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Just because many of last year's biggest dogs have started to bounce back in recent weeks doesn't mean that Mr. Market's dollar menu is thinning out. There are still plenty of companies trading for less a buck.
I have been singling out five intriguing stocks trading for less than the $1.00 mark on a monthly basis. They sometimes bounce back. All five of the stocks from November's installment are now trading for more than a dollar per share. That's pretty unbelievable. Two of last month's five -- RF Micro Devices (Nasdaq: RFMD ) and retailer Stein Mart (Nasdaq: SMRT ) -- are also living above Buck City right now.
Buck the trend
This monthly column isn't intended to be a buy list, despite November's successful turn. These are risky waters to paddle. Most of these troubled companies will continue to sink and be highly volatile, though there is always the hope that a few will climb their way out of the market's penalty box.
Let's go over this month's five names, based on last night's closing prices.
Nortel Networks (NYSE: NT ) - $0.42
The Canadian networking equipment maker has come a long way down. It was trading in the low teens a year ago. Unfortunately, declining revenue and three quarters of losses have weighed on the shares. With companies scaling back their IT budgets, the prospects for a surge in networking gear just aren't in the cards for now.
Nortel did get a boost last week when it debuted its virtual store platform during the annual Consumer Electronics Show, along with its first major customer in that niche: Lenovo. Analysts are all over the map in terms of predicting whether Nortel will return to profitability this year, though the average estimate calls for the company to post a loss of $0.27 a share.
The possibility of having a hot virtual product or jumping back into the black may be compelling catalysts, but Nortel still has to prove that it's possible.
Rentech (NYSE: RTK ) -$0.73
Providing clean energy solutions will score you points with the eco-friendly crowd, but you'll have to do more than that to win Wall Street's approval. Rentech's trying. It closed out fiscal 2008 by posting a much narrower fourth-quarter loss, with revenue more than doubling.
Unfortunately for Rentech, analysts don't see the company turning a profit until fiscal 2011 at the earliest. That's when the company will score points with investors, too.
Compton Petroleum (NYSE: CMZ ) -$0.95
Changes are afoot at Compton. The oil and gas exploration company is getting a new CEO this month. This follows last month's move to scale back its capital spending program in 2009, choosing to focus on exploitation of its resource plays in Alberta.
Compton's stock was trading in the double-digits this summer, when energy prices were soaring and the company was entertaining buyout offers. It ended the corporate sale process in November, and profits will likely turn to losses in the near term, given the freefall in oil and gas prices. There is always the possibility that energy prices will bounce back later this year, and with them, renewed acquisition nibbles. Compton's gambles in Alberta may also pay off.
Ladenburg Thalmann (NYSE: LTS ) -$0.78
Investment banking isn't as lucrative as it used to be, leaving Ladenburg Thalmann on the dollar menu. The financial services company is posting huge revenue gains lately, but that's actually the handiwork of recent acquisitions. LT snapped up Investacorp in October 2007, and Triad this past summer.
The bottom line hasn't been as kind to LT, with the company sporting losses through the first nine months of 2008. It'll digest its recent meals in time, but investors remain more concerned about when the market for investment banking services will recover.
Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI ) -$0.13
In my original "dollar menu" article back in September, Sirius XM had just made the cut at $0.89 a share. The stock price has only deteriorated since then, so I figured a quick peek under the hood was in order.
The company has made inroads in paying back the first of the three debt refinancing roadblocks facing the company this year. It's certainly not out of the woods yet, though the satellite radio provider is still on track to grow its subscriber base and improve its cash flow through 2009. As long as its creditors begin to see things its way, the company may be able to scrape by without having to file for bankruptcy reorganization. Now Sirius XM just has to convince the market of that.
Here are some other ways to buck the buck: