7 Stocks to Buy for Gains in 2014

Our picks focus on big companies that will benefit from stronger economic growth.

Air Lease

The dynamic duo who turned International Lease Finance Corp. into an airplane-leasing giant in the 1980s, Steven Udvar-Házy and John Plueger, came out of semi-retirement to launch Air Lease (AL (opens in new tab)) in 2010. Since then, the company has built a fleet of 174 jets, which are leased to more than 75 airlines. Air Lease also helps manage air fleets, so when customers lease its new planes, it also brokers the sale of their old ones. Analysts expect profits to increase 30% in 2014, but the stock sells for only 16 times estimated earnings. (All prices and related data are as of November.)

SLIDE SHOW: 24 Stocks for 2014

Cree Inc.

Cree Inc. (CREE (opens in new tab)) is a leader in the manufacture of light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. These energy-sipping bulbs, which require up to 85% less power than traditional bulbs and can last up to 25 times longer than traditional bulbs, are gaining popularity. Only about 3% of the U.S. population currently uses them, but government price subsidies are making them more popular and affordable. Cree is also stepping into the solar-power industry. That should help light up sales and profits for years to come and justifies the stock’s rich price, which amounts to 34 times estimated earnings.

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Eaton Corp.

An improving global economy is bullish for Eaton (ETN (opens in new tab)), which specializes in power management—from the manufacture of hydraulic systems for trucks and planes to the circuit breakers used in commercial construction. Eaton moved its headquarters from Ohio to Ireland in 2012 as part of its purchase of electronics giant Cooper Industries. The deal helped boost sales and profits in 2013. But the sluggish commercial-construction market is weighing on results. Morningstar analyst Daniel Holland thinks that business will rebound in 2014, allowing Eaton to fire on all cylinders.

General Electric

Global conglomerates such as (GE (opens in new tab)) tend to expand at the same pace as overall economic growth. So GE will benefit from an improving world economy—and then some. That’s because, says Holland, GE is better than most conglomerates at creating synergies among its various operations—from aviation to health care—that help facilitate the creation of new products. Shareholders are benefiting from dividend hikes, as well as share buybacks, which will help profits grow at a 10% pace over the next few years. Plus, the stock yields an above-average 2.9%.

Honeywell Intl.

In 2010, when Honeywell International (HON (opens in new tab)) announced an ambitious five-year growth plan, analysts were skeptical. They acknowledged that the firm, which makes everything from thermostats to jet engines, was well run, but they thought it couldn’t wring enough efficiencies from its operations to overcome a struggling economy. But Honeywell hit all of its goals and has turned skeptics into believers, says Stifel Nicolaus analyst Jeff Osborne. Now, Honeywell is set to put out a new five-year plan that he thinks will be even more ambitious—and will help boost the stock.

JPMorgan Chase

Over the past two years, JPMorgan Chase (JPM (opens in new tab)) has been mired in controversies, ranging from billion-dollar losses in the London Whale trading debacle to a proposed $13-billion settlement with regulators over improprieties in the mortgage market. The sideshows, though, mask the bank’s underlying strength, says Raymond James analyst Anthony Polini. JPMorgan is one of the best-run banks, with a strong balance sheet and a compelling international investment-banking operation. The legal woes have suppressed the stock, which trades for just 9 times earnings.

Occidental

A major energy producer, Occidental Petroleum (OXY (opens in new tab)) has an edge over many of its peers: It gets the bulk of its energy from politically stable North America, and most of that energy is in liquid form, which benefits from a favorable balance of supply and demand. Oxy also boasts a superb balance sheet, with plenty of cash for dividends and share buybacks. To boost Oxy’s long-moribund stock price, the company has launched a restructuring plan, which initially involves selling assets to raise cash. Morningstar analyst Allen Good thinks Oxy’s stock is a bargain.

Kathy Kristof
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Kristof, editor of SideHusl.com (opens in new tab), is an award-winning financial journalist, who writes regularly for Kiplinger's Personal Finance and CBS MoneyWatch. She's the author of Investing 101, Taming the Tuition Tiger and Kathy Kristof's Complete Book of Dollars and Sense. But perhaps her biggest claim to fame is that she was once a Jeopardy question: Kathy Kristof replaced what famous personal finance columnist, who died in 1991? Answer: Sylvia Porter.