & Platt (LEG)

A magnifying glass is focused on the logo for Leggett & Platt on the company's website.

Source: Casimiro PT / Shutterstock.com

Known for its ComfortCore innerspring, Leggett & Platt (NYSE:LEG) manufactures various components found in homes, offices and automobiles. 

If we’re going purely by annual dividend yields, LEG is one of the top contenders, with $1.84 per share, or 8.93%. However, investors should know that the company’s recent financials paint an uncertain picture of its future as a Dividend King.  

For full context, quarterly sales fell 7% year-over-year (YOY) and reached $1.10 billion for the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, full-year sales for 2023 ended at $4.7 billion, representing an 8% decrease from 2022. However, the real kicker is that the company expects its 2024 sales to continue to decline, and adjusted FY24 EPS is expected to come in around $1.05 to $1.35 — well below its projected dividend payouts for the year. 

Still, LEG isn’t going down without a fight. In its latest report, the company announced a restructuring plan to optimize profitability while keeping costs down. Besides, there is still a chance that the company can exceed its guidance and maintain its Dividend King status. Prices are down 21% since the last trading day of 2023, potentially giving it more room for recovery. However, I need to stress that LEG is a risky dividend play. So, consider it carefully, or wait for further developments before buying into this embattled Dividend King. 

Altria Group (MO)

a pile of cigarettes

Source: Shutterstock

Sin stocks might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Still, those looking for yield might think twice before passing on Altria Group (NYSE:MO). Altria is best known as a holding company that operates in the tobacco industry and is the maker of brands like Marlboro and Philip Morris. The company offers the highest dividend yield in the Dividend Kings list, with an annual dividend rate of $3.92 or a 9.5%. MO has consistently increased its dividends 58 times over the last 54 years. 

MO’s full-year 2023 numbers are in. Revenue and revenue net of excise tax saw a 2.4% and 0.9% decrease, respectively. On the other hand, reported diluted EPS saw a 43.3% jump, while adjusted EPS grew 2.3%. One of the company’s key highlights in 2023 is its acquisition of NJOY holdings, which helped MO expand its footprint by increasing its market share in smoke-free products and reporting an increase in its shipment volume and retail share. MO has also announced a $1 billion share repurchase program, further improving shareholder value. So, if you want a steady income from a company with a strong foothold in its market, then MO might be for you.

On the date of publication, Rick Orford did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Rick Orford is a Wall Street Journal best-selling author, investor, influencer, and mentor. His work has appeared in the most authoritative publications, including Good Morning America, Washington Post, Yahoo Finance, MSN, Business Insider, NBC, FOX, CBS, and ABC News.

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3 Top REITs to Strengthen Your Portfolio in Q1

Wise investors know the value of dependable real estate investment trusts (REITs).

They remain one of the best ways to strengthen a portfolio and generate consistent income. Also, many of the top REITs can be bought on the cheap, allowing investors to collect high yields while waiting for the stock to recover. 

Plus, if we see interest rate cuts this year, REITs will become even more attractive. After all, lower interest rates will help increase property value. So this decreases REIT borrowing costs, which then increases their appeal to income-seeking investors.

Furthermore, while we wait for most of the top ones to recover lost ground, we can collect yield. So let’s examine three of the best REITs to consider buying and holding for the long term.

Realty Income (O)

With a yield of 5.86%, Realty Income (NYSE:O), or “The Monthly Dividend Company” just dropped from nearly $59 to about $51 and is now oversold. 

Additionally, the company just declared its 644th monthly dividend of $0.2565, or $3.078 annualized. That’s payable March 15 to shareholders of record as of Feb. 29. Additionally, the REIT owns over 15,000 real estate properties under triple net leases with commercial clients. They include Dollar General (NYSE:DG), Walgreens (NASDAQ:WBA), Walmart (NYSE:WMT), Costco (NASDAQ:COST), and Lowe’s (NYSE:LOW).

Triple net leases are far more stable than other REITs because of their higher margins. Remember, with a triple net lease, the tenants are the ones responsible for property taxes, property maintenance, and insurance. 

Federal Realty (FRT)

Raising its yield for the last 57 years, Dividend King Federal Realty (NYSE:FRT) is another one of the top REITs to consider. With a yield of 4.48%, it recently slipped from about $106 to a low of $97.40. Also, it just declared a quarterly dividend of $1.09 a share, payable on April 15 to shareholders of record as of March 13.

