3 Stocks the Smartest Investors Are Buying Right Now

Markets Motley Fool

Investing wisely can lead investors down a number of paths in today's market. There are value plays, growth plays, and stocks that are downright misunderstood by the market. 

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We asked some of the Motley Fool's investors for their favorite stocks for smart investors to buy this summer. Eagle Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ: EGRX)Nucor Corporation (NYSE: NUE), and NextEra Energy Partners (NYSE: NEP) were at the top of their list. 

A winning formula

Brian Feroldi (Eagle Pharmaceuticals): Most small-cap pharmaceutical companies plow money into research and development in an effort to develop novel drugs from scratch. While the payoff can be huge if everything works out, more often than not these new compounds wind up failing in the clinic and get tossed into the scrap heap.

Eagle Pharmaceuticals is a small-cap pharmaceutical company that takes a different approach to drug development. The company scans the market in search of top-selling injectable drugs that are about to lose patent protection. Once identified, Eagle goes to work on either buying or building an enhanced version of the drug. Sometimes these enhancements can be as simple as changing the drug's packing or simply diluting it in order to offer new dosing options. Once complete, the drug is sent off for regulatory review.

Not only is this strategy is far less risky than developing original drugs, but it is also highly lucrative. Consider Eagle's drug Bendeka as a great example. This drug is a simply a rapid-acting formulation of Teva Pharmaceuticals' drug Treanda, which is a treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and indolent B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Bendeka was such an attractive drug candidate that Teva was willing to sign a licensing deal with Eagle prior to its approval. The deal gave Eagle $30 million upfront and allows the company to earn up to $90 million in additional milestone payments. What's more, Eagle receives a double-digit royalty payment on future Bendeka sales.

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Bendeka went on to win approval in early 2016, and Teva has done a great job at switching patients to the new drug. In fact, Eagle recently stated that Bendeka has achieved 95% market share.

Looking ahead, Eagle has two other drugs in development that could follow a similar pattern to Bendeka. Ryanodex, a hopeful treatment for exertional heat stroke, has a PDUFA date of July 23. Meanwhile, Pemetrexed, a potential treatment for lung cancer and mesothelioma, has a PDUFA date of Oct. 30. When combined, these drugs promise to power Eagle's revenue and profits far higher over the coming years.  

All in all, Wall Street believes that Eagle's products and pipeline will allow its bottom line to grow around 15% annually over the next five years. That's an attractive growth rate for a company that is trading around 18 times forward earnings.

A lot of smart reasons to buy this steelmaker

Jason Hall (Nucor Corporation): Since delivering its biggest quarterly profit in nearly a decade, shares of Nucor have been mostly down. This is in part due to preliminary earnings guidance issued in mid-June that was less than analysts were predicting, sending waves of fear through the industry and driving down all the major steelmakers. 

But smart investors see this as an excellent time to buy shares of Nucor. The company's guidance may have been below Wall Street analyst's expectations, but still has the company headed toward its second-biggest quarterly result in nine years, trailing only the prior quarter. 

Furthermore, demand for steel in North America continues to be at very high levels, and steel prices have been trending higher for more than a year. Also, one of the biggest threats to the domestic steel industry -- illegally subsidized imports -- has started getting squeezed out by tariffs and duties put in place under the Obama administration, and it's become apparent that the Trump administration intends to continue fighting back against illegal competition, which should drive steel prices and output from U.S. steelmakers even higher. 

Today, Nucor trades for less than 15 times its projected 2017 earnings and less than 18 times trailing earnings. For a stock that's regularly traded above 25 times earnings over the past half-decade, smart investors should consider investing in this top-notch steelmaker now. 

An energy dividend built to last

Travis Hoium (NextEra Energy Partners): When smart investors are looking at stocks, they look for investments where the odds of success are high and far outweigh the odds of losing money. And NextEra Energy Partners, one of the country's biggest yieldcos, is a stock that fits that profile perfectly. 

NextEra Energy Partners owns renewable energy assets that have long-term contracts to sell energy to utilities at a set price. It's cash flow with low risk, much like owning a bond. Except this bond is an energy asset that will have value long after its initial contract because wind turbines, solar panels, and their underlying connection to the grid will be a valuable asset 20 years from now (the length of the average contract). 

What makes this yieldco stand out is that it's built for growth. Management has convinced the market that it will be able to buy projects that will grow the dividend for the foreseeable future, leading to a relatively low dividend yield of 3.8%. A low dividend yield may sound bad, but it really means that when the company needs to issue shares to buy projects, it can issue them at a price that will mean projects bought with the money will be additive to the dividend. Long-term, the goal is to grow the dividend about 15% each year. And a dividend of 3.8% that grows 15% annually is just the kind of investment smart investors can get behind.

10 stocks we like better than Nucor
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Brian Feroldi has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Jason Hall owns shares of Nucor. Travis Hoium owns shares of NextEra Energy Partners. The Motley Fool recommends Nucor and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.