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7 Large-Cap Stocks With Surprisingly Robust Upside Potential

Generally, onlookers dismiss large-cap stocks to buy as the arena for ultra-conservative investors; you know, the type that mimics Warren Buffett’s every move. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, if you want a little spice in your portfolio, you can still find it among the industry stalwarts.

At first, the concept of high-potential large-cap stocks sounds counterintuitive, perhaps even illogical. After all, well-known large-capitalization companies almost always feature established, mature businesses. And such maturity – while it may lead to predictability – often means a lack of upside. Basically, the low-hanging fruit has already been picked. However, strange things can happen in the market. For various reasons, the below large-cap stocks to buy have more room to run.

McDonald’s (MCD)

McDonald's golden arches
McDonald's golden arches

Source: Vytautas Kielaitis / Shutterstock

One of the world’s most famous large-cap stocks to buy, McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) just might benefit from the trade-down effect. Essentially, consumers facing financial pressures don’t immediately cut all discretionary purchases. Instead, they trade down until they reach an acceptable equilibrium between quality and price.

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Another factor that could tilt the ball favorably for MCD centers on the competitive angle. Right now, major corporations are getting more aggressive with their return-to-work policies. Between well-heeled companies and individual employees, my bet is that the latter will crack first. Given this assumption, stressed-out worker bees will likely seek out cheap sources of caffeine, which favors McDonald’s.

Financially, investors of large-cap stocks can also depend on its solid financials. For instance, it features an above-average three-year revenue growth rate (per-share basis) of 3.8%. It’s also consistently profitable.

Finally, analysts peg MCD as a consensus strong buy. Their average price target over the next 12 months lands at $332.32, implying 19% upside potential.

Mondelez (MDLZ)

The Mondelez website magnified by a magnifying glass
The Mondelez website magnified by a magnifying glass

Source: Shutterstock

An American multinational confectionery, food, and beverage company, Mondelez (NASDAQ:MDLZ) may also be a beneficiary of the trade-down effect. Basically, as consumers face significant economic pressure – and as personal savings dwindle – many households will do away with going out to eat. Instead, we should see greater demand in the grocery aisles, which should bolster MDLZ.

Generally speaking, options traders appear to have a favorable view of MDLZ based on its volatility smile. While implied volatility (IV) – roughly a weather forecast for the underlying option – spikes in the deep in-the-money strike prices, between the $65 and $75 strike prices, IV is consistent. From $75 upward, IV rises, which may indicate longer-term bullish speculation.

Financially, Mondelez features a so-so profile if I’m being perfectly honest. However, it does have strong margins and is consistently profitable on an annual basis.

Lastly, analysts peg MDLZ as a strong buy with an $83.57 price target, implying nearly 20% upside potential.

Cheniere Energy (LNG)

LNG stock: the Cheniere logo displayed on a phone
LNG stock: the Cheniere logo displayed on a phone

Source: IgorGolovniov / Shutterstock.com

Headquartered in Houston, Texas, Cheniere Energy (NYSEAMERICAN:LNG) is a liquefied natural gas company; hence the ticker symbol. Since the start of the year, LNG gained nearly 16% of its equity value. Much of the positive returns have come relatively recently as the underlying industry received a cynical boost from various geopolitics-related upside catalysts.

Moving forward, it’s reasonable to anticipate sustained interest in Cheniere due to the importance of LNG for the global economy. Also, traders appear to be cognizant of the upside potential. From the $180 strike price, IV rises from 0.21 to 0.55 at the $240 strike. Shares recently closed at $162.68.

To be fair, IV spiked in the deep ITM direction, hitting 0.95 at the $85 strike. This dynamic may indicate traders accounting for possible tail risk (i.e. black swan event). While a sharp correction is always possible, here’s the great news: analysts peg LNG as a unanimous strong buy with a $203.30 average price target, implying 25% growth. Thus, it’s one of the large-cap stocks to buy.

Intuitive Surgical (ISRG)

A sign with the Intuitive Surgical logo standing outside of a company office. ISRG stock.
A sign with the Intuitive Surgical logo standing outside of a company office. ISRG stock.

Source: Sundry Photography / Shutterstock.com

Based in Sunnyvale, California, Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG) develops, manufactures, and markets robotic products designed to improve the clinical outcomes of patients through minimally invasive surgery. Its most popular product is the da Vinci Surgical System. Since the beginning of this year, ISRG gained over 12% of its equity value. In the trailing year, it’s up nearly 35%.

