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2 Mega-Cap Stocks to Buy Now and Hold Forever

The S&P 500 has climbed over 9% in 2023 and is up 7% in the past 12 months even in the face of inflation, falling earnings, a slowing economy, global geopolitical unrest, and most recently, debt-ceiling fears. It is also worth remembering that the benchmark still trades nearly 15% below its peaks, so total euphoria is far from back.

The performance over the last year, which includes short-term peaks and valleys, highlights why investors with horizons of many years or even many decades are wise to stay invested and avoid too much market timing.

Instead, most investors are best served buying strong, proven companies in good and bad times if they have faith in the health and stability of the U.S. economy and stock market over the long haul.

If you believe in the global economic system and financial markets it is difficult to imagine that current index levels and stock prices won’t look “cheap” five, 10, or 20 years from now—almost no matter what happens in the near term. Plus, missing the market’s best days (which often occur within a few weeks of the worst days) is proven to negatively impact your returns in a very meaningful way.  

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Zacks Investment Research

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The bears keep waiting for the earnings outlook to turn far worse than it already has over the last year. If the wider S&P 500 earnings outlook holds steady through the summer, the bulls might be proven right in saying the worst is over (the current Q2 period) when it comes to corporate profits.

Meanwhile, inflation is coming down and Wall Street is betting that Jay Powell and the Fed are essentially done raising rates. Many expect the Fed to start to lower rates by the end of 2023 or early 2024.

Others might be focused on all the negativity and scary headlines around the debt ceiling. But a debt-ceiling deal will almost certainly get done because the alternative could cause unimaginable damage to the economy. Biden and McCarthy echoed this sentiment recently.

Here are two mega-cap stocks from different sectors of the economy that investors might want to buy in the back half of May and hold for years and years to come.

Mastercard Incorporated (MA)

Mastercard is a credit card powerhouse that operates an elaborate backend processing and payment network around the U.S. and globally. Mastercard essentially grabs a small percentage of the never-ending amount of credit card swipes, taps, and more that pass through its insanely complex global payment network.

MA is poised to grow as the world becomes increasingly cashless. Mastercard is also actively diversifying to evolve and fight back against a wave of young and hungry fintech upstarts.

Mastercard’s newer efforts include the likes of cryptocurrency, buy now pay later, and other potential growth segments. MA’s core credit card space remains insanely consistent and its travel-focused cross-border unit is booming again. MA currently lands a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold), but it topped our Q1 earnings and revenue estimates in late April, with its FY23 and FY24 earnings estimates up since then on the back of resilient consumer spending.

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Zacks Investment Research

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Zacks estimates call for Mastercard’s revenue to jump 13% in 2023 and over 12% higher next year to reach $28.27 billion, which would follow 18% sales growth in 2022 and 23% expansion in FY21. Meanwhile, its adjusted earnings are projected to surge 15% this year and another 17% next year to extend a long history of impressive bottom line growth, fueled by Mastercard’s high-margin business.

Mastercard stock has climbed nearly 40% off its October 2022 lows, including an 11% run in 2023. MA is still trading around where it was in the summer of 2021, having moved mostly sideways over the past two years.

Yet, Mastercard might be ready to break out, with it back above its 50-day and 200-day moving averages. Plus, it completed the golden cross, where the short-term moving average climbs back above the long-term trend, at the end of 2022.

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Zacks Investment Research

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MA shares touched fresh 52-week highs on Thursday. Yet, Mastercard is trading at 29.7X forward 12-month earnings to put it near its own decade-long median and at a 35% discount to its own 10-year highs. Mastercard is also trading about 9% below its average Zacks price target. And 20 of the 24 brokerage recommendations Zacks has for Mastercard are “Strong Buys” next to three “Buys” and one “Hold.”

Mastercard shares have skyrocketed over 1,110% in the past 15 years to edge out Microsoft and leave the S&P 500’s 200% climb and the Zacks Tech Sector’s 250% run in the dust. Despite all of the established fintech firms and upstarts trying to edge out Mastercard, the credit card powerhouse remains a growth machine and deeply entrenched in the economic and financial system.

McDonald’s (MCD)

The McDonald’s brand consistently ranks in the top 10 globally alongside the likes of Apple, Disney, Nike, and others. McDonald’s hasn’t lost a step with older generations, while catering to younger people by rolling out digital point-of-sale kiosks, adding new on-trend menu items, and going all in on mobile ordering and delivery.

In fact, the McDonald’s app was downloaded 127 million times worldwide in 2022, according to Apptopia to blow away Uber Eats’ 60 million, DoorDash’s 42 million, and Starbucks’ (SBUX) 34 million.

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Zacks Investment Research

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McDonald’s posted 10.9% global comparable sales growth in 2022, which came on top of 17% YoY expansion in the key metric in 2021. MCD’s adjusted earnings climbed roughly 9% and 50%, respectively during this same stretch. The firm raised its 2023 guidance in late April on the back of higher prices and positive traffic growth, with its upbeat earnings revisions helping it land a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).  

Zacks estimates call for MCD’s adjusted earnings to climb by 9% in 2023 and another 10% in FY24 on the back of 8% and 7%, respective revenue growth. Some of McDonald’s bottom-line expansion can be attributed to its corporate restructuring efforts and other initiatives aimed at streamlining operations.

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Zacks Investment Research

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McDonald’s is a Dividend Aristocrat that’s paid and raised dividends for at least 25 straight years. MCD is up 28% in the last year and is trading well above its key 50-day and 200-day moving averages.

The stock has more than doubled the S&P 500 over the last 25 years, while destroying Disney, Coca-Cola, Walmart and other giants of various industries. MCD’s stock price sits near all-time highs, but it trades at a 15% discount to its own 10-year highs at 25.7X forward earnings.

There are over 40,000 McDonald’s locations across over 100 countries, with roughly 95% owned by franchisees. McDonald’s customers know what they are getting when they eat at the fast-food titan, which is something Wall Street loves. And MCD shares have already cooled off substantially in recent weeks, falling back to neutral RSI levels vs. highly overbought in late April.   

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