Who's Buying Now?

It's time again to check the most notable insider purchases of the past week. After reading through numerous filings using insider tracking tool Form 4 Oracle, here are my top five today.

The week's buying

Company

Closing Price 4/29/08

Total Value Purchased

52-Week Change

AMCORE Financial (NASDAQ:AMFI)

$12.73

$381,820

(54.8%)

Gannett (NYSE:GCI)

$29.56

$127,750

(45.8%)

Novellus Systems (NASDAQ:NVLS)

$22.34

$218,200

(30.9%)

VASCO Data Security (NASDAQ:VDSI)

$10.01

$98,420

(55.1%)

Virginia Commerce Bancorp (NASDAQ:VCBI)

$7.13

$271,000

(62.5%)

Sources: Fool.com, Yahoo! Finance, Form 4 Oracle, SEC filings.

VASCO out of lockdown?
Ah, growth stocks. I love 'em, even as they leave me.

Few have done more damage to my virtual portfolio recently than VASCO Data Security. Once a three-bagger for me, the stock has since given back, well, nearly all of the gains I had enjoyed as a CAPS All-Star.

But has the thesis changed? Let's review my pitch from August 2006:

What many forget is that 90% of VASCO's business is overseas, which means it is zigging exactly as larger rivals such as RSA (soon to be a part of EMC) are zagging. Plus, the firm has a history of blistering returns on equity, high insider ownership, and 40-50% sales growth. I attribute that performance to VASCO's position; it specializes in selling online banking authentication to financial institutions that haven't a clue about how to lock a digital safe on behalf of users.

Now, let's review the first-quarter report. Gross margin improved. Foreign banks in Japan and the Middle East bought. Enterprise security customers tried more of its products, too. All seems well to me -- and, as it turns out, to our 100,000-strong Motley Fool CAPS community:

Metric

VASCO Data Security

CAPS stars (5 max)

*****

Total ratings

1,892

Bullish ratings

1,850

Percent Bulls

97.8%

Bearish ratings

42

Percent Bears

2.2%

Bullish pitches

273

Bearish pitches

7

Data current as of April 30.

To be fair, I should say that we Fools are in the minority. Shares of VASCO plummeted more than 20% when first-quarter revenue fell short of the Street's expectations. A parade of analyst downgrades followed.

Foolish colleague Rex Moore is among those who aren't so sure the sell-off is fair. Quoting from a post he made at our private discussion board for Stock Advisor subscribers:

The first quarter of the year ... management guided for 25%-35% revenue growth for FY 2008, and rather wide ranges for gross and operating margins, 60-68% and 20-25%, respectively. Management reiterated this same guidance for this recently announced second quarter. And so, it all comes down to this: We will be very disappointed if it misses these targets. To this point CEO Ken Hunt hasn't done anything to make us doubt him, so we're basing our models partially on his guidance.

So is he, Rex. CEO Hunt has spent more than $200,000 since the beginning of the year to acquire additional shares of VASCO, and $98,400 of that figure came yesterday. I'm sticking with my pick.

Look, Ma, more ink!
Could a newspaper provide value to investors? Gannett's digital chief, Christopher Saridakis, seems to think so. He doubled his direct stake in the company by spending $127,000 on new shares on Tuesday.

I've no idea exactly what Saridakis is thinking. Newspaper stocks have done little to inspire investors. New York Times (NYSE: NYT  ) is among the worst.

What's interesting here is that, unlike the Times and its localized peers, Gannett's USA Today is a national paper. So is News Corp.'s (NYSE: NWS  ) Wall Street Journal. Those two were the only top papers to gain circulation in a recent survey of the newspaper industry.

Perhaps we wrote Gannett's obituary a tad too soon? Check back here for more on this story as it unfolds.

There's your update. See you here next week, when we dig through more insider filings in search of the next home run stock.

Get the inside scoop on stocks of all sizes with related Foolishness:


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