Over a year ago, I attempted to help out family and friends by creating what I considered an ideal growth portfolio.
If, during 2012, you had invested in the S&P 500, your investment would have returned 15.9%, after factoring in dividends. That's actually outstanding. And yet, had you been invested in the "World's Greatest Growth Portfolio," you would have trounced the S&P 500, earning a 26.5% return on your investment.
Before 2013 began, I decided to review all of the companies to see which ones still made the cut and which didn't.
The chart below shows how the 2013 portfolio has performed so far. Taken as a whole, The World's Greatest Growth Portfolio has returned 28% since inception, besting the S&P 500 by 7 percentage points. Click on any company, and you can read about why it was selected for the portfolio.
Read on and you'll see which three stocks I think are exceptional buys, and at the end I'll offer up access to a special premium report on one company that deserves your attention.
Jan. 1 Balance
Source: Fool.com. All returns accurate as of market close on Feb. 28, 2013.
Though the portfolio is still beating the overall market by a nice margin, its lead contracted quite a bit over the past month. This was primarily due to four factors.
First, the FDA has made public that it is surveying doctors to check on the type of training they are receiving for the daVinci Surgical Robotic system.
Second, Whole Foods announced that its margins wouldn't quite be what they had been in the past. If analysts had been listening, the company warned that this would be the case last year.
Third, IPG Photonics came out with earnings that disappointed Wall Street. When I reviewed the company's performance myself, I found very few long-term concerns with this leader in fiber-optic lasers.
And, fourth, though there was nothing wrong with 3D Systems' earnings, the market was apparently hoping for results or expectations that would leave jaws dropping on the floor. That didn't happen and, as a result, stocks of both the company and its 3-D printing rival Stratasys took deep dives.
Taken together, the stocks of these five companies lost an average of 11% in February.
This month's three best buys
But enough with all the bad news. Let's go on to the three companies that I think are ripe for the picking.
First on my list is IPG Photonics. As I said, I simply think the market overreacted to its earnings release. Margins have improved over the past year, and the stock is trading for 16 times expected earnings in 2013. Most importantly, while the laser market in general is expected to grow by just 6% in the coming years, fiber-optic lasers -- a sub-industry where IPG has a 70% market share -- is expected to grow by 23%. And by being a vertically integrated company, IPG will be able to grow with lower input costs than its rivals.
Second on my list is Baidu, China's largest search engine. Though it is facing competition from Qihoo 360 and is located in China -- making it hard for some stateside investors to trust the numbers the company puts out -- Baidu has an 80% market share of that country's growing search market. Trading at just 13 times expected earnings in 2013 -- even though it has grown earnings by an average of 85% per year over the last five years -- I think those concerns are more than accounted for in the stock's price.
Finally, we have my top pick of the month: Stratasys. The 3-D printing specialist announced earnings this past Monday, which confirmed that the future for the industry and this company are still bright. Revenue rose 23% and EPS came in 40% higher than one year ago.
Though it was a little difficult to tell how the organic growth played out since the company merged with Objet, one thing is clear: The newest version of Stratasys is worth investing in. With a market cap today of less than $3 billion, there's still lots of room to grow.
If you'd like the inside scoop on Stratasys' main competition, 3D Systems, then it's worth doing some research. The Motley Fool has compiled a premium research report on whether 3D Systems is a buy right now. In our report, we take a close look at 3D Systems' opportunities, risks, and critical factors for growth. You'll also find reasons to buy or sell the stock today. To start reading, simply click here now for instant access.
The article 3 Buy-Now Stocks From the "World's Greatest Growth Portfolio" originally appeared on Fool.com.
Fool contributor Brian Stoffel owns shares of Apple, Google, Amazon.com, LinkedIn, Starbucks, Baidu, Whole Foods Market, lululemon athletica, Intuitive Surgical, Westport Innovations, Stratasys, and IPG Photonics. The Motley Fool recommends 3D Systems, Amazon.com, Apple, Baidu, Google, Intuitive Surgical, IPG Photonics, LinkedIn, Lululemon Athletica, Starbucks, Stratasys, Westport Innovations, and Whole Foods Market. The Motley Fool owns shares of 3D Systems, Amazon.com, Apple, Baidu, Google, Intuitive Surgical, IPG Photonics, LinkedIn, Starbucks, Stratasys, Westport Innovations, and Whole Foods Market and has the following options: short Jan. 2014 $36 calls on 3D Systems and short Jan. 2014 $20 puts on 3D Systems. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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