While it’s hard to classify any of the thirty Dow stocks as a “hidden gem,” 3M (MMM) might come close. Unlike our previously highlighted pick of the week, it doesn’t enjoy a lot of fanfare or advertising wars. 3M is virtually unknown compared to other Dow constituents. Unlike Coca-Cola (KO), Exxon Mobil (XOM), Home Depot (HD) and Wal-Mart (WMT), 3M flies under the radar.
Investors are more likely to know 3M as the maker of Post-It Notes, Scotch Tape, handheld video projectors, and scores of other familiar products. Yet 3M shares are no slouch. Over the past two years, while the Dow lost about 12%, 3M was actually up. 3M outpaced its peers in the last year, too, gaining about 60%, vs around 40% for the Dow.
How a company that is over a century old can be relatively anonymous on Wall Street is a mystery. Short-term traders rarely think about 3M. Conservative, long-term investors are the more typical 3M holders. The company creates steady income, having paid a dividend 375 consecutive quarters and roughly 75% of the quarters since its founding. 3M raised its quarterly dividend by three percent earlier this year to 52.5 cents a share. The most recent dividend increase represents the 52nd straight year the company has raised its payout. 3M has returned $16 billion to shareholders over the last five years in the form of dividends and share repurchases.
But what do 3M shares have to offer in the near-term? One highlight is a recent upgrade of the stock by a Morgan Stanley analyst who said he is ”almost certain” 3M shares will trade higher in the next month. Moreover, the current market environment has been kind to industrial stocks as highlighted by the performance of the Industrial Select Sector SPDR (XLI) over the past six months. The ETF is up 15% in that time. 3M, XLI’s fourth-largest holding, is up over 20% in the same span. Despite the recent run, the stock is still a reasonable value at less than 15 times forward earnings.
3M makes thousands of boring but essential products. This is a testament to its versatility and its ability to produce prodigious profits. The company reports first-quarter earnings on April 27th. We would not be surprised to see 3M blow out the estimates. Though the stock may be unknown to many investors, you can still profit from their seasoned management team, conservative growth pattern, and steady dividends. This week, go with “hidden gem” 3M