“Federal’s FFO per diluted share reached an all-time high, showcasing the company’s resilience in the face of elevated interest rates,” according to CEO Donald Wood. “Our multi-faceted business plan drove FFO growth, marked by continued growth in our comparable pool, contributions from our redevelopment and expansion program, and accretive acquisition activity.”

Impressively, FRT boasts some of the most reliable clients, including TJX (NYSE:TJX), CVS (NYSE:CVS), Gap (NYSE:GPS), Albertsons (NYSE:ACI), and The Home Depot  (NYSE:HD) to name a few. Including those, Federal Realty owns 102 properties, including high-quality retail properties such as shopping centers and mixed-use real estate.

Agree Realty (ADC)

Agree Realty (NYSE:ADC), which yields 5.26%, is another sturdy REIT.

First, after dropping from about $63 to $56.40, ADC is a bargain at current prices. Second, it also pays a monthly dividend. In fact, its last one was $0.247, which was payable Feb. 14 to shareholders of record as of Jan. 31. Thirdly, the company owns 2,135 properties across 49 U.S. states, with retail properties net leased to industry leading tenants. Plus, President and CEO Joey Agree recently bought 3,500 shares of ADC at an average price of $56.92 for just under $200,000.

Furthermore, earnings have been impressive. In its fourth quarter, its Q4 adjusted funds from operations (FFO) came in at $1, which met expectations. Revenue of $144.2 million was better than expectations for $141.2 million.

“We remain intently focused on prudently allocating capital to drive sustainable AFFO per share growth above our previously discussed base case of over 3% growth in 2024,” as noted by CEO Agree.

On the date of publication, Ian Cooper did not hold (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Ian Cooper, a contributor to InvestorPlace.com, has been analyzing stocks and options for web-based advisories since 1999.

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3 Cryptos to Sell Now as the Market Faces Headwinds

Revitalize your portfolio by dumping lackluster cryptos offering little upside for investors

Source: kkssr / Shutterstock.com

In the fast-paced world of digital assets, understanding which cryptos to sell remains imperative as Bitcoin (BTC-USD) blows past the $50,000 mark again. Driven by the launch of new exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and the excitement surrounding Bitcoin’s ‘halving,’ this increase demonstrates a remarkable 200% recovery from previous lows. It indicates strong investor confidence.

However, this bullish momentum is tempered by the inherent volatility of the market and the mixed results experienced by investors. It underscores the need for a careful approach. With the halving event anticipated to create scarcity and drive prices higher, as well as recent endorsements from the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) attracting additional capital, the sector’s long-term growth prospects appear promising. Nevertheless, savvy investors are considering selling certain cryptos to fine-tune their portfolios. Moreover, this cautious realignment allows for investment in potential disruptors in the blockchain industry. The strategy combines prudence with a commitment to innovation while maintaining a neutral stance toward the market’s ups and downs.

Binance Coin (BNB)

Investing in coins and tokens associated with crypto exchanges has been a promising avenue in the market. However, not all exchanges boast the same level of credibility, as seen with Binance and its Binance Coin (BNB-USD). During heightened trading activity and a bullish crypto market in 2021, BNB experienced a meteoric rise from $40 to over $600.

Since then, BNB has become a cryptocurrency to consider selling, shedding about half of its value due to mounting concerns. Last November, Binance settled with the SEC for a $4.3 billion fine after pleading guilty to violating U.S. anti-money laundering laws. As part of the settlement, former Binance head Changpeng Zhao paid $50 million and resigned. He faces 18 months in prison.

Furthermore, the SEC extended its scrutiny, accusing Binance of inflating trading volumes, diverting customer funds, and misleading customers about platform oversight. Beyond the fines, these lawsuits threaten Binance’s brand significantly, likely deterring potential customers and impacting the exchange’s overall credibility.

Dogecoin (DOGE)

Dogecoin (DOGE-USD) has seen its popularity surge due to high-profile endorsements from figures such as Elon Musk and its use in online tipping. Despite this attention, DOGE struggles to carve out a competitive advantage, currently rendering it a less appealing investment option. A 12% decline in its price year-to-date mirrors fading investor confidence. That is exacerbated by its unlimited supply, potentially leading to inflation and challenging the crypto market’s scarcity value.

Moreover, a noticeable drop in Dogecoin’s transaction volume and whale transaction count signals dwindling interest in the meme coin. Such trends underscore concerns that Dogecoin’s value is more speculation-driven than rooted in tangible utility.

