"Don't catch a falling knife," as the old saw commands. (Pardon my mixing a cutlery metaphor.) The idea of buying a former superstar stock at a discount price certainly has its attractions, but you've got to make sure you catch the haft -- not the blade. That's where Motley Fool CAPS comes in.
Today, we once again stand beneath Mr. Market's silverware drawer, measuring which knives have fallen the farthest. Then we'll call on CAPS to ask which of these stocks -- if any -- Foolish investors believe are ready for a rebound. Let's meet today's list of contenders, drawn from the latest "52-Week Lows" list at WSJ.com:
CAPS Rating (out of 5)
|NRG Energy (NYSE NRG)||$26.15||$19.15||*****|
Country Style Cooking
ProShares UltraShort S&P500
Companies are selected from the "New Highs & Lows" lists published on WSJ.com on Friday last week. 52-week high, recent price, and CAPS ratings from Motley Fool CAPS.
Today, our automated list of 52-week-low-hitters hands us perhaps the craziest collection of equities I've ever seen. NRG Energy once again tops the list, along with discount supermarket SUPERVALU, a Chinese fast-food chain, and … an ETF purporting to profit whenever "the market" collapses. Geez -- how are we expected to choose a bouncer from this bunch?
NRG is the obvious recommendation here. Stable utility business. Single-digit P/E. Five-star CAPS rating. But we already covered that one last month. That leaves us with unprofitable and debt-laden SUPERVALU, super-high-priced Country Style, and the ETF to choose from.
Call it a hunch, but out of these three, I'm most intrigued by the prospects at Country Style Cooking. Here's why:
The bull case for Country Style Cooking Restaurant Chain
The first dish on our Country Style menu this morning is a plate of red herring, as CAPS member LohnRanger inserts tongue in cheek and declares he likes this stock because: "I enjoy country style gravy."
Yeah, and I like "Country Time" lemonade, too, Lohn … but just like gravy, that has little to do with this particular company. Country Style Cooking is a homegrown Chinese food chain. That's a good thing, since it operates in China. And as CAPS All-Star DianeinAtlanta points out, "the Chinese will prefer their own fast food to ours."
I agree, too -- because I've seen this movie before. Years ago, when living in Russia, I saw first-hand the rapid rise of McDonald's in-country. I also saw the sporadic attempts by other Western restaurateurs to follow in its footsteps -- most notably Starbucks'
But I also saw the ease with which a homegrown rival by the name of Russkoye Bistro captured the imagination of Russia's capital city, and rapidly evolved into a quick-eats powerhouse in its own right. Ultimately, RB failed to capture the market -- but it blazed the trail for a series of follow-on entrepreneurs including Kroshka-Kartoshka and Teremok, which have fared better. (Pun intended.)
Time to chime in
The great thing about emerging markets is that they tend to grow a lot. They get bigger, creating room for many players to succeed -- even when competing with powerful rivals like Yum! and McDonald's. While I cannot say for certain that Country Style will leverage its homegrown status to become one of China's winners, I know from personal experience that it's at least possible. And while I admit to being leery of the stock's 57-times-earnings valuation, I also realize that price may not tell the whole story about this stock.
Want to hear the rest of the story? Take a free trial subscription to Motley Fool Rule Breakers right now, and find out why we recommended Country Style to our members. Then drop by CAPS and tell us what you think about the stock's prospects.