I don't have a problem going out on a limb, and it paid off last December when I singled out five stocks that I thought should bounce back in 2013 after losing ground in 2012: The five stocks have risen by as little as 67% and as much as 195% this year.
I'm going to go out on the same limb, though it will be harder this time around, as we just have hundreds -- not thousands -- of stocks that are currently trading lower in 2013 than they were when the year began. Let's dive right in with the five turnaround candidates.
Millennial Media (NYSE: MM ) , down 42% in 2013
The mobile-marketing specialist was a hot IPO when it went public 21 months ago, more than doubling on its first day of trading after hitting the market at $13. The market was wooed by Millennial Media's leadership position as the top operating-system-agnostic provider of display ads for mobile-app developers on iOS and Android devices, but profitability has been spotty.
Millennial Media has continued to grow its business at a brisk pace. Analysts see revenue soaring 64% in 2014 for a full-year profit. The initial post-IPO euphoria may have taken the shares to unjustified valuations, but Millennial Media is now too cheap to ignore.
The Fresh Market (NASDAQ: TFM ) , down 15% in 2013
The economy's showing signs of life, and that should mean improving traffic at The Fresh Market's growing chain of small-box supermarkets, which specialize in premium groceries.
The grocer has been a laggard this year because its growth has failed to live up to expectations: Earnings per share are on pace to climb just 9% on a 14% uptick in revenue for the fiscal year that ends in January. It should bounce back next year with profitability projected to grow 19% on a 17% top-line gain. Accelerating growth at both ends of the income statement should be the ticket for this premium grocer to bounce back into investor fancy.
China Mobile (NYSE: CHL ) , down 10% in 2013
It may seem strange that the world's largest wireless-carrier has been a dud in portfolios this year, but China Mobile has lost ground despite the booming popularity of smartphones in China.
China Mobile had 763.3 million wireless customers as of the end of November, a reasonable increase from the 707.3 million accounts it had a year earlier. But most of those subscribers are on phones with old-school features. The real growth story at China Mobile is the number of the country's enriched citizens swapping out their old phones for newer smartphones that drive higher revenue for China Mobile. Over the past year alone we've seen 3G customers go from 82.4 million to 181.1 million. It's a trend that will continue to pay off for China Mobile, which in less than three weeks will finally begin offering the iPhone.
Westport Innovations (NASDAQ: WPRT ) , down 27% in 2013
After nearly doubling in 2011, Westport Innovations' stock fell 20% in 2012 and another 27% in 2013. In other words, we're back to where we were three years ago with this dynamic company that's making it easy for commercial fleets to replace their gas-guzzling vehicles with cars and trucks that run on cheaper -- and cleaner -- natural gas.
Liquefied natural gas is a growing fuel source, and Westport Innovations is leading the way despite a rocky past year. The prospects should brighten in 2014. Yes, Wall Street sees more red ink. The pros don't see it turning the corner of profitability until 2016. But analysts see deficits continuing to shrink in 2014 on a 41% pop in revenue. As losses contract and orders increase, investors should rediscover the potential here.
Rackspace Hosting (NYSE: RAX ) , down 48% in 2013
The biggest loser in 2013 among these five bounce-back picks used to be a market darling. Web hosting is a growing market, and Rackspace's critically acclaimed work culture and attention to customer detail made it a favorite among companies wanting to secure an online presence and developers looking for a steady platform in cloud computing.
Rackspace continues to grow its business at a double-digit-percentage clip in the high teens, but the cutthroat nature of hosting has squeezed margins through 2013. The stock has shed half of its value, but that's overdone. Analysts see Rackspace making back most of its declining 2013 profitability in the year ahead. Rackspace may have been overvalued a year ago, but now it's trading at a more attractive price in a niche that should continue to grow for years to come.
One more stock looking at a strong 2014
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