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Goldman Sachs chief U.S. strategist David Kostin published a list of secular growth stocks – companies with proven growth no matter what the economic conditions – that is ideally suited to an investing environment that has, all of the sudden, become decidedly uncertain.

To develop the list, Mr. Kostin screened the Goldman Sachs equity universe using his "Rule of 10" to find companies with long-term expected earnings growth of more than 10 per cent, sales growth in 2015 and 2016 above 10 per cent, and with earnings forecasts for this year and 2018 above 10 per cent.

The downside of many stocks making it through the screen is that a number were exorbitantly expensive, so the strategist limited his list to those with an enterprise-value-to-sales ratio below 7.5 times. (There is one company on the table with an EV/sales ratio above 7.5 times, which I attribute to either timing or small differences in calculation between Goldman Sachs and our data provider). Even so, the resulting list will unlikely to interest pure value investors – it consists of stocks in the hottest market sectors with the highest projected profit growth, and this optimism is already reflected in valuation levels.

The table below lists the top 25 names in Goldman's list, ranked by enterprise-value-to-sales ratio with the least expensive, most attractively valued stocks at the top.

The large number of "N/A" designations in the table, indicating no data are available, underscores the speculative nature of the stocks featured. Those with N/A in the forward and trailing price-to-earnings ratio columns, for instance, likely do not have positive earnings for the previous 12 months, and aren't expected to generate a profit in the next year either.

The majority of the stocks on the list that do have trailing P/E ratios have very high ones. The average trailing P/E ratio of the list is 129 times. However, the strong expected EPS growth is reflected in the sharply lower average forward P/E ratio of 59 times.

In terms of valuations the most attractive stocks include INC Research Holdings, a company providing drug trial services for pharmaceutical and biotech firms, which is trading at 18 times forward earnings. Envision Healthcare Corp., which provides a variety of services including emergency care and medical imaging, is valued at 14.3 times future profits. Perhaps surprisingly, Google parent company Alphabet Inc. is among the cheapest stocks on the list in terms of forward P/E, at 21.2 times.

The list is intended as a starting point for further fundamental research. Given the valuation multiples involved, the majority of the companies are more suitable for risk-tolerance investors and should be kept to a suitably lower percentage of total portfolio values.

Secular growth stocks: Goldman's Top 25

CompanySymbolSector/IndustryEV/Sales3Y Avg Ann EPS Growth3Y Avg Ann Rev Growth3Y Avg Ann Stock ReturnP/E Ratio TTMP/E Ratio Fwd
Sprouts Farmers Market IncSFM-QConsumer, Non-cycl0.829.0826.21-19.9621.5821.00
INC Research Holdings Inc-AINCR-QConsumer, Non-cycl1.73N/A17.24N/A34.9117.97
Square Inc - ASQ-NConsumer, Non-cycl2.20-20.6791.49N/AN/A112.98
Envision Healthcare CorpEVHC-NConsumer, Non-cycl2.3541.3942.0716.1221.4114.25
Pandora Media IncP-NCommunications2.66-137.6567.76-27.17N/AN/A
Pure Storage Inc - Class APSTG-NTechnology2.99N/AN/AN/AN/AN/A IncAMZN-QCommunications3.11N/A20.5526.61185.5066.75
Ulta Salon Cosmetics & FragULTA-QConsumer, Cyclical3.2722.4320.9146.1743.8336.02
Yelp IncYELP-NCommunications4.22N/A59.00-19.68N/A41.42
PayPal Holdings IncPYPL-QConsumer, Non-cycl4.25N/A17.78N/A36.6225.12
Fortinet IncFTNT-QTechnology4.45-48.9423.8414.60425.2442.95
Athenahealth IncATHN-QTechnology4.88N/A30.09-4.65223.0456.64
Antero Resources CorpAR-NEnergy4.96N/A89.73-24.1053.1665.78
Alphabet Inc-Cl AGOOGL-QCommunications5.4912.1914.3812.8130.0521.16
Twitter IncTWTR-NCommunications5.72-103.9792.96-35.81N/A30.34
Nutanix Inc - ANTNX-QTechnology5.99-42.50163.52N/AN/AN/A
Cotiviti Holdings IncCOTV-NTechnology6.18N/A71.25N/A93.0424.13
Cornerstone OnDemand IncCSOD-QTechnology6.29-36.4542.75-10.12N/A301.54
Netflix IncNFLX-QCommunications6.3542.5026.4235.79331.2497.77 IncCRM-NTechnology6.6331.4629.858.35N/A64.21
Align Technology IncALGN-QConsumer, Non-cycl6.7045.1014.7513.0939.1932.70
GrubHub IncGRUB-NCommunications7.4143.4764.76N/A71.1337.15
Ultimate Software Group IncULTI-QTechnology7.8529.6722.997.52318.5552.00
Splunk IncSPLK-QTechnology8.26-75.3149.79-13.19N/A122.44
Acacia Communications IncACIA-QCommunications8.69N/AN/AN/AN/A17.65

Source: Goldman Sachs and Bloomberg

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