Furthermore, Dodgecoin was previously ranked among the top ten cryptocurrencies by market capitalization, but its position has since slipped. It is no longer a top 10 coin. Its reliance on celebrity backing and lack of solid fundamentals raise doubts over its long-term viability. With its foundation shaken, Dogecoin faces an uphill battle in maintaining relevance and sustaining investor interest.

Shiba Inu (SHIB)

Despite its initial popularity, Shiba Inu (SHIB-USD), a meme token inspired by Dogecoin, has faced a substantial drop in value. Developed as a play on Dogecoin, Shiba Inu effectively garnered an impressive community during hype cycles but quickly relinquished those gains after the enthusiasm faded. Investors who entered near its peak likely experienced substantial losses, even as the Shiba Inu team worked to enhance its fundamentals.

Functioning as a highly inflationary token, Shiba Inu initiated an aggressive token-burning campaign. Last month it burned 12 million tokens. This effort aims to reduce circulating supply and bolster the token’s price. Despite these measures, Shiba Inu plummeted more than 85% from its all-time high in 2021. Its market cap now exceeds $5.5 billion, ranking it the 17th largest cryptocurrency. However, with little utility beyond its community and early-stage projects, Shiba Inu faces further challenges. Investor interest is waning and preferences are shifting toward cryptocurrencies with tangible real-world applications.

On the date of publication, Muslim Farooque did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines

Muslim Farooque is a keen investor and an optimist at heart. A life-long gamer and tech enthusiast, he has a particular affinity for analyzing technology stocks. Muslim holds a bachelor’s of science degree in applied accounting from Oxford Brookes University.

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3 Game-Changing Stocks to Double Your Money by 2026 3 Game-Changing Stocks to Double Your Money by 2026

Identifying potential game-changing stocks is a formula for maximizing returns. Below are three stocks that hold the potential to transform and attain exponential growth. Each are creating tidal shifts in their respective industries.

The first one is a solid consumer finance stock, offering a potent blend of financial services and cutting-edge tech that are challenging traditional banking. The second is a semiconductor supplier with leading cleaning solutions and global market share, delivering fat gross margins. Last is a trailblazer in Latin American travel, capitalizing on market demand through a tech edge. With AI trip planners and a mobile-first approach, the company is ready to conquer new frontiers in the travel industry.

These aren’t just stocks. They’re more than just numbers on a screen that multiply money. They could be the stocks that double your money in just a few years time.

SoFi (SOFI)

Source: Michael Vi / Shutterstock

SoFi’s (NASDAQ:SOFI) tech platform and financial services have solid top-line growth and bottom-line expansion that uplifts the potency of the stock’s valuation. The tech platform segment signifies another considerable growth driver for SoFi as it delivers accelerated top-line growth. Fourth-quarter revenue hit $97 million, up 13% year-over-year and 8% sequentially. This growth trajectory indicates the segment’s increasing market demand, rapid product adoption, and expanding client base.

Additionally, the tech platform segment demonstrated notable margin expansion, with a contribution margin of 32% for the period, compared to 20% in the previous year. This bottom-line improvement highlights SoFi’s enhanced operational edge, cost management initiatives and scalable business model. The segment continues optimizing its operations and leveraging synergies from recent integrations, strengthening the fintech’s overall bottom-line and long-term valuation growth prospects.

Moreover, incremental margin improvement across its business segments reflects SoFi’s ability to scale operations and capitalize on top-line growth opportunities efficiently. Notably, SoFi delivered a 74% incremental adjusted EBITDA margin year-over-year. This improvement suggests the company’s ability at managing costs and maximizing returns on business as it expands its operations.

SoFi also strategically reduced operating expenses as a percentage of adjusted net revenue. Notably, total operating expenses declined approximately 17 points as a percentage of adjusted net revenue year-over-year. This shows the company’s focus on disciplined cost management and operational optimization.

Finally, the financial services segment derived solid top-line growth, with net revenue surging 115% year-over-year to $139 million. Critically, the segment achieved a contribution profit of $25 million, marking considerable margin improvement. This suggests the segment’s increasing efficiency and revenue-generating capabilities.

ACM Research (ACMR)

a magnifying glass enlarges the ACM logo on a website

Source: Pavel Kapysh / Shutterstock.com

ACM Research (NASDAQ:ACMR) enjoys a solid market lead based on technological differentiation in semiconductor equipment solutions where it derives its competitiveness.

