The largest stocks dominate the headlines and investors’ wallets.

So, even though I’m fond of off-the-beaten-path stocks, once a year I give my buy-or-avoid ratings on the 20 largest stocks. Today’s the day.

Apple

AAPL
($2.4 trillion market value). Buy. The company’s iPhones and Mac computers have a loyal following. Having $48 billion in cash and marketable securities helps, too.

Microsoft

MSFT
($1.8 trillion). Avoid. It’s a fine company, but the stock was way overpriced a year ago, in my opinion, and is still somewhat overpriced now.

Alphabet

GOOGL
($1.3 trillion). Buy. The most innovative American company, in my view. It has increased its earnings by 15% a year for the past decade.

Amazon

AMZN
($1.2 trillion). Avoid. In the past few quarters, revenue growth slowed and earnings fell. Yet the stock still sells for 101 times recent earnings.

Tesla
TSLA
($863 billion). Avoid. It’s an exciting company and Elan musk is a charismatic guy, but in my opinion the stock price (at 14 times revenue) is just too high.

Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B, $591 billion). Buy. Under CEO Warren Buffett, Berkshire owns dozens of companies, and has $327 billion in investments. In my book, no one beats Buffett.

UnitedHealth Group

UNH
($480 billion). Neutral. ­­­I’m lukewarm. But if the widely-predicted recession is at hand, health care stocks are likely a decent place to hide.

Johnson & Johnson
JNJ
($438 billion). Buy. This health-care conglomerate is a notch cheaper than UnitedHealth, and has a better return on total capital (17% versus 10%).

Visa
V
($388 billion). Avoid. Visa’s earnings growth has been admirable. But it’s expensive at 14 times revenue and untimely if a recession is at hand.

Meta Platforms (META, $$377 billion). Avoid. Facebook, its flagship product, seems to be losing cachet among young people. Earnings in the June quarter were down from a year ago.

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ExxonMobil (XOM, $357 billion). Buy. Exxon shares were up 45% in the past year while most stocks were down. I think the oil industry revival will continue.

Walmart
WMT
($353 billion). Avoid. I’m torn, because Walmart usually holds up well in recessions. But 25 times recent earnings is more than I want to pay.

Procter & Gamble
PG
($323 billion). Avoid. Products like detergent and razor blades are staples; people buy them even in tough times. But I think investors overpay for the presumptive steadiness.

JPMorgan Chase (JPM, $320 billion). Buy. This blue chip has fallen more than 34% in the past year. Banks have their troubles, but at nine times earnings I think it’s a bargain.

Nvidia (NVDAA, $312 billion). Avoid. The Fed’s campaign of raising interest rates is poison to high-multiple stocks, and Nvidia’s multiple is 41 times earnings.

Eli Lilly
LLY
($296 billion). Avoid. Lilly’s ten-year revenue growth figure is unimpressive at 3.3%, yet the stock still commands 50 times earnings.

Mastercard
MA
Inc. (MA, $284 billion). Avoid. Colleagues talked me into buying Mastercard a few years ago and we did well. But 13 tunes revenue? That’s dangerously high.

Chevron
CVX
($283 billion). Buy. After six years in the wilderness, the oil industry is making strong profits again. Also, Chevron sports a 3.8% dividend yield.

Home Depot (HD, $277 billion). Buy. I’ve had Home Depot as an “avoid” the past four years. But with the stock down to where it was eight years ago, I think it’s a value.

Bank of America
BAC
($255 billion). Buy. The Fed’s raising short-term interest rates hurt banks. Nonetheless, at 9 times earnings, I think BAC is cheap enough to be a buy.

Past Record

The past year has been tough for almost all stocks, and the 20 largest are no exception. A year ago, I slapped an “avoid” rating on 14 large stocks. They declined an average of 23.7%. The six stocks I recommended buying were down an average of “only” 17.1%.

Long-term my “buys” have beaten my “avoids” by the narrowest of margins, 11.4% to 11.2%. (The long-term figure covers 18 columns about the largest stocks written from 2001 through 2021.)

Bear in mind that my column results are hypothetical and shouldn’t be confused with results I obtain for clients. Also, past performance doesn’t predict the future.

Disclosure: I own Alphabet, Apple and Berkshire Hathaway personally and for most of my clients. One or more clients hold Amazon.com, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Johnson & Johnson, JP Morgan Chase, Microsoft, Nvidia, Tesla and United Health.

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