What remains the classic measure of a company's strengths is the ability to generate enough dollars to pay the bills, invest in the business and still have something left over. High (or rising) dividends are considered to be a good sign of health.

In addition to cash flow, investors also look for low debt and low appetite for new dept. That is why companies like Google Inc. and Apple Inc. have some bluechip honor even though their stocks are very volatile these days.