Harvey Jones sizes up Johnson Matthey (LSE: JMAT), Standard Life (LSE: ST.), Severn Trent (LSE: SVT), BAE Systems (LSE: BA.) and Land Securities (LSE: LAND).
Shopping for shares isn't easy. There's so much on offer these days, I feel spoilt for choice. Here are five stocks I've added to my basket lately, but should I buy any of them?
Platinum producer Johnson Matthey (LSE: JMAT) lost some of its shine this year, following a dip in the price of precious metals. It has shown a few glimmers of recovery lately, but when I recently posed the question should I buy Johnson Matthey?, the answer was 'no'. I was worried that austerity would continue to hit car sales, slowing demand for its platinum-based catalytic converters. If the current end-of-year optimism proves well founded, demand for cars could accelerate in 2013, turbo-charging this stock. But on a yield of just 2.3% and priced at 16.4 times earnings for March 2013, I'm hoping for better value out there.
Run for your Life
Last time round, I really had a lust for Standard Life (LSE: ST), and the market agreed with me. It had risen more than 70% in 2012 in a steady upwards line, and was showing no signs of stopping. Yet I didn't buy Standard Life, primarily because I was worried that I'd missed out on most of the fun. Since then, Standard Life has only climbed higher. It still yields a lusty 4.1%, and trades on a spot-on valuation of 14.9 times earnings. My lust for Standard Life rages unabated and, although I usually avoid hopping onto bandwagons, I'm very, very tempted...
Lucky number Severn?
I could find only one reason to buy water utility Severn Trent (LSE: SVT) last time round, its far from soggy 4.5% yield. High net debt, a toppy valuation, fading hopes of a takeover, interfering regulators and a fixed customer base all put the dampeners on this stock. Below the line, one fellow Fool shared my scepticism, saying he couldn't remember water companies trading on such low yields and such high P/E ratios (16.8 times earnings for next March). Another Fool was more bullish, suggesting that "climate change, hosepipe bans and increasing demand" would force up profits. And maybe they will. But the case for Severn Trent still looks a little watery to me.
All Systems go!
Weapons maker BAE Systems (LSE: BA) has been going great guns lately as the market shrugged off the failed merger with EADS. Yet I didn't reach for my wallet, due to worries over falling Western defence spending and rising competition in the Middle East. Sales growth and earnings per share growth also lacked firepower. Then again, the stock is trading at a bullet proof 8.5 times earnings and yields a bunker-busting 5.5%. Looking at those numbers a second time, they blow me away. Sales growth is set to remain flat, but at this price, it looks a tempting long-term buy.
Oh, give me Land...
They're not making land anymore but you can invest in what's left via UK property group Land Securities (LSE: LAND). The share price is up more than 30% this year, so plenty of investors clearly feel bullish about the prospects for prime UK retail and London office space. So bullish, they don't even mind a forecast P/E of 23 times earnings for next March, combined with a less than eye-grabbing 3.5% yield. Sorry, that's just too expensive for me. Should I buy Land Securities? The answer is still no.
Great when it's eight
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> Harvey doesn't own any of the shares mentioned in this article.