Which Stocks Do Analysts Love the Most?

U.S. equities have been on the upswing.  Last week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (NYSEARCA:DIA) closed at 13,232.62, logging its best weekly gain since last December.  Meanwhile, the Standard & Poor’s 500 (NYSEARCA:SPY) index closed above 1,400 for the first time since 2008.  Rex Macey, chief investment officer at Wilmington Trust, explained, “People are getting more comfortable with the S&P above 1,400 and financials leading, which by itself is indicative of a sigh of relief.  The trend is your friend, and lately the trend has been higher.”

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However, volume and volatility on the New York Stock Exchange has reached record lows as many investors still remain skeptical of the elevation act that has taken place this year.  In the current state of the economy, investors are being more selective than ever about their stock picks.  As a result, some turn to analyst ratings as one metric to help them choose stocks.  Listed below are the top 10 S&P 500 stocks that have the highest percentage of buy ratings, according to Bespoke Investment Group, a money management and research firm.  Only stocks that have at least 10 analysts covering them are included.

Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE:A):  The premier measurement company is the most loved stock with 94 percent of analysts rating shares as a buy.  Eight-teen analysts cover the stock.  Shares have jumped 30.6 percent year-to-date.

American Tower Corp. (NYSE:AMT):  A leading provider of wireless and broadcast towers worldwide, shares are covered by 25 analysts and 92 percent rate it as a buy.  Shares have increased 5.5 percent year-to-date.

Halliburton Co. (NYSE:HAL):  Shares of the oil and gas company are covered by 36 analysts and 92 percent of them have a buy rating on shares.  Shares are flat on the year.

Express Scripts Inc. (NASDAQ:ESRX):  The more affordable prescription drug company also receives a buy rating from 92 percent of analysts.  Twenty-four analysts currently cover the company.  Shares have gained 21.6 percent year-to-date.

Ball Corp. (NYSE:BLL):  The supplier of metal and plastic packaging to the beverage and food industries received a buy rating from 92 percent of its 12 analysts.  Shares have gained 16 percent year-to-date.

National Oilwell Varco (NYSE:NOV):  A worldwide leader in providing equipment for oil drilling, received a buy rating from 91 percent of its 32 analysts.  Shares have jumped 23 percent year-to-date.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM):  The financial firm is covered by 38 analysts and received a buy rating from 89 percent of them.  Shares have gained 34 percent year-to-date.

Cardinal Health Inc. (NYSE:CAH):  The company offers drug development services for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry.  Shares are covered by 19 analysts and 89 percent of them believe the company is a buy.  Shares have edged 2.4 percent higher year-to-date.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL):  The maker of the popular iPhone and iPad has the most analysts covering it with a whopping 55, which 89 percent have a buy rating on shares.  Shares have surged 45 percent year-to-date.

Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE:FCX):  The copper and gold miner has 24 analysts covering it and 88 percent of them have a buy rating on shares.  Shares have increased 5 percent year-to-date.

Other recognizable companies further down the list include Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM), Schlumberger Ltd. (NYSE:SLB), Priceline.com Inc. (NASDAQ:PCLN) and Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE:KO).  Out of the top 50 stocks that analysts love the most, Consol Energy Inc. (NYSE:CNX) had the worst year-to-date performance, while Apple Inc. had the best.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Eric McWhinnie at staff.writers@wallstcheatsheet.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Damien Hoffman at editors@wallstcheatsheet.com