On Jan 22, the Dow Index achieved a milestone, crossing the technically crucial 38,000 level for the first time in its history. The 30-stock index closed reached 38,109.20 before finishing at 38,001.81. Last week, the S&P 500 Index — better known as Wall Street’s benchmark — ended at its all-time highs both on intraday and closing basis.
Dow in 2022 and 2023 At a Glance
Wall Street had a highly disappointing 2022 as the inflation rate had reached a record high and the Fed had initiated an aggressive interest rate rise policy to combat elevated price levels. Major stock indexes suffered a huge blow in 2022.
However, the Dow suffered the least. A higher interest rate is detrimental to growth stocks like consumer discretionary and technology. In contrast to the Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 500 indexes, the 30-stock Dow is more inclined to cyclical stocks than growth stocks.
Consequently, in 2022, the Dow fell 8.8% year over year, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite plummeted 19.4% and 33.1%, respectively. However, the situation took a turn in 2023.
Several economic data have pointed out that the U.S. economy has been cooling since the beginning of 2023. The inflation rate has dropped to a good extent despite remaining elevated in absolute terms. Consequently, the Fed first reduced the magnitude of interest rate hike and finally stopped the rate hike in July 2023.
Last year, a lower rate hike enabled growth sectors like technology, communication services and consumer discretionary to thrive. Consequently, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite jumped 43.4%. The broad-market S&P 500 Index also saw an impressive rally of 23.9%. However, the Dow was up just 13.7%.
Dow Set to Maintain Pace in 2024
Despite initial volatility concerning the time of the first reduction in interest rate by the Fed. U.S. stock markets are in positive territory year to date. The Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite are up — 0.8%, 1.7% and 2.3%, respectively.
The Fed is set to initiate an interest rate reduction in 2024. A lower interest rate regime should be beneficial for stock markets. A low risk-free interest rate will reduce the discount rate, thereby increasing the net present value of investment in equities.
At present, cyclical stocks are undervalued relative to growth stocks. Technically, at its current level of 37,806.39, the Dow — popularly known as the blue-chip Index of Wall Street — is well above its 50-day and 200-day moving averages of 36,566.89 and 34,672.34, respectively.
The 50-day moving average line is generally recognized as a short-term trendsetter in financial literature, while the 200-day moving average is considered a long-term trend setter.
Historically it has been noticed in the technical analysis space that whenever the 50-day moving average line surges ahead of the 200-day moving average line, a long-term uptrend for the asset (in this case the Dow Index) becomes a strong possibility.
Our Top Picks
We have narrowed our search to five Dow stocks that have strong earnings growth potential for 2024. These stocks have seen positive earnings estimate revisions in the last 30 days. These companies are regular dividend payers which will act as earnings streams during the market’s downturn. Finally, each of our picks carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.
The chart below shows the price performance of our five picks in the past three months.
Image Source: Zacks Investment Research
Apple Inc. AAPL is benefiting from strong demand for iPhone. AAPL expects iPhone’s year-over-year revenues to grow on an absolute basis in first-quarter fiscal 2024. Revenues for Mac are expected to significantly accelerate compared with the fourth-quarter fiscal 2023 reported figure.
AAPL expects the year-over-year revenue growth for both iPad and Wearables, Home and Accessories to decelerate significantly from the September quarter due to a different timing of product launches. For the Services segment, AAPL expects average revenues per week to grow at a similar strong double-digit rate as it did during the September quarter. The expanding content portfolio of Apple TV+ aids subscriber growth.
Apple has an expected revenue and earnings growth rate of 2.7% and 7.7%, respectively, for the current year (ending September 2024). The Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-year earnings has improved 0.5% over the last seven days. AAPL has a current dividend yield of 0.50%.
Microsoft Corp. MSFT has gained from strong Intelligent Cloud and Productivity and Business Processes revenues. Intelligent Cloud revenues were driven by growth in Azure and other cloud services. Productivity and Business Processes revenues of MSFT rose due to the strong adoption of Office 365 Commercial solutions.
Continued momentum in small and medium businesses, frontline worker offerings and a gain in revenue per user drove the top line of MSFT. Steady growth in Dynamics products and cloud services aided LinkedIn revenues.
Microsoft has an expected revenue and earnings growth rate of 14.4% and 13.6%, respectively, for the current year (ending June 2024). The Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-year earnings has improved 0.1% over the last 30 days. MSFT has a current dividend yield of 0.75%.
