The Cheapest Stock Around

No matter how stoic you are, watching your stocks slide daily is unnerving.

At Motley Fool Hidden Gems, we haven't been immune to the sudden and severe haircuts Mr. Market has recently doled out. Since last September, we've had positions decrease 20%, 30% ... even 50%.

And frankly, we're excited about it.

Come again?
Sure, seeing those big red numbers can be painful, but we know that volatility presents great opportunities for patient investors to profit. That's particularly true when a company's fundamentals and business prospects haven't declined -- but its stock price has.

In a report called "How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love Volatility" (PDF file), Lord Abbett senior economist Milton Ezrati showed how market volatility "can actually help build wealth over time, especially for longer-term investors."

According to Ezrati, regularly adding new money in a volatile market allows an investor to purchase more shares at cheaper prices, thus lowering the effective cost basis. Interestingly, Ezrati's findings hold true whether prices are rising or falling.

Of course, few investors feel like adding new money when the market seems to shift momentum at the drop of a hat -- but this is exactly the time to consider committing new capital.

Totally outrageous
Ready to commit that capital? You're in luck -- the market has placed many fine companies on sale.

My Foolish colleague Tim Hanson recently highlighted a few stocks that he felt were outrageously cheap. Now, Tim's a great analyst and a deadeye three-point shooter (we play basketball after work), but I wasn't terribly outraged when I saw how cheap his stocks were.

These stocks are cheap
In fact, many good stocks are cheap right now. General Mills (NYSE: GIS  ) and Waste Management (NYSE: WMI  ) recently hit 52-week lows. This is the cheapest that Lowe’s (NYSE: LOW  ) , Kraft Foods (NYSE: KFT  ) , and Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) have been in years. And these are all strong companies with killer brands.

Even supposedly "recession-resistant" stocks are feeling the pain. Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG  ) just hit a five-year low.

But there's a reason
I think those are all fine companies, and at today's prices, there's a decent chance they'll go on to post market-beating returns. But there's a reason each of them has fallen, be it decreased consumer spending, competitive concerns, a slowdown in construction, or general recession-fueled fears.

The key to exploiting market volatility is to find situations in which the share price has fallen, but the company's business fundamentals have remained unchanged (or even improved!). We have a few companies that fit that bill on our Motley Fool Hidden Gems scorecard, including one of my favorite personal holdings.

Don't be chicken
The company is Buffalo Wild Wings. As the name suggests, this sports bar serves chicken wings and beer, primarily to males aged 25 to 40. The business sounds simple enough, but B-Wild is steadily building a national presence where none currently exists. The company now operates 567 locations in 39 states, up from just 200 in 2002.

Despite rising chicken-wing prices and softer consumer spending, B-Wild grew its top line by 30% in 2008, while net income rose 24%. What’s more, management recently reiterated that B-Wild should meet its targets of 15% unit growth, 25% revenue growth, and 20% to 25% earnings growth in 2009. Yet even though the company continues to fire on all cylinders, the stock is trading about one-third off its 52-week high!

Buffalo Wild Wings is exactly the type of opportunity we look for at Hidden Gems: It's an underfollowed small cap with a strong balance sheet, shareholder-friendly management, and the ability to generate steady free cash flow. Better yet, the company's share price has been beaten down, even though its future prospects continue to look bright.

We have quite a few companies that meet these criteria on our scorecard, and some of them are looking pretty darn cheap. If you'd like to start profiting from the recent market volatility, click here to take a free 30-day trial of the Hidden Gems service. You'll get access to all of our recommendations and research, as well as our best ideas for new money now. And as always, there's no obligation to subscribe.

This article was first published Feb. 5, 2008. It has been updated.

Rich Greifner has learned to love flaxseed oil, volatility, and the bomb. Rich owns shares of Buffalo Wild Wings, which is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation. The Motley Fool owns shares of Buffalo Wild Wings and Procter & Gamble. Kraft Foods and Waste Management are Income Investor recommendations. Waste Management is also an Inside Value pick. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (24)

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  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2009, at 2:20 PM, muchohucho wrote:

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, you don't know what cheap is because you can't propertly evaluate the worth of any company right now. If you are using earnings projections you are being extremely naive. Sure the companies you exaggerate about are good companies, and have done well IN THE PAST, but we don't know what is going on, no one does. You keep thinking that "the economy will recover" but you don't know that! And we could easily be in a severe depressed state for a VERY long time, and with enormous inflation.

  • Report this Comment On March 09, 2009, at 8:36 PM, MotleyShark wrote:

    I'd rather buy my choice of three of the aforementioned six than put my money into BWW particularly soon - I don't care how good their food or business model supposedly is.

    look up Koo Koo Roo Chicken and get back to me to let me know I'm wrong.

  • Report this Comment On March 09, 2009, at 8:37 PM, MotleyShark wrote:

    next time include the stock ticker makes it a bit easier on us mere readers :-)

  • Report this Comment On March 14, 2009, at 8:28 PM, jesse2159 wrote:

    Only God knows when the market will recover. I have my doubts and as long as I'm unconvinced the banking problems are behind us, I'll just keep buying CD's at FDIC insured banks. I've been fooled by brokers, advisors and pundits into believing the sub prime mortgage issue was "contained" It was a lie. Citi still has very large "undisclosed" losses in it's future and has never discounted rumors that it's tens of billions in the hole. They lost my trust, and it will be a long time before I ever believe anyone in this industry again.

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