J.P. Morgan Says 'Buy' These 3 Defense Stocks

Analysts expect an increase in the U.S. defense budget in 2018

Josh Selway
Dec 12, 2017 at 10:07 AM
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J.P. Morgan Securities this morning released a bullish note on the aerospace and defense sectors, citing what it sees as reasonable valuations in the group compared to the broader market, and expectations that the U.S. defense budget will grow meaningfully in 2018. Three stocks mentioned by the analysts are Boeing Co (NYSE:BA), Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC), and Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT). Below, we'll break down how shares of BA, NOC, and LMT are trading this morning.

BA Stock Hits Another Record High

Boeing stock is up 3.1% at $291.77, touching a record high of $292.80 out of the gate, after the brokerage firm hiked its price target on the shares to $325 from $300, naming the equity as one of its top areospace picks. The aerospace giant also announced it's raising its dividend by 20% and revealed an $18 billion buyback plan.

A number of analysts are still skeptical of BA, even though it's nearly doubled in value on a year-to-date basis. For instance, seven of 17 brokerage firms still have just "hold" ratings in place, and the stock has now taken out its 12-month price target of $289.79. So don't be surprised if more upgrades and/or price-target increases come through on the Dow component.

Short-Term Options Traders Put-Heavy on NOC

Northrop Grumman, meanwhile, received an upgrade to "overweight" from "neutral," and its price target got raised to $355 from $317, while being deemed a top pick among defense names. NOC shares have added 0.7% to trade at $306.76 as a result, leaving them within striking distance of their Nov. 30 all-time high of $309.76. Overall, the equity has picked up 31.7% in 2017.

Despite these gains, the security has a Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 2.92. Not only does this show that put open interest almost triples call open interest among contracts expiring within three months, but the ratio ranks in the high 86th annual percentile.

Short Interest Picks Up On LMT Stock

Finally, J.P. Morgan Securities bumped its price target on Lockheed Martin to $340 from $339, and the shares were last seen fractionally higher at $316.19. LMT touched a record high of $322.19 on Oct. 13, and though it pulled back slightly after reaching this milestone, it's been riding the rising 50-day moving average higher since.

Interestingly, a number of short sellers have recently taken interest in the stock. That is, short interest on the defense contractor rose by 20.5% in the most recent reporting period. Going by average daily volumes, it would now take short sellers more than three days to cover their positions.


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