Christina Wise of Investor’s Business Daily reveals which company traits make a story stock an attractive investment in her September 2012 AAII Journal article “The ‘New’ Edge: Characteristics of Winning Stocks.” These are the fundamental traits that past winning stocks possessed in bull market after bull market, decade after decade. This issue’s First Cut applies the key fundamentals highlighted in the article using AAII’s stock screening and fundamental database, Stock Investor Pro.
The starting universe of 5,564 stocks for this issue’s First Cut consisted of exchange-listed companies. The First Cut first looked for companies with positive current earnings per share that have been able to increase annual earnings at a 25% or higher rate for each of the last three years. Only 168 stocks met that stringent test. The First Cut then required that earnings per share for the most recent quarter be at least 25% higher than same quarter last year. We also looked for companies that have had an accelerating rate of quarter-over-quarter earnings growth. As a confirmation of the strength of earnings per share growth, the First Cut looked for quarter-over-quarter sales growth of at least 25%. Only 12 stocks possessed both strong historical year-over-year annual earnings growth and recent strong and accelerating quarterly growth.
To seek out companies with sustainable and improving profitability, the First Cut followed Wise’s fundamental test that firms have a return on equity of at least 17% and a net profit margin is better than the company’s average margin over the last three years. Since profit margins vary by industry, the First Cut also required that the company’s profit margin be higher than the industry norm. This type of filter helps to highlight companies that have a competitive advantage over their peers.
Only 10 stocks passed all of the fundamental factors exhibited by typical market winners and they made the First Cut. The table ranks these stocks by the price change over the last 52 weeks to highlight recent stock market success.