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As we do each month, we asked a handful of our top analysts across sectors for one stock that looks especially compelling right now. Here are the companies they singled out.
Sean Williams: Investors who've learned to live with the natural ebb and flow of the tech sector should definitely keep their eyes on JDS Uniphase (NASDAQ: VIAV ) . With AT&T committing $14 billion over a three-year period to expand its wireless 4G LTE infrastructure, and Sprint-Nextel and T-Mobile gearing up to deploy billions to set up their own 4G LTE networks, the demand for data transmission and fiber optics is nearing another big surge.
It usually takes a few quarters before we see fiber-optic and fiber-optic equipment suppliers benefit from this trickle-down effect; however, the signs that JDS could be ready to shock Wall Street are there. Finisar, Ciena, and Alliance Fiber Optic all recently blew away Wall Street's growth and/or guidance estimates, clearing the path for the largest name in fiber, JDS, to clean up when it reports its fourth-quarter results in August. I have a suspicion this will be a quarter where JDS really turns some heads, and it could be the beginning of a sizable multiyear burst in growth for the entire networking sector.
Jay Jenkins: This month, I'm highlighting Spirit Airlines (NASDAQ: SAVE ) , the leader in bargain-basement air travel. Spirit has more or less doubled thus far in 2013, and I believe the company still has room to run. Why? Because Spirit's focus is on cheap travel, and it's cheap travel that consumers want. Sure, in the 1960s, air travel was all about the experience: in-flight meals, white-glove service, luxury and extravagance at 40,000 feet. Today? People want to get from point A to point B as cheaply as safely possible. The Concorde could fly at Mach 2 (1,300 miles per hour!!), but the plane was retired 10 years ago because consumers were not willing to pay the extra money to fly that fast. Spirit is winning market share today because consumers want the low-cost solution -- not speed and not the creature comforts. And, as I head to the beach later this July, it doesn't hurt that Spirit's primary market is Florida, the Caribbean, and Central/South America. This summer, consider Spirit for your investment and budget air travel needs.
Russ Krull: I've bought and expect to buy more Intel (NASDAQ: INTC ) this month. I'm a dividend growth guy, and Intel is one of the best values in that arena. Intel doesn't have the half-century string of annual dividend hikes of, say, Coca-Cola, but it does have a dividend yield that tops the S&P 500 average, a rock-solid balance sheet, plenty of cash flow to cover the dividend and a reasonable payout ratio -- key ingredients in a dividend growth recipe. The weak spot is slumping personal computer sales combined with being slow to get into the mobile device market. PC sales numbers aren't likely to recover, but Intel has started to crack the mobile device market. Combine that with all those mobile devices and cloud storage driving demand for servers, and I think Intel is a solid, steady grower. Earnings per share should also improve even if earnings stay flat, because Intel made a smart balance sheet move last fall: It sold $6 billion in bonds at rock-bottom rates to fund a stock buyback. Because the bond coupon rate was lower than the dividend yield, the deal improves Intel's cash flow and, based on the latest quarterly report, the company is actually reducing its share count.
Brian Stoffel: Perhaps no industry has received as much hype over the past two years as 3-D printing. Proponents will tell you that the technology has the ability to fundamentally shift the way we go about making the products we use. Bears will argue that the rise in stock prices for 3-D printers is inflated and simply can't be supported by the fundamentals.
So why am I buying shares of industry stalwart Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS ) ? I have two reasons.
First, I like the job the company has done at focusing on fewer, larger, more strategic mergers than rival 3D Systems. Last year's merger with Objet helped Stratasys gain exposure to industrial clients it otherwise would have had to fight tooth and nail for. And the company's recently announced plan to merge with Makerbot shows that it's serious about selling 3-D printers to consumers as well -- a realm 3D Systems has led for some time now.
The second reason I'm willing to buy in, even as the stock trades for almost 60 times earnings, is because it's still small. If 3-D printing fulfills even half of its potential over the next decade, I can't imagine Stratasys being worth less than $20 billion. At today's market cap of $3.5 billion, that's a five-bagger in 10 years. Of course, there's no way to guarantee such results, but I'm putting my own money behind it.
Matt DiLallo: One of my biggest frustrations as an investor is to see a company I own come under attack by a group of vicious short-sellers. These public attacks are designed to shine a spotlight on a perceived weakness in order to knock the stock down so they can profit. Enduring these bear raids can be brutal, which is about how I'd describe the year for investors in LINN Energy (NASDAQOTH: LINEQ ) .
More often than not, these attacks distort the real story. In this case, those negative on the company are ignoring the fact that LINN has real oil and gas assets holding real value. Instead, they'd like you to believe the company is simply a mirage being covered up by accounting tricks.
The real story is that LINN, whose business model is built on buying mature oil and natural gas fields, has proved reserves of over 5 trillion cubic feet equivalent. Furthermore, the company is estimated to have another 14 trillion cubic feet equivalent of unproved reserves. Put more simply, LINN's net asset value can be pegged anywhere between $37 a unit to as high as $65 a unit. Meanwhile, short-sellers have knocked its units down to the low $20s. That spells an opportunity for investors who don't mind waiting for the attack to finally blow over.
