The stock market has had an incredible run, rising 65% from its March 2009 lows. But while the S&P’s surge has been sensational, there are still cheap stocks out there -- if you know where to look. I asked three of our Foolish analysts to highlight one stock they think is trading too darn cheap:
Jeff Fischer, advisor, Motley Fool Pro and Motley Fool Options
AmTrust Financial Services (Nasdaq: AFSI ) is a little-known insurance provider working in predictable, underserved niche markets where it holds competitive advantages. Focused on workers compensation insurance for really small businesses that are less likely to lay off employees, the company enjoys greater than 80% policy renewal rates, collecting healthy premiums year after year. In addition, AmTrust also offers extended warranty protection on consumer products, as well as property and casualty insurance.
With most of its investment portfolio planted in A-rated bonds, AmTrust sidestepped the financial meltdown of 2008 and remains on solid footing. Direct premiums earned rose from $148 million in 2004 to more than $1 billion in 2009, and they’re still growing, while the company has one of the strongest combined ratios in the industry and consistently earns a return on equity of above 20%. At current prices, the stock fetches a modest 1.3 times book value, seven times earnings, and yields 1.9%. With tangible book value up 13% in 2009 and 14% over the past 12 months, the stock should continue to appreciate as book value grows, while offering lower-than-average risk.
Bryan Hinmon, analyst, Motley Fool Pro
Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) is just getting too cheap to ignore. The company has grown revenue by 9% and earnings by 13% for each of the past five years and has generated enough free cash flow to make Bill Gates blush. And even though Microsoft is “cool to hate,” it is incredibly shareholder-friendly, having returned $100 billion to shareholders over the past five years via dividends and share repurchases.
I also like that Microsoft is attacking the cloud computing threat head-on with its Azure platform. The company’s response to its cloud computing competition has been atypically aggressive -- just take a look at its in-your-face website whymicrosoft.com, where Mr. Softy takes a direct whack at a certain Internet juggernaut. Package up the saucy new Microsoft with a bow and a 7.5 times enterprise value to EBITDA price tag and you can see why it was the first stock selected for the Fool DRIP Portfolio.
Jason Moser, analyst, Motley Fool Inside Value
While the market has had a nice run over the past year and a half, Fidelity National Financial (NYSE: FNF ) seems to have missed the boat a bit. I understand why, though. I mean, we are talking about a title insurer here. As in housing. As in the housing market is still getting killed and it doesn’t look like it is going to be getting much better real soon.
But as a title insurer, Fidelity makes its money when houses change hands. Title insurance protects buyers (and lenders) from any potential outstanding claims on the property, and it is a necessary cost of doing business. With the housing market still in shambles, Fidelity’s volume is down. But no worries, these things move in cycles, and as inventory starts moving again Fidelity will see an uptick in business. After all, together with First American Financial (NYSE: FAF ) -- the industry’s second-largest player, and another company that should benefit from a housing resurgence -- Fidelity controls 70% of the title insurance market. As a bonus, Fidelity’s $3 billion investment portfolio should benefit from the eventual increase in interest rates.
The Foolish conclusion
You’ve heard what our Foolish analysts have to say -- now we want to know what you think! Are any of the companies mentioned in this article cheap enough to make their way into your portfolio? Or do you have a cheaper stock to suggest? Let us know in the comments box below!