5 Contrarian Stocks You Can Buy in 2014

Time certainly flies when you're having fun -- and much fun was to be had this year, with all three major market indexes returning well over more than 20% year to date, especially with the help of yesterday's strong rally.

To keep this joyous spirit going throughout the next week leading up to Christmas, I've decided to once again count down this holiday season with my own Foolish rendition of the "12 Foolish Days of Christmas." Instead of turtle doves, French hens, and partridges invading pear trees, you'll be privy to high-growth stock ideas, game-changing innovations from a wealth of industries, unique ways to fuel your retirement account, and so on.

Over the previous seven days of our Foolish holiday kickoff, we've counted down the:

Now it's time to move the countdown lower by a notch!

"On the fifth day of [Foolish] Christmas my true love gave to me..."

Five contrarian stocks you can buy in 2014!
Not every stock can be a winner, and although the market has roared higher this year, plenty of stocks and sectors have been left behind. Today, we'll take a look at five stocks that didn't have the best 2013 and could be set up for a nice rebound in 2014. Remember, thinking outside the box can sometimes lead to the biggest gains!

1. Annaly Capital Management (NYSE: NLY  )
You'll find that there are few sectors with more built-in investor pessimism than the mortgage REIT sector. Also known as mREITs, these companies earn their profit by the low lending rate at which they borrow and the higher rate at which they lend. In a perfect world, low interest rates provide the biggest boost to Annaly and other mREITs as their net interest margins widen. In higher-lending-rate environments, though, this margin tends to shrink, leading to smaller profits and shrinking dividends to shareholders.

Prior to 2013, Annaly was a popular company because of its double-digit yield. Disregarding the company's share price movements, the dividend yield alone could double your initial investment in a matter of six years if reinvested back into the company. But investors have pushed the company down by 31% year to date.

I suspect, though, as my Foolish colleague John Maxfield recently noted, that emotional trading, rather than logic, has gotten the better of investors here, with Annaly now trading at just 77% of book value. Annaly only purchases agency-backed securities, meaning it's protected in the event of a default by the U.S. government and can therefore leverage its portfolio higher than many of its non-agency peers. With Annaly's yield not dipping lower than 3.5% at any point over the past decade, I believe investors should continue to expect inflation-crushing dividends for many quarters to come, which is likely to attract value investors in 2014.

Aerial view of Mt. Milligan. Source: Thompson Creek.

2. Thompson Creek Metals (NYSE: TC  )
Not to single out Thompson Creek, as it's been a particularly horrible year for all metal and mining companies in 2013, but the added costs to complete its Mt. Milligan copper and gold mine ($750 million over Thompson Creek's original budget) weighed excessively on the company and caused investors to push the stock down 48% for 2013. I suspect, though, that the upcoming year could yield a big turnaround in its share price.

Full disclosure: I own both shares of Thompson Creek and call options, so I'm certainly invested in its future. Of particular interest to me is how quickly Thompson Creek should see its cash flow improve once its Mt. Milligan mine reaches commercial production, as it should sometime this month. Most investors want to label this mine a gold production story, and they slight Thompson Creek for selling off 52.25% of its gold royalty interests to Royal Gold in exchange for cash to finish Mt. Milligan -- but I see the 2.1 billion pounds of copper as the selling point here.

With copper prices stabilizing and a resurgence in Chinese demand expected to push copper prices higher, I feel Thompson Creek has the tools to surprise Wall Street in a big way in 2014.

3. Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ: ISRG  )
Want an easy way to scare shareholders away? Consider reminding them that your company's primary product, the da Vinci surgical system, is being probed for its safety and effectiveness by the Food and Drug Administration. The potential for financial damages because of this investigation -- or the possible requirement of further safety-effectiveness testing -- was enough to push Intuitive Surgical's shares lower by 27% for the year and drown out the company's historically strong growth.

In 2014 I fully expect this investigation to be resolved, with Intuitive Surgical vindicated in its claims that the da Vinci system is a safe alternative to standard laparoscopic surgery. A huge study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that looked at nearly 265,000 hysterectomies performed between 2007 and 2010 discovered that robotic-surgery patients spent less recovery time in the hospital and had similar adverse-events profiles -- though they spent about $2,200 more on average.

As the only profitable company with a wide-scale soft-tissue surgical system, I see Intuitive as a prime candidate to bounce back in 2014.

4. American Eagle Outfitters (NYSE: AEO  )
Another surefire way to send investors running for the hills is to even propose the idea of buying into teen apparel retailers at the moment. Year-over-year same-store sales comparison have fallen off a cliff for most brick-and-mortar stores, including Aeropostale, Abercrombie & Fitch, and American Eagle Outfitters. But 2014 could bring a big rebound for American Eagle Outfitters.

There are a couple of particulars to keep in mind when discussing American Eagle Outfitters that place it near the head of the class within its sector. First, American Eagle is sitting in the sweet spot when it comes to price point, right in between the higher-end Abercrombie & Fitch and the lower-end Aeropostale, which struggles to maintain its brand identity at such a low price point. American Eagle gives teens access to fashions similar to A&F's without the A&F price point.

Also, American Eagle's management team is superb when it comes to managing inventory and rewarding shareholders. Hiccups and fashion shifts are common occurrences in the retail sector, but time and again no company seems to get the right merchandise in front of customers faster than American Eagle. Tack on a delectable 3.5% yield, and I believe you have all the right reasons for value investors to be excited about this stock moving forward.

5. Rackspace Hosting (NYSE: RAX  )
The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite may have busted through 4,000 in 2013, its highest level since 2000, but cloud-computing service provider Rackspace Hosting saw its shares go flat, dipping 53% year to date. Rackspace shares have been hit by increasing competition from the likes of Google through its Google Compute cloud platform, as well as significantly higher-than-expected capital expenditures, which sacked it's latest earnings report -- again!

The good news is that not all hope is lost, and 2014 could be a banner year for Rackspace, as its higher spending on capex could yield stronger-than-expected top-line growth as small and medium-sized businesses' cloud markets mature. The funny thing about telecom infrastructure spending cycles is that they seem to be the green flag for other businesses to upgrade their own networking infrastructure. It certainly may not seem like it, but 2014 could be a big year for component makers and big-data center equipment and software providers like Rackspace.

Rackspace's valuation at 47 times earnings certainly isn't for the faint of heart, but a top-line growth rate that I believe has the potential to increase by 20% per year makes Rackspace an intriguing candidate to turn the tide in 2014.

Thinking outside the box can lead you to big gains
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