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Three stock market plays that will make you worry less about lettuce

Every month, it seems, there is a new wrinkle to this supply-side challenged economy.

Today’s hot button item? Lettuce. Yep, that’s right, the price of lettuce is out of control. It has doubled and even tripled in various places across the continent.

So what is the solution? Many will say “stop eating lettuce”, and that is a fine assessment.

But say you are inspired by iceberg. Really love romaine. Appreciate arugula.

Then another solution is to make enough lettuce to pay for the lettuce.

Experts says these three large-cap stocks will help you do just that.

Aerospace and defense name Raytheon Technologies (Raytheon Technologies Stock Quote, Charts, News, Analysts, Financials NYSE:RTX) has seen a nice uptick in its share price over the past couple of years, but portfolio manager Christine Poole thinks there’s more where that came from, and not just because of increased military spending.

Poole, who nominated Raytheon as one of her three top picks for the next twelve months on a BNN Bloomberg segment recently, says coming out of the pandemic, Raytheon’s commercial aerospace business will do well.

“We’ve owned this name for a while,” said Poole, CEO of GlobeInvest Capital Management. “Commercial has been very strong for Raytheon. The aftermarket for commercial coming out of the pandemic … when planes fly, they need to be serviced and Raytheon makes aircraft engines, avionics, interiors, and so those engines have to be serviced when you fly a certain number miles.”

“That’s been very beneficial on the Commercial side, and that’s what has driven the earnings improvement,” she said.

On RTX’s defence business, Poole said countries’ spending budgets on defence have gone up as the geopolitical climate has heated up over the past year, including with the war in Ukraine. That coupled with the current supply chain issues means a lot of business upcoming for Raytheon, she said.

“I think you still have leverage going forward for the defence side to kick in. Those problems will get resolved,” she said. “They were able to deal with the labour shortages and supplies much better on the commercial side, but according to management, procurement rules on the defence side are much more restrictive — you can’t hold that much inventory, whereas on the commercial side, they could ask their suppliers to hold more and they have preferential treatment.”

Poole says air travel is now opening up internationally, especially in China, and that should be good for Raytheon as well.

“We like the balance and we think that defence spending is going to continue to grow,” she said.

Recession fears have put a lid on bullish sentiment toward payments and fintech names, but investors shouldn’t fear a stock like Visa (Visa Stock Quote, Charts, News, Analysts, Financials NYSE:V), according to Scotia Wealth Management advisor Stan Wong, who just named the credit card giant as one of his top picks for the year ahead.

“With travel and pent up demand for travel surging, Visa is going to benefit along with MasterCard and others. They’ll benefit from more transactions in the higher margin cross-border segment,” said Wong, portfolio manager at Scotia, who spoke on BNN Bloomberg on Wednesday.

“Overall, the US consumer continues to be strong. We talked about the potential for a slowdown and recession — I don’t think the US consumer got that memo because just recently we saw retail sales march to a brand new high,” he said.

For Wong, Visa’s fundamentals are strong, pointing to its solid free cash flow, no material debt and management’s forecast, which is solid in its guidance on sales and earnings growth.

“They’re clearly the world’s leader in digital payments: 3.7 billion credit and other payment cards in circulation around across 200 countries, $32 billion in revenue expected for fiscal 2023, and last month they actually initiated a new $12 billion share buyback program and increased their dividend by 20 per cent,” Wong said.

There’s no good way to time the bottom of the market, but why bother when there are solid names like Microsoft (Microsoft Stock Quote, Charts, News, Analysts, Financials NASDAQ:MSFT) currently trading at a sale price? That’s the thinking behind portfolio manager Greg Newman’s move to nominate Microsoft as one of his top picks for the year ahead.

“I think you get one of the world’s premier premier companies, on the cheap right now, and I don’t know that this is the very bottom, the magic moment right here, but I think over the next one, two years, this is a wealth builder,” said Newman, senior wealth advisor at ScotiaMcLeod, who spoke on a BNN Bloomberg segment on Monday.

Newman said part of the reason for the pullback on Microsoft is the market’s worry about the company’s growth prospects. Microsoft’s share price dropped seven per cent, for example, on the release of the company’s third quarter earnings last month. Top and bottom lines for the software and hardware giant were strong enough to beat analysts’ expectations, but management’s guidance for the fourth quarter was tepid, forecasting Q4 revenue of between $52.35 and $53.35 billion. The Street had been expecting on average a forecast of $56.05 billion.

“I think over time the macro and the [foreign exchange] headwinds abate. They have high growth of 20% in Intelligent Cloud, mid-teens growth in Productivity in Business, two to five per cent growth in Windows. Over time, for their scale and their [share] buybacks, you add that up, we believe they’re going to grow their earnings per share and free cash flow by 20 per cent over our medium term estimate,” Newman said.

“We believe that the street estimates are too low,” he said.

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