5 Stocks That Are Only Getting Better


It's pretty gloomy out there. Consumer confidence is waning. Companies are talking down their near-term prospects, if analysts don't beat them to the projected-earnings revisions.

Some stocks are getting hammered, but they're not exactly cheap if their fundamentals are also taking a few jabs.

Let's go with the market's favorite punching bag in recent weeks: Netflix (NAS: NFLX) . Three months ago, analysts figured the video rental giant would earn $6.55 a share next year. Then the company announced its poorly received price increase. Analysts initially figured that couch potatoes would absorb the increase. Two months ago, Wall Street had jacked up its 2012 profit forecast to $6.95 a share. As the defections grow louder and Netflix itself has had to lower it stateside subscriber guidance, analysts are down to expecting net income of $6.48 a share next year.

Mr. Market can be one tough customer, shredding Netflix's stock by more than half since its summertime peak. Bulls will argue that Netflix has fallen harder than its fundamentals. The round trip from $6.55 a share to $6.48 a share in 90 days isn't awful. However, it is pretty typical in a market where the pros are modeling lower profitability

Pop go these weasels
Thankfully, there are several companies for which analysts have actually been increasing their projections over the past few problematic months.

Let's take a look at five companies that are bucking the malaise.


2012 EPS

90 Days Ago

2012 EPS


Apple (NAS: AAPL)



Sirius XM Radio (NAS: SIRI)



Baidu (NAS: BIDU)



OpenTable (NAS: OPEN)



Microsoft (NAS: MSFT)



Source: Yahoo! Finance.

It's been a week since Steve Jobs died, but business lives on at Apple. In fact, we're now just two days away from the iPhone 4S debut. In time we may come to see who Apple misses more: Jobs the visionary or Jobs the marketer. For now, the consensus seems to be that Apple's outlook brightens by the week.

Sirius XM is the only game in town when it comes to satellite radio. There are some concerns that ho-hum auto sales in a ho-hum economy will lead to ho-hum subscriber growth, but Sirius continues to pad its subscriber tally with every passing quarter, save for a brief lull during the first half of 2009.

Baidu is China's leading search engine. It takes more than a bit of courage to be buying Chinese dot-coms these days. The Chinese government is getting weary of the personal freedoms that cyberspace is awakening, largely in its youth. On this side of the argument, several agencies are looking into fraud allegations. However, it's hard to ignore Baidu's dominant market share in the most lucrative online advertising niche.

OpenTable has come undone like a deflating souffle in recent months. The online dining reservations specialist has been smacked around after the acquisition of Zagat by the world's leading search engine. As a provider of Groupon-like deals, OpenTable has also become a pushpin doll that gets pierced whenever Groupon runs into an obstacle on its rocky IPO journey. Analysts have been able to weigh all of these headwinds and dismiss them. Why can't investors?

Finally we have Microsoft. I'm no fan of Mr. Softy. I think that its pricey operating system will come undone by open source. I feel that cloud computing will dent its valuable Office productivity suite. Don't even get me started on the kind of money that Microsoft is losing in its online operations. However, the numbers don't lie. Microsoft's projected net income keeps inching higher, and I have to respect that.

2012 don't be late
Some of these stocks are holding up better than others.

Despite all of its challenges, Apple is just a 5% gain away from hitting a new all-time high.

There are even bigger opportunities at the other end of this unloved spectrum. OpenTable has shed 42% of its value over the past three months, even though analysts now see it earning more in 2012 than they did at the time. Sirius XM has seen its stock fall 25% in that time.

Warren Buffett once said that the market is a voting machine in the short run, but a weighing machine in the long run. In other words, the fundamentals will eventually win out over near-term fluctuations. With all five of these companies in better shape than they were three months ago, there's a golden opportunity to game the unfair voting machine.

These five companies are better than they used to be. These five stocks will follow.

If you want to track these five stocks, consider adding them to the free My Watchlist feature.

At the time thisarticle was published The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Microsoft.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Baidu, Apple, OpenTable, Microsoft, and Netflix.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended creating a bear put spread position in Netflix.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.Longtime Fool contributorRick Munarrizcalls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story, except for Netflix. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

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