Seeking stocks that others ignore, shun, or simply forget gives individual investors like you an edge over the professionals. Getting in before Wall Street discovers them -- or rediscovers them -- means you can stake a claim before they start taking off.
Here we check out companies with minimal analyst coverage, then pair our list with the opinions of the Motley Fool CAPS community. A stock that garners CAPS' top ratings, but hasn't yet caught analysts' attention, could be your next home run investment.
Wall St. Picks
Wall St. Bullish Sentiment
Est. EPS Growth Next Year
Source: Motley Fool CAPS.
Remember, without much analyst support, you'll have to do more digging on your own to see whether these stocks deserve a spot in your portfolio, so don't buy or sell them based solely on their appearance here.
Hiding in plain sight
Despite the amazing growth prospects standing before McDonald's
Following in the footsteps of her mentor, Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, Kirchner has deployed significant intervention in the economy and most recently nationalized Spanish oil giant YPF over accusations of not spending enough money in the country. Because Arcos Dorados is headquartered in Buenos Aires, it needs to keep one eye on its business and both eyes on the government. Policy decisions can wreak havoc with a restaurateur's operations.
Venezuela's currency controls in 2010, for example, were largely responsible for the 35% decline Arcos experienced in adjusted EBITDA. Kirchner has only just gotten going with her own interventionist policies and Bolivia is quickly following, seizing control of another Spanish energy operator, power grid operator Red Electrican. Arcos does not have any real presence there yet, but it shows the heightened risks facing the franchisee as it seeks to expand its operations throughout the region.
Yet as risky as it all is, that particular region saw some of the fourth quarter's best results as sales rose 25% on a better-than-27% increase in comps. Competition from Yum! Brands'
Let us know your views of the risks the company faces on the Arcos Dorados CAPS page and add the Latin American burger joint to the Fool's free, personalized stock-tracking service and see if it can afford to turn a blind eye to the rapacious South American governments dining on foreign stocks.
Stuck in the doldrums
When it comes to investing in natural gas plays, it all depends upon your perspective of the industry as to whether you'll view it as an opportunity or not. If you're a bear, you'll see the poor current economics of drilling -- prices at record lows, drillers pulling back hard on the reins of production, sporadic deployment of new technology to take advantage of this plentiful resource -- and decide it's not for you.
A bull can look at those same factors and see that while production is being cut, inventories are still growing, which means the low prices will entice more to adopt natural gas as an alternative to high-priced oil. Utilities are switching over from coal to gas because it's so cheap. And because new technologies are springing up to take advantage of gas, they're developing industries that will create large demands for it in the future. Today's depressed prices -- on gas and on industry stocks -- can be seen as tomorrow's monster opportunity.
Wastewater treatment specialist Heckmann is all these competing arguments rolled into one. It has the additional disadvantage of being in a niche accused of being all that's wrong with the gas industry: No longer is fracking seen as the problem, but rather disposal of the water that's a byproduct of the practice is now coming under scrutiny.
With Heckmann's shares down more than 40% so far this year, it actually makes it an attractive takeover candidate. Veolia Environnement
Wall Street is unanimous in its belief Heckmann will beat the market averages and CAPS members generally agree, with 97% of those weighing in marking it to surpass expectations. Let us know on the Heckmann CAPS page if you agree and add it to your watchlist to be alerted of any new crises.
Swing for the fences
If you're looking for other hidden energy opportunities, read The Motley Fool's special free report on "3 Stocks for $100 Oil." These three companies are poised to profit from the world's insatiable thirst for energy; to find out which stocks our top analysts picked, download this report free for a limited time only.
Fool contributor Rich Duprey holds no position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Arcos Dorados Holdings and Heckmann. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Veolia Environnement, Arcos Dorados Holdings, and McDonald's. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.
More from The Motley Fool
Ohio's Fracking Earthquakes Could be a Game Changer for Nuverra Environmental Solutions
With Ohio worried about fracking water disposal causing earthquakes, Nuverra could have an opportunity to really get its operations going.
Nuverra Environmental Solutions Sets Its Sights on the Eagle Ford Shale
Nuverra Environmental Solutions is planning to replicate its Bakken shale solution in Texas.
Is Nuverra Environmental Solutions, Inc. Destined for Greatness?
Let's see what the numbers say about Nuverra (NES).