By appearances, we’re in a period of sustained and steady growth. The main indexes are showing rising trends; the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ both reached new record levels in recent sessions, while the Dow Jones average is hovering just below its all-time high. A combination of low interest rates and a general feeling that inflationary pressures are temporary are helping to buoy stocks.

The broad equity gains give investors a wide choice in growth stocks. Plenty of companies have seen their shares make strong gains in recent months. In some cases the gains have been strong enough to leave the overall market in the dust. The trick for investors is choosing the right ones.

With this in mind, we used TipRanks' platform to find two tickers that not only grew substantially in recent months, but also boast considerable upside potential in the year ahead. Let’s dig a little deeper.

Vertex Energy (VTNR)

We’ll start in the energy sector, where Vertex Energy puts a green spin on motor oil and other petroleum products. Vertex produces lubricating oils and fuels, mainly by recycling used products, but with some fresh ingredients in the mix. The company is the largest recycling processor of used motor oil in the US markets, and has the capacity to process over 115 million gallons annually. The company’s main oil processing facilities are located in Texas (Houston and Port Arthur), Louisiana (Marrero), and Ohio (Columbus). Vertex is a key supplier of base oils to the North American lubricant manufacturing industry.

The company reported a 17% year-over-year increase in collected oil products for recycling during Q1, to a total of 10.4 million gallons. Top-line revenues, at $58 million, were the highest in two years, and up 61% yoy. Earnings, which were at a net loss in 2019 and 2020, turned positive in 1Q21, with an EPS of 1 cent per share. It was a modest result – but the year-ago quarter saw an EPS loss of 21 cents.

Vertex stock has delivered massive gains recently. Shares in VTNR are up 643% since the end of May, a giant gain that has made the company’s investors happy – and that requires some explanation.

The key may be simple. On May 26, Vertex announced that it had entered an agreement to purchase Shell Oil’s Mobile, Alabama refinery facility. The move is expected to close in 4Q21 and will bring several immediate advantages to Vertex: full ownership of a major petrochemical refining facility; the ability to convert some portion of that refinery to renewable diesel fuels, with potential for $3 billion in sales and $400 million in profit, annually, by 2023; and potential for up to 14,000 bpd of renewable fuel production within two years, making Vertex the leading producer in that segment in the US Southeast. The shares jumped on the news and got an additional boost this week after Vertex announced it will sell its used motor oil collection and recycling business to Safety-Kleen for $140 million.

Craig-Hallum’s 5-star analyst Eric Stine is effusive in his praise, writing, “The word transformative does not do justice to what is transpiring at Vertex Energy. With the planned sale to Safety-Kleen Systems of its Marrero UMO refinery, its Heartland refinery, its collections operations, its oil filters and absorbent materials recycling facility, and its Cedar Marine terminal, VTNR will be unrecognizable at the end of 2021 compared to its current form. This sale of the entirety of its current operations is another critical step towards its ultimate goal to become a vertically integrated producer of renewable diesel (RD) along with RD feedstock and operating the Mobile refinery.”

Stine rates VTNR shares as a Buy, and raised his price target from $13 to $25, implying a one-year upside of another 89%.

Vertex may have jumped sky-high recently, but it still only has two other analyst reviews on record. They are both positive, however, also recommending a Buy, so that the stock’s consensus is a Strong Buy. The shares are priced at $13.23 and have an average price target of $22.33, for a 69% upside potential.

Motorola Solutions (MSI)

Back in 2011, the telecom and hardware provider Motorola spun off its mobile phone business – and the remaining data communications and telecom equipment segments continued operating as Motorola Solutions. The company offers a range of services, including communications networks; data services; and software, video, and analytics, all backed by a secure radio-telecom network. Motorola Solutions spent over $680 million on R&D in 2020, and boasts over 13,000 installed networks around the world, along with over 100,000 network customers across 100 countries.

In the first six months of 2021, MSI shares rose 29%, a solid gain and a clear positive return for investors. The stock’s 12-month growth, at 62%, outpaced the broader markets by a wide margin; during that time, the S&P gained 38% and the Dow is up 32%.

Motorola Solutions’ gains come as the company showed solid quarterly financial results to start 2021. The first quarter was down sequentially from 4Q20 – but that was in-line with the company’s historical pattern; Q4 is typically the strongest. Revenues in 1Q21 were up 7% year-over-year, to $1.8 billion, while EPS, at $1.41, was up 25% from the year-ago number. Coming out of the corona crisis, the company has a business backlog of $11.3 billion, up 8% yoy, an indication that the company will remain busy for the foreseeable future. Cash flow generation from operations, another key metric, came in a $370 million, up 20% yoy.

In short, Motorola Solutions has a firm foundation for investors to build on. And, with a $2 billion increase in its share repurchase program, the company is visibly committed to keeping the share price up for stockholders.

Sami Badri, of Credit Suisse, calls MSI a ‘top pick,’ and describes numerous tailwinds for the company: “Given that MSI operates in the public safety space with the majority of its revenues coming from first responders and government customers, the company is positioned to benefit from a variety of multiyear tailwinds ranging from stimulus funding to regulations and legislative actions. The core multiyear tailwinds include: (1) Americas Rescue Plan, (2) Next Generation 911 upgrades, (3) NDAA policy, (4) T-Band spectrum bands, (5) Hytera litigation implications, (6) state tax collections and budgets being revised up, and (7) a PCR recovery stemming from increased vaccinations and re-openings in the U.S, a key market for MSI.”

Badri’s Outperform (Buy) rating comes along with a $301 price target, implying room for a 39% upside in the next 12 months.

The Strong Buy consensus rating on this stock shows that Badri is no outlier; of 6 recent reviews, 5 are to Buy and only 1 is to Hold. This stock is priced at $216.85 and has a modest one-year upside of 9%, based on the $235.83 average share price target. It’s important to note that the stock’s recent gains have pushed the share price up close to that target, reducing the upside potential.

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