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3 cheap blue chips for December

Image: AstraZeneca. Fair use.

Value is subjective. Nevertheless, most Fools would agree that it can be a good idea to buy shares trading on price weakness so long as a company’s long-term prospects haven’t changed. Given this, let’s look at three companies in the market’s top tier that look like decent picks today.

Priced to go?

After rising sharply to a peak of 5,220p following June’s referendum result, shares in FTSE 100 pharmaceutical giant, Astrazeneca (LSE: AZN) have now fallen 22% over the last few months. This follows a disappointing set of Q3 results and ongoing concerns about its ability to generate sufficient numbers of new treatments to battle its patent cliff. Not even Hilary Clinton’s failure to capture the White House and implement price restrictions on the drug industry has been enough to stop some investors heading for the exits.

Notwithstanding these issues, shares in Astrazencea look fairly cheap right now on a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of just 12. As long as things do improve (earnings per share are expected to grow by 20% and 23% over the next two years), there’s also a relatively safe yield of 5.4% on offer. That’s an awful lot more than you’ll get from any savings account.

Ad appeal

This one dipped almost 3% yesterday on news that the US Justice Department is investigating claims that advertising companies are involved in rigging the bidding process for contracts on commercials by promoting their own in-house production units. But I still think that WPP (LSE: WPP) remains a decent choice for those craving hassle-free stocks for their portfolios. Let’s not forget that this is a company that managed to more than double earning per share between 2010 and 2015.

With a forecast P/E of 13, a fully-covered 3.7% yield pencilled-in for next year and Martin Sorrell at the helm, now could be a great opportunity to grab a slice of the resilient FTSE 100 constituent.

Finally, there’s Sky (LSE: SKY). Like Astrazeneca, its shares have been on a downward trajectory over the last year, falling 27% to today’s price of 786p. Nevertheless, with details of new product launches, a 7% increase in sales (compared to Q1 in 2015) and 100,000 new customers, October’s positive Q1 results suggest this fall may be overdone.

With a P/E of just over 13, I’d say that shares in Sky are fairly priced, despite the increased competition it faces from companies like BT. A forecast yield of just under 4.5% for 2017 also looks safe as long as the company can continue to build on the aforementioned figures.

Know thyself

Ultimately, no one knows what the future will bring. Just ask investors in quality spread betting firms like IG Index and CMC Markets how their week is going. 

Although Astrazeneca, WPP and Sky all look tempting at the current time, this isn’t to say that their shares prices couldn’t sink lower given the unpredictable nature of the markets. This is why it’s so important for each and every Foolish investor to consider their tolerance to risk, financial goals and investing horizon before buying a slice of any company.

Thankfully, the multinational nature of all of the above means that they’re not dependent on any one market. This is particularly important given the uncertain political and economic climate we’ve endured in 2016 and — given next year’s French and German elections — that looks likely to continue well into 2017.

Buying shares on temporary price weakness is just one way of increasing your chances of walking away from the stock market with a cool million in your back pocket.  

If you're looking for a long and profitable investing career (and who isn't?), I strongly encourage you to follow the 10 steps recommended by the experts at the Motley Fool. They're all here in a completely FREE special report.

Paul Summers has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended AstraZeneca and Sky. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.