A Great Call on Wells Fargo

Banks have undoubtedly faced tough times lately, watching their portfolios get pounded by bad mortgages, soured mortgage derivatives, and off-balance-sheet structured investment vehicles.

But not all banks have left themselves equally vulnerable. Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC  ) -- Warren Buffett's favorite bank -- appears to have avoided some of the landmines that many of its competitors tripped.

On CAPS, Wells Fargo's three-star rating (out of a possible five) makes it one of our community's favorites in the banking sector. Of the more than 1,300 CAPS players currently bullish on Wells Fargo, none has played the stock better than Lammergeier40. Lammergeier has managed to rack up nearly 30 points on Wells Fargo by making two very timely calls -- first an underperform on the stock between mid-November and early January, then a bullish stance from early to late January.

Lammergeier is one of CAPS' All-Stars -- players ranked in the top 20% of our CAPS community -- with greater-than-56% accuracy and nearly 500 points. Wells Fargo hasn't been his only great call. Here are a few of his other prescient picks:

Company

Date Picked

Call

Points Earned

CAPS Rating

Circuit City (NYSE: CC  )

11/09/07

Underperform

42

*

North American Palladium (AMEX: PAL  )

11/12/07

Underperform

39

*****

Jo-Ann Stores (NYSE: JAS  )

12/4/07

Underperform

31

*

Data from CAPS.

So what is this investor looking at these days? Here are a few of his most recent calls on CAPS:

Company

Date Picked

Call

CAPS Rating

CNA Financial

2/11/08

Outperform

***

Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV  )

2/6/08

Outperform

***

Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX  )

1/25/08

Outperform

***

Data from CAPS.

While not all of these picks may pan out, they could be a good place to start some further research. I decided to take a closer look at crowd and Stock Advisor favorite Starbucks.

Down but not out
The ubiquitous coffee chain that lit a fire for lattes on the palates of millions of Americans has suffered a painful, extended slide. At its peak in November 2006, Starbucks fetched more than twice what it trades for today.

The company hasn't posted bad results; the market is merely adjusting to the reality of what Starbucks can and can't achieve. Price-to-earnings ratios in the 50s and 60s over the past few years suggested a future growth rate that Starbucks simply couldn't sustain. Today, even after the big haircut, the stock's trailing P/E is still at a slight premium to the 19% growth that analysts expect over the next five years.

With expectations dropping rapidly, though, many think that it's time to pounce. One of CAPS' top players, DemonDoug, picked the stock to outperform back in November. Backing up his pick, he wrote, "Finally! One of the greatest growth stories of the past 20 years has reached a more reasonable valuation -- everyone needs their coffee, it's second only to water."

Others, though, see competition from the likes of McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) as trouble for the company. The specter of recession and inflation also has some investors worried about the company's existing U.S. business and its expansion plans overseas.

So what's your take on a Starbucks comeback? Get in the action by clicking over to CAPS. It's absolutely free to join the more than 83,000 stock pickers currently chipping in to find the market's best performers.

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