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This veteran investor is buying ‘old economy’ stocks that are embracing AI

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Artificial intelligence isn’t only benefiting technology companies. A host of stocks in other industries also stand to gain, according to Nancy Tengler, chief executive officer and chief investment officer of Laffer Tengler Investments. While shares of megacap technology companies such as Nvidia and Meta Platforms have soared on hopes that AI will usher in new technological advancements, higher productivity and profits, Tengler pointed to names outside tech that will also benefit from AI investments. “Our investing theme is old economy companies that are embracing the digital and generative AI pivot,” Tengler, the author of ” The Women’s Guide to Successful Investing: Achieving Financial Security and Realizing Your Goals, ” said last week on CNBC’s “Money Movers.” The money manager highlighted industrial and consumer discretionary stocks that have lifted their productivity and profit margins by embracing robotics and artificial intelligence. Tengler named several attractively valued stocks she called the “picks and shovels” of AI, including Emerson Electric , L3Harris Technologies , Visa , Walmart and McDonald’s . These companies are expected to boast continued strong growth and stock performance, aided by AI, she said. “Generative AI is much more compelling of a story than then the internet was in many ways,” in terms of fueling productivity and growth, Tengler said. But there’s “always a reckoning. That’s why we want to make sure that even with old economy companies in our portfolios, all of our strategies were able to materially outperform their benchmarks last year, and we would expect that to continue,” said Tengler, who has led the Arizona-based Laffer Tengler since 2018. Tengler pointed to Emerson Electric and L3Harris as industrial companies that are automating using digitization, and said her firm recently added to its positions in both. Moreover, Laffer Tengler is overweight on industrials generally, she said. Shares of Emerson Electric, which manufactures fluid controls and industrial valves, among other products, have jumped more than 13% so far this year, almost twice as much as the 7.4% rise in the S & P 500. Berenberg last Wednesday named Emerson its top pick in the electrical equipment industry and raised its price target on the stock to $130 from $100, suggesting shares could climb 18% from Friday’s close. The Street consensus is $120, according to FactSet. The investment bank said earnings estimates for Emerson continue to move higher, backed by the company’s December quarter results and higher revised guidance for fiscal year 2024. Aerospace and defense company L3Harris, meanwhile, is almost 2% higher this year. The Melbourne, Florida-based company has used AI and machine learning for many years, entering a five-year agreement with the Defense Department in 2022 to deliver artificial intelligence services to both the the defense and intelligence communities. JPMorgan analyst Seth Seifman recently upgraded L3Harris to overweight, writing in a January note that he sees “a relatively attractive valuation, cash flow that should be inflecting higher, and an increased focus on shareholder value” this year, despite past execution issues. Almost two thirds of all 10 analysts who cover L3Harris rate it a buy, and their average price target of $244 implies that the stock will gain almost 14% from Friday’s close. Walmart, another of Tengler’s top “old economy” AI plays, has gained 14.4% so far this year, double the broader market. Tengler highlighted Walmart’s recent three-for-one stock split and approximate 9% dividend increase as evidence of strong quarterly results and positive earnings momentum at the country’s largest retailer. Walmart boasted double-digit growth in its global e-commerce sales in the fourth quarter, aided by enhanced efficiency and increased automation at distribution centers that replenish store shelves and fulfillment centers for online customer orders. “They’ve benefited from embracing not just robotics and digitization, but generative AI in their e-commerce business and in improving margins,” Tengler said of Walmart. “They’re more productive, they’ve taken away some of the really menial tasks with robotics, and they’ve driven really strong continued growth in their e-commerce business, as well as their advertising business.” More conventionally, perhaps, the part of Tengler’s investment strategy that emphasizes companies offering “growth at a reasonable price” means that she also holds more mainstream AI plays, such as Broadcom , Amazon and Microsoft .

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