I'm not saying the road ahead will be easy, especially in light of the fact that the SEC is now looking into the matter. However, the opportunity to earn outsize returns makes LINN a very compelling opportunity this month. In fact, I personally plan to take advantage of it as soon as the Fool's trading rules allow.
Rick Munarriz: We live in fragile times when it comes to identity theft security, and that's why I'm going with LifeLock (NYSE: LOCK ) this month. LifeLock is the top dog when it comes to proactive identity theft protection, monitoring subscriber identities for any breaches that may result in credit-damaging and emotion-draining identity theft occurrences. We're not getting any less paranoid, and with millions of cases of identity theft taking place every year in this country, it's easy to see why LifeLock has become so popular.
Revenue climbed 42% in its latest quarter, fueled by a 19% uptick in subscribers and a healthy increase in the average revenue per account. There are now 2.6 million LifeLock subscribers, and the ascent has been refreshingly consistent. LifeLock has experienced 32 straight quarters of sequential growth in revenue and subscriber count. We're not talking about new folks getting duped here. Retention rates have climbed from 84% to 87% over the past year.
LifeLock is still flying under the radar since going public at $9 last year, even though it has blown Wall Street's profit targets away in its first three quarters as a public company. It hopes to stretch that streak to four quarters when it reports again at the end of the month. LifeLock's been able to keep its own identity secret from investors, but solid growth in a booming niche can only go undetected for so long.
Dan Caplinger: My stock pick for July isn't technically a stock at all, although it trades like one. Central Fund of Canada (NYSEMKT: CEF ) is a closed-end fund that owns three things: about 1.7 million ounces of gold, 77 million ounces of silver, and roughly $39 million in cash. Closed-ends are a type of mutual fund that resemble exchange-traded funds in that they trade on stock exchanges rather than being offered through a mutual fund company. Unlike ETFs, though, closed-end funds have a fixed number of shares, making them subject to supply and-demand effects that can create temporary bargains from time to time.
As you'd expect, Central Fund has plunged lately because of the drop in gold and silver prices. But if you believe that precious metals are due for a bounce, Central Fund looks especially attractive because of its roughly 5% discount to its net asset value. In other words, when you take the value of Central Fund's gold and silver holdings and divide it by the number of shares outstanding, the per-share intrinsic value is higher than the prevailing share price in the market. Obviously, gold and silver are a risky proposition at this point, but given that Central Fund's shares usually trade at a premium to the value of the fund's bullion holdings, a return to those conditions could produce profits for investors even if gold and silver stay at today's depressed prices.
Tim Beyers: Rupert Murdoch has finally made good on plans to separate his newspaper and entertainment businesses. Any investor can now buy shares in 21st Century Fox (NASDAQ: FOX ) . Here's why you might want to.
First, Fox isn't just about the studio or the news channel. Fox Sports, Fox Business, BSkyB, and the edgier programming available on the FX channel also make their home at 21st Century Fox. But what makes this stock most appealing is a slate of big-name movies with even bigger box office potential.
According to Box Office Mojo, Fox has released 11 films grossing a total of $539.1 million domestically, a 10% increase over last year at this time. Upcoming releases include this month's superhero sequel, The Wolverine, and a new animated feature, Turbo.
Meanwhile, according to a recent 8-K filing with the SEC, Fox's earnings improved from $0.82 a share in 2010 to $1.20 a share in 2012. Current-year earnings appear to be on track for much more. Either way, Fox's growth story appears to be far from over.
Jim Gillies: Dressbarn would seem a retail concept that shouldn't work; the comparison of wardrobe source and cow palace would seem something few women would appreciate. Yet the store's parent company, Ascena Retail Group (NASDAQ: ASNA ) , is the epitome of Foolish. Growth -- both organic and through well-timed acquisitions -- has been prudent over the years. The company throws off a ton of cash and trades at a reasonable valuation. And the founding family still runs the show and maintains significant ownership. All this has given investors a 10-year average return of 18.5%, and I think there's more to come.
Ascena's store concepts include the aforementioned "barn," maurices (casual and career apparel for younger women), Justice (trendy wear for preteen and "tween" girls), and Lane Bryant and Catherines ("plus size" women's apparel). These last two concepts, acquired as part of the largest acquisition in Ascena's history, are arguably why the company is attractively priced today. Management demarcated fiscal 2013 as "investment year" to align these two concepts, invest for growth, and bring together their distribution and logistics networks.
This investment plan looks to be coming to its end. Integration savings should start being realized in fiscal 2014, and the company surprisingly paid off half the acquisition-related debt in the most recent quarter. Expect higher free cash flow, lower capital spending, and the sale of a non-core business in the coming year, and repayment of all remaining debt and deployment of these higher cash flows in the service of shareholders going forward.
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