First things first: The nominal share price of an investment is meaningless. Whether you buy one share for $1,000 or 1,000 shares for $1, your investment is the same — and furthermore, as the stock rises and falls on a percentage basis your returns are the same.
At the end of the day, share price does not matter. That’s just simple math.
But for some reason, some investors continue to insist on only buying “cheap” stocks based on the per share price. So I regularly offer up some picks in the $10 range for this kind of trader.
Remember, a stock can be valued fairly at over $500 a share or trade for a premium even if its share price is $1. And frankly, if you limit yourself to a universe of $10-or-under stocks, you are preventing investment in some of the best stocks on Wall Street — because typically, the best blue chips or high-growth tech stocks do not trade for a dollar or two a share.
All that said, if cheap stocks are your thing, then look at these five picks:
Exco Resources (XCO) is one of many oil and gas small-caps that might wind up great long-term buys considering the recent underperformance of the energy sector and the hopes of a recovery in 2014.
Exco is an onshore oil and natural gas play focused mainly on shale operations. Its focus is on using horizontal drilling to extract gas from shale formations in east Texas, north Louisiana, Appalachia and the Permian Basin in west Texas.
Obviously, weaker natural gas prices during the past year or so have weighed on XCO stock. The company reported a steep loss in fiscal 2012 as a result. But don’t let the loss scare you, because some of the shortfalls have been self-imposed and are ultimately good for the long run. For instance, in fiscal 2012, EXCO reduced drilling rigs from 24 to just five, and laid off more than 60% of its contractors and 1 in 6 full-time workers. All in all, it slashed capital expenses by more than a billion dollars. The restructuring hit the company hard, but has put it on track again now that it has “right-sized.”
Furthermore, long-term debt has actually declined from $1.9 billion a year ago to $1.3 billion in the company’s latest earnings report, thanks to a partnership with Phil Falcone’s iconic Harbinger Group.
So don’t fret that this company is going under, what with lower debt and a big hedge fund buy-in.
Shares are well under $8, and there’s a 2.8% dividend to boot.
BlackRock Kelso Capital Corp. (BKCC) is a business development company, or BDC, which generates revenue from investments in and loans to midsized companies. As that capital generates returns, BlackRock Kelso shares generate big dividends.
Of course, that means BKCC lives and dies by its underlying investments. You can look into its full list of investments here for more detail, but consider that its major holder at 10.3% ownership is the Virginia Retirement System — a state pension fund! If that doesn’t give an air of stability of BKCC stock, it’s hard to know what would. And given the 10.6% dividend, it’s easy to see why a state retirement system would fall in love with BlackRock Kelso for its income potential.
Obviously, nothing is for certain, and an economic downturn would take a bite out of many underlying investments in the BlackRock Kelso portfolio. And it might be a double whammy, since dividends could suffer from underperformance in the underlying investments, too. For instance, distributions went from 43 cents a quarter at the end of 2008 to just 16 cents in 2009 thanks to the downturn.
This is a real risk, but it swings both ways — and in good times, BlackRock Kelso really puts the pedal down. The current yield of more than 10% is calculated from 26 cents paid quarterly — yet BlackRock Kelso paid 32 cents a share as recently as 2010. If the economy turns a corner and more midsize companies look to expand, BlackRock Kelso will benefit handsomely.
At a hair under $10 per share, BKCC trades at book value and has a decent portfolio of investments that should keep it reasonably stable in 2013 — and hopefully a big income driver for your portfolio going forward.
Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASX) builds and distributes integrated circuits and other electronics. It’s not as sexy as some mobile chipmakers, but thankfully it’s not as exposed to post-PC pressures as other stocks, such as Intel (INTC).
Advanced Semiconductor focuses mainly on chips for cellphones, household appliances, automobile components, personal computers and HD televisions, among other products. The company is based in Taiwan, close to many Asian electronics manufacturers.
Year-to-date, ASX has been under pressure like many PC-related enterprises and shares are flat while the S&P 500 is up nicely. However, the diverse business of Advanced Semiconductor makes it a bit more stable in the long haul than a company very reliant on laptops and desktops.
Furthermore, ASX is not a chip designer and simply a foundry — meaning unlike ARM Holdings (ARMH) or Intel, it doesn’t have to fund costly research departments to keep up with the latest specs. It simply makes the semiconductors to order.
There might not be breakneck growth here without a secular recovery in consumer spending, but brighter days seem to be ahead in 2014 — and that could boost ASX as electronics sales pick up in the next year or so. Furthermore, the reliable revenue from the ASX foundry biz does generate a one-time annual dividend that adds up to about 1.6% a year based on 2012’s payday.
That dividend was in August, by the way, so ASX is overdue to declare another payout. The company is operating soundly in the black and forecast to earn 34 cents a share this year — meaning even just a 25% payout ratio would net investors a 2% yield based on current valuations in the low $4 range.
You might think it’s insane to talk about Greek stocks given the turmoil in Europe lately. But many investors are talking about dabbling in European stocks in the hopes of a brighter 2014 on the continent.
Navios Maritime Holdings (NM) is one option. HM is a Greek shipper that you might have watched collapse in 2008 along with Diana Shipping (DSX) and DryShips (DRYS) thanks to an economic downturn rolled in with a capacity glut for the industry specifically and a horrible environment for Europe broadly.
However, though Navios still is down 50% or so from its 2008 peak, it has stabilized and could be a nice recovery play in the years ahead. Much like railroad stocks, bulk shippers rise and fall with economic activity as more consumer goods and commodities are pushed around the globe.
The biggest risk, of course, is that shipping traffic will stay soft — particularly in commodities like iron ore and coal, which are seeing falling demand thanks to trouble in China. But a lot of that negativity has been priced in, and the other business that will pick up in a recovery will help offset any weakness here.
It’s also worth noting that simply being located in Greece has been counting against this shipping stock. Investors looking to insulate themselves from the European debt crisis aren’t willing to touch any stock in this nation, shipping or otherwise. NM is trading for a big discount right now as a result, and it will see a nice bounce if Europe gets its act together.
Shares of NM stock are up an impressive 80% year-to-date, so clearly some folks see the potential here. Throw in a 4% dividend yield as a sweetener, and you have a decent case for Navios Maritime as a long-term recovery play at around $6 per share.
Mechel (MTL) is a Russian steel company that has been taking fire from all sides, and is down a whopping 60% year-to-date to about $3 per share thanks to weak demand, general tension between Russia and the U.S. on issues like Syria and, of course, the global downturn brutalizing commodity stocks in general.
But it’s hard to argue that the negativity has not been priced in after a gut-wrenching 90% drop since 2008. So if you want to live dangerously and play around with cheap stocks instead of higher-priced equities with stability, why not MTL?
The top line at MTL remains pretty strong, but the steel company is operating in the red this year since operations aren’t running at high margins. Mechel does have $9.7 billion in debt hanging over its head, but a cyclical recovery in the steel business both in Russia and globally could lift the dark clouds and prompt a big move higher. And, of course, Russian stocks with the blessing of the Kremlin just seem to have a way of sticking around with decent financing deals and government contracts.
If you’re an aggressive trader who’s willing to speculate on a recovery, Mechel might be for you. Just be ready for a wild ride.
Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com and the author of The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JeffReevesIP. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the stocks named here.