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Bargain Stocks for Black Friday: Southern Copper

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Thanksgiving might be over, but the hunt for deep discounts has just begun! See all of our Foolish picks for Bargain Stocks for Black Friday.

This holiday season, many of us already feel as though we've been trampled without even joining all those determined Black Friday shoppers. You don't have to brave the manic hordes at your local Wal-Mart to find the best deals in town.

This year, the best bargains of the season are available from your home computer. While they may lack the instant gratification of the latest electronic gizmo, some carefully selected stocks can last a lifetime even without an extended warranty. In particular, I believe that many commodity stocks are trading well below their fundamental valuations after the remarkable correction of the past several months. Southern Copper (NYSE: PCU  ) , which pays a hefty dividend, provides an excellent example.

Near-term woes
To create the kind of bargain stock that makes investors giddy, you first need downside catalysts to send them running for the exits. After a sudden 60% drop in copper prices from their highs in June,   the mining stocks tumbled hard while recession expectations spread around the globe. Even following a notable rally in recent days, along with much of the market, Southern Copper remains 65% off its highest price for the year.

Southern Copper earned $417.8 million in the third quarter, a 33% reduction from 2007. The extent of the problem grows clearer, though, when we consider that the company realized copper sales prices of $3.48 per pound -- more than twice where the metal price stands today. Thankfully, Southern Copper mines ores rich in other metals, like zinc and molybdenum, resulting in by-product credits that kept the company's cost of copper production to a lean $0.18 per pound. Zinc has hit a significant rough patch, though, affecting miners like Teck Cominco (NYSE: TCK  ) and Agnico-Eagle Mines (NYSE: AEM  ) . Prices for each of the by-product metals have further deteriorated since September, so this Fool is bracing for a hard landing unless prices recover swiftly.

With the entire commodity sector wallowing in price weakness, it's no wonder diversified miner BHP Billiton (NYSE: BHP  ) walked away from its bid for rival Rio Tinto (NYSE: RTP  ) this week. Thanks to all this negativity, though, we can rate Southern Copper as a Foolish bargain, provided the long-term picture remains favorable.

Long-term fundamentals
Excluding by-products, Southern Copper incurred a production cost of $2.03 per pound for the quarter. With the current price at $1.63, mining for copper has delved into fundamentally uneconomic territory, leading companies like Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE: FCX  ) to delay expansion projects. This condition is not unique to copper, as Pan American Silver (Nasdaq: PAAS  ) and Lundin Mining provided recent evidence of the same for silver and zinc. For each of these metals, I believe that reduced global production resulting from scrapped development activity and higher-cost mining operations that have been suspended will build a lasting foundation for long-term price support.

Also, while the announcements have been met with widespread skepticism, I believe that China's reassertion of its commitment to promoting growth through a $1.4 trillion list of proposed projects makes at least the original stimulus package of roughly $580 billion a more realistic expectation. Copper imports to China have increased in each of the past two months, with the number for October rising 15% to an eight-month high.

I maintain that China will be instrumental in jump-starting global industrial activity, and believe that Fools ignore the country's stimulus plan to their own detriment.

Finally, I believe that the extreme challenges posed by market conditions render the mining industry a giant game of survival, and Southern Copper's cash moat of $1.1 billion is a key advantage over the competition. With a dividend yield of more than 9%, the company will pay you to wait for better times.

The insightful community of individual investors over at Motley Fool CAPS has refused to give up on Southern Copper despite the  vicious decline in its share price since April. More than 4,000 CAPS members, including 610 All-Stars, expect this five-star pick to outperform the S&P 500. I updated my pitch this week to reflect changing circumstances. If you think Southern Copper is ready to shine, rate it as an outperform. If not, call underperform. Either way, come over to CAPS and tell us why.

Further Foolishness:

Wal-Mart is an Inside Value recommendation. 

Fool contributor Christopher Barker is the commodore of copper. He can be found blogging actively and acting Foolishly in the CAPS community under the user name TMFSinchiruna. He owns shares of Agnico-Eagle Mines, BHP Billiton, Freeport-McMoRan, Pan-American Silver, and Teck Cominco. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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2/16/2010 4:00 PM
PCU $31.38 Down +0.00 +0.00%
Southern Copper CAPS Rating: ****
AEM $49.05 Down -0.12 -0.24%
Agnico-Eagle Mines CAPS Rating: **
BHP $34.96 Down -0.06 -0.17%
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Freeport-McMoRan C… CAPS Rating: ****
PAAS $16.88 Down -0.01 -0.06%
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