5 Stocks That Are Cheaper Than You Think

Your expectations can use a refresh button.

Now that most companies have filed away their 2010 financial performances, we can begin diving into fiscal projections for this year -- and for 2012.

It's no longer a stretch. The term "next year's earnings" now refers to 2012, and you may be amazed at how quickly some of the market's seemingly overpriced players are growing. Loftier profit targets translate into lower forward P/E multiples.

I've been taking a look at five unexpected cheapies during the past few Tuesdays. Let's try a few more.

Company

Close

This Year P/E

Next Year P/E

My Watchlist

Patriot Coal
(NYSE: PCX  )

$26.89

37

10

Add

Qualcomm
(Nasdaq: QCOM  )

$53.11

17

16

Add

Netflix
(Nasdaq: NFLX  )

$244.72

56

38

Add

Research In Motion
(Nasdaq: RIMM  )

$54.79

8

7

Add

Akamai
(Nasdaq: AKAM  )

$37.70

24

21

Add

Source: Yahoo! Finance. Qualcomm's fiscal year ends in September. Research in Motion's fiscal year ends in February.

Valuation is only a number
Many of these multiples -- even those clocking in for next year -- are chunky. You don't often hear something along the lines of "this stock is so cheap that it's trading for a mere 38 times next year's projected profitability."

Then again, there is more to this basket of presumably pricey stocks than meets the cynical eye.

Patriot Coal is a thermal coal producer with an uninspiring past. Patriot posted quarterly losses throughout 2010. However, analysts see the company's rich mining reserves producing generously from here. Wall Street is targeting a profit of $0.72 a share this year, followed by $2.58 a share in net income come 2012. In short, Patriot Coal doesn't have a positive trailing earnings multiple but its P/E clocks in at a mere 10 looking ahead to next year.

Qualcomm is the patent-rich tech stock that has quickly gotten over its FLO TV flop. It's easy to overcome a failure when you're powering so many smartphones these days.

Netflix traded within pennies of its all-time high yesterday. Few people were calling Netflix cheap a year ago. Imagine how bears feel about the video rental giant's valuation now that it has tripled over the past year! Once again we need to separate the rearview mirror from the windshield view with high beams on. Netflix earned $2.96 a share in 2010, but the pros are expecting the bottom line to more than double to $6.36 a share by 2012.

If Netflix is a market darling, Research In Motion is a market discard. Investors seem to be leaving the BlackBerry maker for dead, even though the smartphone pioneer continues to grow. RIM's latest quarter was poorly received by investors, but this is now a stock fetching just seven times next fiscal year's projected profitability.

Finally, we have Akamai. Everyone can relate to the growing popularity of content delivery networks. They speed up the secure delivery of website pages and media files. Mr. Market's fear is that cutthroat pricing between Akamai and smaller rivals Limelight Networks (Nasdaq: LLNW  ) and Level 3 (Nasdaq: LVLT  ) will eat at the growing niche's profit potential.

It's not easy. Wall Street is braced for Limelight and Level 3 to post losses this year. Akamai, though, is firmly in the black, and analysts see further growth next year.

Adding it up
None of these stocks is immune to a market meltdown. If you're looking for bulwarks, you'll have to find them somewhere else.

These investments are high-beta growth stocks, and will likely remain that way for several more years. The key here, though, is that they aren't as expensive as pundits make them out to be.

It's the opportunity that you didn't know that you were waiting for.

Interested in reading more about any of these stocks? Add them to My Watchlist to find all of our Foolish analysis. And if you like these five stocks, check out the six stocks that Tom and David Gardner think you should be watching in a free special report.

Akamai Technologies is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Netflix is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. The Fool owns shares of Qualcomm. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz also believes that expensive stocks can get even more expensive, too. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. He is part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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