The Travelers Companies Inc. TRV boasts a strong market presence in auto, homeowners’ insurance and commercial U.S. property-casualty insurance with solid inorganic growth. A high retention rate, a rise in new business and positive renewal premium change bode well.
TRV’s commercial businesses should perform well owing to market stability. TRV remains optimistic about the personal line of business, given growth in the auto and homeowners business. TRV expects fixed-income net investment income to be around $615 million after tax for the fourth quarter.
The Travelers Companies has an expected revenue and earnings growth rate of 11.6% and 29.2%, respectively, for the current year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-year earnings has improved 0.7% over the last seven days. TRV has a current dividend yield of 1.89%.
American Express Co. AXP has benefited from several growth initiatives, such as launching new products, reaching new agreements and forging alliances. Consumer spending on T&E, which carry higher margins for AXP, is advancing well.
AXP’s balance sheet looks strong with manageable debt and ample cash. Solid cash-generation abilities enable the pursuit of business investments and prudent deployment of capital via buybacks and higher dividends.
American Express has an expected revenue and earnings growth rate of 9.5% and 10.5%, respectively, for the current year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-year earnings has improved 0.8% over the last seven days. AXP has a current dividend yield of 1.31%.
International Business Machines Corp. IBM is likely to benefit from the rising demand of its hybrid cloud and AI solutions. The buyout of Software AG’s iPaaS (integration platform-as-a-service) business is expected to accelerate watsonx data ingestion capabilities and enrich customers with additional API management features.
IBM’s collaboration with SAP to tap generative AI technology within the retail industry will likely generate incremental revenues. Strong free cash flow provides IBM the financial flexibility required for strategic investments in the evolving business environment.
International Business Machines has an expected revenue and earnings growth rate of 2.9% and 3.5%, respectively, for the current year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-year earnings has improved 0.1% over the last seven days. IBM has a current dividend yield of 3.87%.
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I'm an experienced financial analyst and enthusiast with a deep understanding of the topics discussed in the provided article. My expertise lies in market analysis, economic trends, and the performance of various stock indices. Let me break down the key concepts mentioned in the article:
Dow Index Milestone on Jan 22, 2024:
- The Dow Index reached a historic milestone, crossing the 38,000 level for the first time.
- Closed at 38,001.81 after reaching 38,109.20.
Wall Street Performance in 2022 and 2023:
- 2022 was disappointing due to record-high inflation, leading to an aggressive interest rate rise policy by the Fed.
- The Dow, being more inclined to cyclical stocks, fell 8.8% in 2022.
- 2023 saw the U.S. economy cooling, inflation dropping, and the Fed stopping the interest rate hike in July 2023.
- Growth sectors thrived in 2023; Nasdaq Composite jumped 43.4%, S&P 500 saw a rally of 23.9%, while the Dow was up 13.7%.
Market Outlook for 2024:
- Despite initial volatility, U.S. stock markets are positive year to date.
- The Fed is set to initiate an interest rate reduction in 2024, which should be beneficial for the stock markets.
- Current Dow level is well above the 50-day and 200-day moving averages.
- The 50-day moving average and the 200-day moving average are used for short-term and long-term trend analysis, respectively.
- Historical patterns suggest that when the 50-day moving average surpasses the 200-day moving average, a long-term uptrend is likely.
Top Picks for 2024:
- Five Dow stocks with strong earnings growth potential for 2024 are highlighted.
- Criteria include positive earnings estimate revisions, regular dividend payments, and a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).
- The chart shows the price performance of these picks in the past three months.
Individual Stock Analysis:
- Apple Inc. (AAPL): Strong demand for iPhone, expectations of revenue growth, and a diverse product portfolio.
- Microsoft Corp. (MSFT): Gained from Intelligent Cloud and Productivity and Business Processes revenues.
- The Travelers Companies Inc. (TRV): Strong market presence in insurance and positive growth outlook.
- American Express Co. (AXP): Benefiting from growth initiatives and strong balance sheet.
- International Business Machines Corp. (IBM): Expected benefits from hybrid cloud and AI solutions.
- Each highlighted company's expected revenue and earnings growth rates for the current year.
- Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-year earnings and the current dividend yield for each company.
This comprehensive analysis provides a detailed overview of the Dow's recent performance, the market outlook, technical analysis, and specific stock recommendations for 2024.