Despite already being one of the top large-cap stocks, ISRG may still have some room left in the tank. Looking at the options market, IV rises from a low of 0.23 at the $310 strike price to 0.75 at the $460 strike. Thus, the rise in IV toward the far out-the-money (OTM) direction may indicate optimistic speculation.

In fairness, in the deep ITM direction, IV spikes to 1.08 at the $170 strike, reflecting possible mitigation of tail risks. However, Intuitive benefits from a no-debt balance sheet, along with solid sales and excellent margins. Plus, analysts peg ISRG as a strong buy. Their average price target stands at $377.14, implying over 26% upside.

Stellantis (STLA)

A flag with the logo for Stellantis waves outside a building with the logos for some of its car brands, including Abarth, Lancia, Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Jeep.
A flag with the logo for Stellantis waves outside a building with the logos for some of its car brands, including Abarth, Lancia, Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Jeep.

Source: Antonello Marangi / Shutterstock.com

In prior articles for InvestorPlace, I sang the praise of auto firm Stellantis (NYSE:STLA) for its upcoming 2024 Dodge Charger EV. In a nutshell, while EVs are incredibly popular these days, some of the designs look bland. Frankly, a good many customers want a robust, masculine car that evokes the experience of a true street racing machine. Over time, I believe the electric Charger should perform very well, expanding Dodge’s total addressable market.

It’s possible that the institutional traders sense the upside prospect. On Sept. 6, traders bought $19 calls with an expiration date of Sept. 15. Also, many others sold $17 puts – which have a bullish implication – with the same Sept. 15 expiry. In addition, big block trades for bought calls and sold puts which expire in 2024 and 2025 respectively have been placed.

Financially, Stellantis flaunts a solid balance sheet, better-than-average revenue growth, and excellent profit margins. It also trades at a low forward earnings multiple of 3.1x. Turning to the Street, analysts peg STLA as a strong buy. Their average price target comes in at $24.14, implying over 32% upside.

Delta Air Lines (DAL)

The Delta Air Lines (DAL) logo is seen on an airplane in flight.
The Delta Air Lines (DAL) logo is seen on an airplane in flight.

Source: VanderWolf Images/Shutterstock.com

Heading into the riskiest side of large-cap stocks to buy, Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) naturally appeals to many investors. Relatively speaking, consumer sentiment – though it ebbs and flows of course – has been solidly robust post-pandemic. Even better for DAL, the revenge travel phenomenon has carried experience-related enterprises. So, it’s possible that DAL has more upside remaining.

Yes, DAL has already gained over 25% since the beginning of this year. However, consumers continue to prioritize experiences that were denied them during the Covid-19 quarantines. If you’re convinced that this catalyst will sustain, Delta could be intriguing.

Further, while a speculative thesis, options flow data reveals that a lot of bought puts will expire soon on Sept. 15. Once that cloud is gone, it’s possible – though hardly guaranteed – that DAL stock could swing higher. Looking at Wall Street, analysts peg DAL as a unanimous strong buy. And that’s from 17 experts, by the way. As well, the average price target clocks in at $59.69, implying over 46% upside potential.

JD.com (JD)

the JD.com (JD) logo on the outside of a building
the JD.com (JD) logo on the outside of a building

Source: testing / Shutterstock.com

Almost inarguably the riskiest idea among large-cap stocks to buy, JD.com (NASDAQ:JD) is one of the biggest companies in China. Per its public profile, its e-commerce business represents one of the two massive business-to-consumer online retailers in the country. As well, JD invests heavily in advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence.

However, since the start of the year, JD slipped nearly 44%. Much of the pain centers on the slow economic recovery in China. With analysts raising concerns about the viability of the Chinese consumer base, folks have simply moved away from JD stock.

But could that be a mistake? Notably, JD’s options volatility smile shows IV spiking in the far OTM direction. And while IV also increased in the deep ITM direction, it didn’t do so with the same magnitude. Unsurprisingly, institutional traders appear to have sold put contracts (which again have bullish implications) to take advantage of heightened premiums.

Finally, analysts peg JD as a strong buy with a $57.08 average target, implying over 76% upside potential.

On the date of publication, Josh Enomoto 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.

A former senior business analyst for Sony Electronics, Josh Enomoto has helped broker major contracts with Fortune Global 500 companies. Over the past several years, he has delivered unique, critical insights for the investment markets, as well as various other industries including legal, construction management, and healthcare.

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