Semiconductor equipment manufacturer offers one of the broadest cleaning product portfolios in the industry, covering approximately 90% of all cleaning process steps in both memory and logic device applications. This extensive product range enables the company to address diverse customer needs and capture a larger market share.

ACM’s proprietary technologies and innovative solutions differentiate its products from competitors. The introduction of advanced cleaning tools, such as the ULTRA C Vacuum Cleaning Tool, suggests the company is focusing on tech innovation while addressing emerging industry requirements.

It’s solid market presence and established client relationships further reinforce ACM’s market lead. The company fosters prolonged ties with its clients through high-quality products and superior customer service. As a result, ACM has a diversified client base with solid footholds in both domestic and international markets. 

In China, the company has widely adopted its products using tools by nearly all semiconductor manufacturing users. The company’s sales and service teams continue to exert effort in expanding the deployment of major product lines across the growing customer base. Similarly, ACM Research’s lead into international markets, including the US, Europe and other parts of Asia, suggest it is looking for an expanded global footprint. 

Finally, gross margins were 52.9%, a 350 basis point increase from a year ago. It handily exceeded the expected range of 40% to 45%. This improvement is attributed to a favorable product mix, cost efficiencies, and positive currency impacts. Therefore, higher gross margins led to increased profitability and boosted valuations.

Despegar (DESP)

A photo of an excited woman riding on the back of a bike a man is driving.

Source: OPOLJA / Shutterstock.com

Despegar (NYSE:DESP) operates in the underpenetrated Latin American travel market, an estimated $150 billion opportunity. With a focus on online and offline segments, Despegar targets capturing a higher market share by leveraging its tech edge and market expertise.

Notably, the company’s gross bookings may exceed $5 billion this year, with a considerable portion originating from the business-to-consumer (B2C) channel. Fundamentally, by matching the diverse demand base and offering a wide range of travel services, Despegar may sustain its solid growth momentum and expand its market presence in Latin America.

Furthermore, Despegar strategically focuses on multiple channels. This provides a solid grip on different Latin American travel market segments. Notably, the B2C channel is a major driver of growth. However, the company is also expanding its business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C) channels to hit the target market more deeply. 

In the long term, Despegar has established itself as a leader in tech within the Latin American travel industry. The company’s focus on leveraging cutting-edge technologies (such as generative artificial intelligence (AI) and large language models) has enabled it to boost customer experiences and optimize operations. For example, an AI trip planner and the integration of WhatsApp were introduced based on an app-first approach.

Furthermore, Despegar’s app-first approach has led to a surge in app-based transactions. Over 40% of total transactions were app-based. Theoretically, by prioritizing mobile platforms and investing in app development, the company may reach a wider audience, improve user experiences, and derive engagement.

Finally, Despegar’s focus on customer loyalty programs (with nearly 20 million loyalty program members) may serve as solid support for its valuation ascension.

As of this writing, Yiannis Zourmpanos held long positions in SOFI and ACMR. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Yiannis Zourmpanos is the founder of Yiazou Capital Research, a stock-market research platform designed to elevate the due diligence process through in-depth business analysis.

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The Dividend Vault: 7 Stocks with Ironclad Payouts for the Long Haul

Among dividend stocks, the “dividend aristocrats” are the cream of the crop. Owning these stocks offers the opportunity for solid long-term total returns because of the steady, increasing payouts.

However, even among the aristocrats, there are some that are more regal than others. This has nothing to do with the amount of years of dividend growth under a particular company’s belt. There are plenty of not only mere “aristocrats,” but “dividend kings” (stocks with over 50 years of consecutive dividend growth) as well as questionable dividend growth prospects.

A prime example is 3M (NYSE:MMM). As I have discussed previously, following the settlement of billions worth of litigation, plus other headwinds like persistent weak growth, a dividend cut may be in its future. With this, the key to steady, growing payouts in the long haul may entail finding the aristocrats with the best chances of maintaining their royal status.

That’s the situation here, with these seven dividend stocks.

Automatic Data Processing (ADP)

Automatic Data Processing (NASDAQ:ADP), best known for being the world’s leading payroll processing company, is a top choice among blue-chips with dividend quality and growth potential. Not only is the business services firm in the “dividend aristocrats” category.

Over the past five years, dividends for ADP stock have increased by an average of 12.96% annually. While the stock’s 2.19% forward yield may look tiny in a high-interest environment, this payout is likely to grow considerably over time. At least, earnings forecasts for Automatic Data Processing.

