3 Top-Rated S&P 500 Stocks Wall Street Analysts Are Loving Now: January 2024

Stocks to buy

Although markets have gotten off to a difficult start, Wall Street analysts continue to love and recommend several stocks to investors. Some of these highly praised stocks are mega-cap technology concerns and companies associated with artificial intelligence (AI). But not all of them. Analysts continue to heap adulation on stocks of companies with strong earnings, continued growth potential, and reasonable valuations.

As economic data and geopolitical tensions overseas knock around the overall market, many analysts seem to have doubled down on their stock picks. The fourth-quarter earnings that pour in will inform analysts’ views and undoubtedly lead to some rerating in the coming weeks. Here are three top-rated S&P 500 stocks Wall Street analysts are loving now: January 2024.

JPMorgan Chase (JPM)

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JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) had the best fourth quarter earnings print among the big banks. Analysts sing its praises even as they criticize the other lenders that fell short of targets in the final months of 2023. JPMorgan is praised for its biggest annual profit in 2023, with $49.6 billion net income last year. That’s the largest annual profit ever for an American bank, and it came amid a challenging environment of inflation, high interest rates and global conflicts.

For Q4, JPMorgan, the biggest bank in the world with $4 trillion of assets under management, reported earnings per share (EPS) of $3.04, below the $3.32 that Wall Street had expected. Revenue topped estimates with $39.94 billion, ahead of forecasts for $39.78 billion. JPMorgan blamed the Q4 profit miss on a $2.9 billion fee it had to pay related to the government’s seizure of failed regional lenders.

The U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation hit big banks with a special assessment to help replenish losses from a fund that reimbursed uninsured depositors of seized banks. Last spring, JPMorgan acquired First Republic, a midsized lender to wealthy families, amid the collapse of several regional lenders. However, the full-year profit more than made up for the Q4 result. JPM stock has now gained 20% in the last 12 months, outpacing most of its peers in the financial services sector.

Microsoft (MSFT)

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Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) appears to be everyone’s favorite mega-cap technology stock in 2024. This is best illustrated by the fact that Microsoft surpassed Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) to become the world’s most valuable publicly traded company. MSFT stock finished trading on Jan. 12 with a market capitalization of $2.89 trillion, edging past Apple, currently valued at $2.87 trillion. So far in 2024, Microsoft’s stock is up 3.3%, while Apple’s share price has fallen 3.4%.

While analysts downgraded AAPL stock over iPhone sales concerns, they have upgraded MSFT stock as the company monetizes artificial intelligence (AI). Wedbush, for example, recently raised its price target on Microsoft’s stock to $450 per share, implying a 16% upside from current levels. Wedbush calls 2024 Microsoft’s “iPhone Moment” and says that AI monetization is set to be a game changer for the company’s earnings and share price.

Until now, Apple has spent more than 500 days as the stock market’s most valuable company, with its market capitalization exceeding $3 trillion at several points. Microsoft last held the top market capitalization position in November 2021, just as the stock market peaked and entered a bear market in 2022. Over the last 12 months, Microsoft’s stock has risen 63%, while Apple’s share price has increased 39%. Analysts see more upside for MSFT stock in the year ahead.

Costco (COST)

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Analysts love the retailer Costco Wholesale‘s stock (NASDAQ:COST). The company reported strong third-quarter financial results and announced its revenue rose 9.9% from a year earlier to $26.2 billion during December. Analysts at Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), for one, raised its price target on COST stock to $740 a share, which is nearly 10% higher than current levels, while maintaining a “buy” rating on the shares.

Costco reported that its sales this past December nearly doubled November’s 5.1% revenue increase. Same-store sales gained 8.5% in December from a year ago, more than double the 3.5% growth seen in November. E-commerce sales, predominately discretionary items, surged 17.7% in December from a year ago. The company attributed the strong December sales to robust holiday shopping, noting that foot traffic at its stores increased 6.5% in the U.S. and 7.5% globally.

Costco continues to be the upper class of the retail sector. Its share price has gained 40% over the past 12 months and increased 220% over the last five years. The company also just paid its shareholders a special, one-time dividend of $15 per share.

On the date of publication, Joel Baglole held long positions in MSFT and AAPL. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Joel Baglole has been a business journalist for 20 years. He spent five years as a staff reporter at The Wall Street Journal, and has also written for The Washington Post and Toronto Star newspapers, as well as financial websites such as The Motley Fool and Investopedia.

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