August has thus far been a dismal month for the equity markets. Fear has run rampant among traders on Wall Street, and that fear also has shaken investors on Main Street. The fright in this market so far in August has caused the broad-based measure of the domestic market, the S&P 500 index, to dive 8.88% month to date as of Aug. 12. That’s a huge drop in just 10 trading days, but fortunately, not all big name stocks have submitted to the selling demons. I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage; the cream always rises to the top. Well that’s true when it comes to just about everything in life, including stocks. (See my recent story on “Keeping your head in a crazy market”).
To skim the cream off the top of this curdled market, I did a Bloomberg screen of month-to-date percentage gains on the biggest 100 stocks in the S&P 500. The results can be seen in the table below.
What should come as no surprise is that companies with stellar earnings, and/or stalwart brands have managed to hold their own even in the face of some really nasty bearish trade.
Credit card company Mastercard (MA) tops the list of cream of the crop stocks, with an amazing month-to-date gain of 8.23%. The stock’s strength is impressive, especially when other financial stocks are getting pounded. It should probably come as no surprise that Mastercard shares have done so well, given its recent quarterly earnings jump of 24%, and its estimated EPS growth of 26% in 2011.
The always controversial News Corp. (NWSA) has made most of its headlines lately for the hacking scandal in the U.K., but the real headline for the owner of Fox TV and the Wall Street Journal should be the company’s stellar earnings and dividend increase. The Rupert Murdoch led News Corp. managed to do both of those things despite its high-profile troubles. Whatever you think of Mr. Murdoch, you’ve got to hand it to the man when it comes to his business acumen, and his ability to guide the company’s shares up nearly 2% while the wider market has fallen almost 9%.
As for the other companies on this list, it’s a similar story. All have staying power, all have excellent earnings, and all should be seen as stocks likely to rise to the top in even the sourest market.