These call for the company’s earnings to increase by more than 30% this fiscal year (ending June 2024), and by another 9.52% during the next fiscal year. Besides pointing to higher payouts, steady earnings growth also points to further price appreciation. In turn, leading to strong potential for above-average total returns from buying/holding this stock.

Cincinnati Financial (CINF)

With a 63-year track record of dividend growth, Cincinnati Financial (NASDAQ:CINF) is up there with 3M, as one of the “kings” among dividend stocks. However, unlike the possibly-threatened dividend of the aforementioned industrial conglomerate, payout growth from this property & casualty insurer is likely sustainable.

Forecasts for CINF stock call for the insurer to report earnings growth in the high single-digit/low-teens range over the next two years. This is in line with Cincinnati Financial’s average annual dividend growth over the past five years (7.19%). Trading for 17.9 times forward earnings, a fair valuation for a property & casualty insurer, CINF may not be in the running to experience much earnings multiple expansion.

That said, shares could still appreciate in value, in tandem with increased earnings. This, coupled with the dividend (currently giving CINF a 2.87% forward yield), could result in satisfactory long-term total returns.

Colgate-Palmolive (CL)

Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL) is of course not the only consumer staples stock in the “dividend aristocrats” category. Yet while peers such as Clorox (NYSE:CLX) and Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) are also popular among long-term dividend investors, shares in this maker of products like its namesake toothpaste, Irish Spring soap, and household cleaner Ajax may be the better buy among the bunch.

Clorox has the highest forward yield among the three (3.14%, versus 2.23% for CL stock and 2.34% for PG). That said, issues like a post-Covid sales slump and the continued impact of last year’s cyber attack call into question Clorox’s dividend growth sustainability.

PG is similar to CL in terms of yield, its payout ratio, as well as in expected earnings growth. However, Colgate-Palmolive (at 24.6 times forward earnings) is slightly cheaper than Procter & Gamble (which trades for 25.1 times forward earnings).

General Dynamics (GD)

Long-term dividend stocks are usually defensive stocks, but in the case of General Dynamics (NYSE:GD), it’s a defensive stock in the defense industry. General Dynamics has a 29 year dividend growth track record. The current geopolitical environment strongly suggests this streak will continue.

Irrespective of how the global economy fares in 2024, one thing is certain. There’s little end in sight to conflicts in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. New conflicts could emerge in Africa and Asia. Expect continued strong results for General Dynamics in the years ahead, as the U.S. keeps spending heavily on defense in light of this strife.

GD stock has a forward dividend yield of only 1.93%, but payouts have increased by an average of 7.26% per year over the past five years. The forecasts predict earnings will increase by 22% this year and by 12.2% in 2025.

Illinois Tool Works (ITW)

Illinois Tool Works (NYSE:ITW) is a name I’ve discussed previously, in coverage of the best long-term “buy and hold” stocks. Largely, because of the industrial conglomerate’s dividend growth history. Besides being an “aristocrat,” ITW has increased its payout at a high single-digit clip (8.77% annually on average) over the past five years.

This dividend (2.15% at current prices) provides a steady baseline of returns for ITW stock investors. Some in the sell-side community has soured on Illinois Tool Works as of late. Over the past month, analysts at BofA and Wells Fargo have both downgraded ITW to “underweight.”

Challenges like weak demand and falling margins may persist for now. Even so, as macro factors like inflation and interest rates normalize, ITW could soon get back on track, in terms of earnings growth. Earnings and dividend growth will help drive a move to higher prices for shares.

Lowe’s (LOW)

With the management of Lowe’s (NYSE:LOW) strongly committed to return-of-capital efforts, it’s no surprise that this is one of the top dividend stocks. A “dividend king,” with 60 years of consecutive dividend growth, the most recent payout increased happened last May.

The company increased its dividend by 5%. Currently paying investors $1.10 per share annually in dividends, LOW stock has a forward yield of 1.89%. There’s a good reason I kicked off discussion about Lowe’s by mentioning “return of capital.” Besides steady, ever-growing dividends, Lowe’s has since late 2022 been buying back stock, as part of a $15 billion share repurchase program.

In terms of company-specific catalysts, factors like a rebound in housing demand may positively affect Lowe’s fiscal performance in the future. JP Morgan’s Christopher Horvers recently noted this in an upgrade of the stock.

Realty Income (O)

Realty Income (NYSE:O) is one of the few real estate investment trusts that’s in the “dividend aristocrats” category. For 25 years in a row, the self-proclaimed “Monthly Dividend Company” has increased its payout rate, which currently stands at $3.08 per share annually (5.81% forward yield).

