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The Top Dow Picks for March’s Market Madness

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March, notorious for its market volatility and NCAA basketball tournament frenzy, captivates investors with its financial unpredictability. Despite its reputation, historical data paints a mixed picture for the S&P 500’s performance in March over the last three decades, showcasing moderate consistency. Amidst the ups and downs of this month, seasoned investors recognize the significance of time in the market over timing it. March investments often yield long-term benefits, making it a strategic move for those keen on capitalizing on the markets. Considering this, let’s delve into seven standout Dow candidates commanding attention from investors as they navigate the turbulent waters of March.

Exploring Merck’s Appeal

Merck (MRK) logo outside of corporate building

Source: Atmosphere1 / Shutterstock.com

To the discerning investor, the valor of Merck (NYSE:MRK) stands out prominently. Offering stability with a low beta of 0.38 and a 2.5% dividend yield, Merck is a beacon of consistency in the pharmaceutical domain. Beyond stability, Merck presents growth prospects, fueled by its blockbuster drug, Keytruda. With a staggering $25 billion in sales in 2023 and a promising sales trajectory, Merck embodies an attractive blend of sustainability and growth, making MRK stock a compelling choice for investors seeking long-term value.

Amazon’s Rise Amidst the Dow

Closeup of the Amazon logo at Amazon campus in Palo Alto, California. The Palo Alto location hosts A9 Search, Amazon Web Services, and Amazon Game Studios teams. AMZN stock

Source: Tada Images / Shutterstock.com

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) heralds a new era in the Dow’s roster, overtaking Walgreens Boots Alliance and marking a significant index alteration after a two-year hiatus. This reshuffling bodes well for Amazon’s positioning within the prestigious index. In tandem, Deutsche Bank‘s (NYSE:DB) recent price target upgrade for AMZN stock to $210 underscores the substantial growth potential across Amazon’s advertising platforms, including Prime video and connected TV ads. Anchored by its robust AWS offerings, Amazon’s foray into AI and cloud computing underscores a promising avenue for sustained expansion and operational prowess.

Navigating Success with Microsoft

Microsoft logo close up. Microsoft (MSFT) Flagship Store Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, NYC.

Source: The Art of Pics / Shutterstock.com

Microsoft (NASDAQ:

AI and Finance: A Look at MSFT, MCD, CRM, and NKE

Microsoft (MSFT)

McDonald's golden arches

Source: Vytautas Kielaitis / Shutterstock

As Microsoft (MSFT) finds itself in the midst of mounting scrutiny and questions regarding its AI strategies, a shimmer of opportunity emerges from the chaos. With the recent introduction of CoPilot, Microsoft is eyeing the finance sector as a new frontier for AI applications. The realm of finance, deeply entrenched in number-crunching with spreadsheets such as Excel, stands to benefit immensely from AI-driven improvements in efficiency.

Imagine AI as the turbo boost for mundane spreadsheet calculations, promising a future where the financial domain operates with heightened swiftness and accuracy, thanks to the omnipresence of Excel.

McDonald’s (MCD)

Nike (NKE) store in a shopping mall in Penang, Malaysia. robinhood stocks

Source: TY Lim / Shutterstock.com

Though McDonald’s (MCD) faces a turbulent time with lower-than-expected fourth-quarter revenue, partly attributed to inflation and turmoil in the Middle East, the company’s missteps have not gone unnoticed. The recent controversy around offering free meals to Israeli soldiers has raised questions about corporate decisions and their consequences.

Nevertheless, McDonald’s is poised to navigate past these challenges and step into its most rapid growth phase in history. With plans to expand its restaurant count to 50,000 by 2027 and a strategic focus on high-margin products like drinks and snacks, the company aims for substantial progress. Success in scaling its CosMc’s restaurants could pave the way for significant growth opportunities.

Salesforce (CRM)

The entrance sign of Salesforce Tower, at the American cloud-based software company Salesforce's (CRM stock) Headquarters campus in San Francisco, California.

Source: Tada Images / Shutterstock.com

Salesforce (CRM) stands at a crossroads, where stability meets growth, accentuated by a recent dividend announcement set to reward shareholders. The company’s bet on artificial intelligence for future growth, though showing weaker-than-expected returns, is complemented by positive earnings surprises and a strategic move to Amazon’s cloud.

While Salesforce’s AI projections remain modest with single-digit top-line growth expected, the company’s alignment with Amazon’s cloud services signals a promising trajectory for future success.

Nike (NKE)

Nike (NKE) store in a shopping mall in Penang, Malaysia. robinhood stocks

Source: TY Lim / Shutterstock.com

Nike (NKE) grapples with a challenging landscape as its second-quarter outlook dampens due to revised revenue growth estimates. With a significant cut from a 10% to a mere 1% growth projection, Nike faces headwinds impacting its stock performance.

The Market Undercurrent: Nike (NKE) and IBM’s (IBM) Resilience

In the fast-paced world of retail apparel, one constant is change. A tide of transformation is sweeping through the sector, and Nike, despite its iconic status, is not immune to the ebb and flow of market trends.

The Nike Edge

Nike, however, is not merely a passive spectator in this ongoing evolution. The company’s strategic move to cut expenses by a hefty $2 billion over the next three years is a testament to its proactive approach in navigating the shifting retail landscape. Historically, Nike has demonstrated a knack for maintaining a robust bottom line, and these cost-saving measures are poised to further bolster its earnings trajectory.

Amid the tumult of change, Nike is finding its footing in the digital realm. The company’s digital channels are emerging as beacons of strength, with sales growth outpacing initial forecasts. This promising trend signals that Nike is well-positioned to strategically invest in this burgeoning domain, potentially unlocking new avenues of growth and revenue.

The IBM Resurgence

Photo of IBM (IBM) building as seen through the canopy of a tree. IBM logo is in large letters on side of building.

Source: shutterstock.com/LCV

Turning our gaze to IBM (NYSE: IBM), we witness a phoenix rising from the ashes of its legacy image. Embracing the realm of artificial intelligence (AI) with fervor, IBM has carved out a formidable presence in this cutting-edge sector. This strategic pivot has propelled the company to heights not seen in over a decade, marking a renaissance for the tech stalwart.

Leveraging advancements in machine learning and AI, epitomized by the renowned Watson platform, IBM has garnered significant acclaim in the industry. The company’s robust portfolio of AI solutions stands as a testament to its deep-rooted expertise in this transformative technology, resonating strongly with peers and investors alike.

While IBM’s shares may currently command a premium, the tumultuous events of 2023 underscored the futility of projecting stock prices in the AI realm. Looking ahead to 2024, IBM’s trajectory appears set to ascend further, buoyed by the promising frontier of quantum computing—an arena where IBM shines bright, poised for sustained growth and innovation.

On the date of publication, Alex Sirois did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Alex Sirois is a freelance contributor to InvestorPlace whose personal stock investing style is focused on long-term, buy-and-hold, wealth-building stock picks. With a diverse background spanning industries from e-commerce to education, and armed with an MBA from George Washington University, his multifaceted skill set enriches his perspective and insights in financial analysis.

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