News flash: At The Motley Fool, we're not huge fans of Wall Street.
Maybe we're cynics. Perhaps we find pigs in drag distasteful. Or maybe we just know that the vast majority of Wall Street Wizards need a two-headed coin to call a stock right.
Whatever the reason, we Foolishly believe that Joe and Jane Investor can pick stocks just as well as Nigel and Vivian CFA. That's why we created Motley Fool CAPS, harnessing the small-w wisdom of the capital-F Foolish crowd to pick the winners of tomorrow. Problem is, not everyone is pulling his or her weight.
For the most part, the 93,000 investors currently on CAPS are telling us what we already know: Nuance (Nasdaq: NUAN ) and Ctrip.com (Nasdaq: CTRP ) -- good. Bear Stearns (NYSE: BSC ) and Merrill Lynch (NYSE: MER ) -- bad. These four picks have more than 7,100 ratings among them.
Thanks for playing. No, really!
Not that we don't appreciate the effort. We do. But today, I'm asking you to broaden your horizons a bit. We still have literally hundreds of stocks out there in CAPS-land that lack the 10 ratings necessary to earn them a CAPS "star" rating.
Where you come in
I'd like to introduce you to just three of these hundreds. If you know the companies in question, please take a moment to tell us whether you like them or hate them, and why. It's really as simple as that.
First National Lincoln Corp (Nasdaq: FNLC )
For the second week running, we're holding a special on tiny banks. There's more of 'em than you can shake a stick at, and we need your help rating as many as possible. In a series of firsts, our first stock is First National Lincoln, a holding corporation for the hubristically named "The First, N.A." While a bit pompous, that title may not be too far off -- dating from 1864, this Damariscotta, Maine, banker may not have been our nation's first, but it's got to be up there. It's also not a half-bad shop, earning a return on assets of 1.1%, and a return on equity of 11.9%. While these stats aren't superb, they've been good enough to impress seven of the nine Fools who've so far checked the stock out. Would you like to be No. 10?
CNB Financial Corp (Nasdaq: CCNE )
Similar metrics can be found at our second mini-bank. The holding company for CNB Bank offers basic banking services out of 25 branch offices spread over a half-dozen Pennsylvania counties. It runs its business well enough to score a 1.1% return on assets, and 12.9% return on equity -- slightly better than "The First," yet sentiment runs in the opposite direction here. Twice as many investors rate CNB an underperformer, as those who expect it to outperform the market. Worse still, both of the two CAPS All-Stars who've looked at the stock didn't like what they saw. Care to set them straight?
First South Bancorp (Nasdaq: FSBK )
Last but not least, we end with a bona fide banking buy, at least to this Fool's eye. Washington, N.C.-based First South Bancorp acts as, you guessed it, a holding company. And for, you guessed right again, a bank called "First South Bank." With 26 branch offices and nearly $51 million in annual revenue, First South is the biggest bank in today's grab bag of very small banks. What's more, the numbers suggest it's the best of the bunch. Returns on assets here run to 1.9%, and return on equity tops out at 20.6%. You have to pay a bit more for these kinds of numbers, however -- 2.5 times book value -- and Foolish investors aren't entirely certain the firm's superior performance justifies that premium. Votes on CAPS are split just about down the middle, five for First South and four against. Personally, I'm tempted to join the bullish herd on this one, but perhaps you'd like to ride the bear instead?
Help us, Obi-Wan. You're our only hope.
Each of the above stocks currently falls just one vote short of earning its CAPS stars. That gives you the chance to play the hero today. Literally, with just a click of your mouse, you can provide the deciding vote that puts any one of these stocks over the top -- and lets everyone else on CAPS know whether it's ready to trounce the market, or trip over its own feet.
Once again, our candidates are:
Give 'em some love, people.