Admittedly, cash dividends for O stock have only increased by a low-to-mid single-digit percentage, but over time, these increases have a big impact on long-term returns. In the near-term, there’s a catalyst that could have a major impact on Realty Income’s valuation: the expected lowering of interest rates.

Uncertainty above the Federal Reserve’s so-called “pivot” has weighed on O shares since the start of the year, as I noted earlier this month. However, with lower rates still more of a matter of “when” then “if,” you may want to enter a long-term position ahead of a resurgence in rate cut confidence.

On the date of publication, Thomas Niel did not hold (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Thomas Niel, contributor for InvestorPlace.com, has been writing single-stock analysis for web-based publications since 2016.

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Steer Clear of Lucid Motors Stock Before It’s Too Late

Source: Around the World Photos / Shutterstock.com

Electric vehicle manufacturer Lucid Group (NASDAQ:LCID) makes nice-looking cars, but the price action of LCID stock isn’t nice-looking at all. Sure, the perma-optimists can cherry-pick a positive data point or two, but overall, the bull case for Lucid Group is falling apart quickly.

You may have heard from Louis Navellier and the InvestorPlace research staff that Lucid Group’s CEO is getting a $6 million bonus. Are Lucid’s investors making any money, though? Sadly, Lucid stock is losing value rapidly even while the company’s chief executive is getting a huge payout. So, Lucid Group’s loyal investors may be frustrated and want to bail on the company – and frankly, I don’t blame them for feeling this way.

Will Lucid Group’s Price-Reduction Strategy Work?

Reportedly, Lucid Group slashed its vehicle prices three times in seven months. The company tried to put a positive spin on these price cuts. However, investors might wonder whether the price reductions are done out of desperation to compete with the multitude of EV manufacturers.

Remember, Lucid Group only delivered 6,001 vehicles in 2023. LCID stockholders had better hope that the company’s pricing strategy boosts Lucid’s EV sales. For 2024, Lucid Group expects to produce “approximately 9,000 vehicles.”

That’s production, not delivery. The 2024 EV-delivery total will inevitably be lower than the production number. Lucid Group’s full-year vehicle-production estimate of “approximately 9,000” is “far below consensus expectations,” according to RBC Securities analyst Tom Narayan.

The RBC Securities analysts expected Lucid Group to produce around 9,500 vehicles this year. So, if you assumed that Lucid would have a blockbuster year in 2024, don’t get your hopes up.

Lucid Group’s Mixed Results

Turning to Lucid Group’s fourth-quarter 2023 results, the automaker offered a few positive data points. Specifically, Lucid’s cost of revenue decreased from $615.291 million in the year-earlier quarter to $410.015 million in 2023’s third quarter.

Also, Lucid Group reported an earnings loss of $654 million, or 29 cents per share, in Q4 2023. That’s worse than the loss of $473 million, or 28 cents per share, in the year-earlier quarter. However, at least Lucid beat Wall Street’s Q4 2023 earnings-loss estimate of 30 cents per share, by a penny per share.

There’s more to the story, though. In the third quarter of 2023, Lucid Group’s revenue declined to $157.2 million, versus $258 million in 2022’s third quarter. This result fell short of the analysts’ consensus estimate of $180 million.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Lucid Group produced 8,428 vehicles in total in 2023. That’s close to the upper limit of Lucid’s full-year production guidance of 8,000 to 8,500 vehicles. But then, Lucid Group’s previous outlook called for production of “more than 10,000” EVs for 2023, and prior to that, as many as 14,000 EVs.

LCID Stock: The Bad News Outweighs the Good News

Will Lucid Group’s pricing strategy work wonders this year? The company’s disappointing fourth-quarter 2023 revenue and 2024 vehicle-production guidance don’t bode well for Lucid. It looks like the automaker needs a miracle.

Frankly, Lucid Group’s slight quarterly EPS beat isn’t enough positive news to outweigh the negative news. LCID stock has disappointed investors for a long time. Instead of hoping for a turnaround, feel free to bail on Lucid Group and steer clear this year.

On the date of publication, David Moadel did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

David Moadel has provided compelling content – and crossed the occasional line – on behalf of Motley Fool, Crush the Street, Market Realist, TalkMarkets, TipRanks, Benzinga, and (of course) InvestorPlace.com. He also serves as the chief analyst and market researcher for Portfolio Wealth Global and hosts the popular financial YouTube channel Looking at the Markets.

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