You might be thinking that a little thing like the "fiscal cliff" would take the wind out of the markets' sails, but according to the Motley Fool CAPS database, more than 2,000 stocks are within 10% of a new 52-week high. For skeptics like me, that's an opportunity to see whether companies have earned their current valuations.
Keep in mind that some companies deserve their current valuations. Regional airline Allegiant Travel (NASDAQ:ALGT), for instance, has been plugging higher as its attractively priced airfare relative to the national airlines lures in travelers, while its high-margin service fees, ranging from baggage fees to pillow and blanket fees, pick up the slack. With $204 million in net cash, Allegiant is one of the few airlines still flying high.
Still, other companies might deserve a kick in the pants. Here's a look at three companies that could be worth selling.
A whopper of a tale
The king may have been put to rest for the moment as Burger King Worldwide (NYSE:BKW) attempts to do anything in its power to invigorate struggling domestic sales, but it's going to take a lot more than a big-budgeted TV advertising blitz to get consumers back into Burger King restaurants again.
Less than two years removed from going private, Brazilian owners 3G Capital brought Burger King back to market in the hope that it'll at least reclaim the No. 2 spot in terms of total hamburger sales from Wendy's. The problem that Burger King is going to have is that it's miles behind its peers. McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) revolutionized the healthier options menu in fast-food restaurants and both it and Jack in the Box were quick to redesign the inside of their restaurants to give them a more casual-dining appeal. Burger King is only now beginning to adapt their menu to consumers' healthier habits and still has quite a remodel ahead for many of its locations.
Burger King also lacks much of the differentiation that makes going to McDonald's or Jack in the Box an experience. Jack has the easily identifiable TV commercial character while McDonald's has the global reputation of its golden arches to fall back on. There really isn't much to coerce consumers to choose Burger King. At a frothy 23 times forward earnings and the chance that revenue could continue to decline, I'd rather pass on this combo.
Sometimes you just have to be the monkey that puts the wrench in the gears of optimism, otherwise frivolous valuations can ensue. Although KapStone Paper & Packaging's (NYSE:KS) valuation is hardly what I'd call frivolous at just 10 times forward earnings, expectations that the corrugated products company will meet current Wall Street estimates just don't seem realistic.
Recent history has proven unkind to KapStone, including heavier rainfall in its most recent quarter that unexpectedly knocked the Roanoke Rapids mill offline. The company's recent acquisition of USC (no, not the Trojans!) helped mask what was a pretty ho-hum quarter devoid of organic growth. Price per ton fell $2 -- although KapStone recently announced a $50/ton boost in prices -- while total paper production inched higher by less than 1%.
As CAPS members have extolled, paper is a necessity product, but whether we go over the fiscal cliff or not, enterprises and individuals are very likely to pare back their spending because of higher expected taxes and the potential for higher health care costs associated with the Affordable Care Act in 2014. Considering that KapStone has missed Wall Street's EPS estimates in four straight quarters, I'd consider the company a bit pricey here.
A triple-dog dare
I'm beginning to think that triple-levered ETFs are being produced faster than the dog and cat population that the Price Is Right is always encouraging us to control. Just when I think I can't possibly find any more triple-levered ETFs of destruction, I came across the Direxion Daily Basic Materials Bull 3x ETF (NYSEMKT:MATL).
Don't get me wrong, I think basic materials are a near-necessity to have in your portfolio, as they provide a stable hedge in tough economic times. But owning triple-levered ETFs that lose value based on daily rebalancings and require you to time your trade almost perfectly each time in order to turn a profit are not the way to accomplish this!
Instead of an asset killer like this, I suggest looking into iShares Dow Jones US Basic Materials ETF (NYSEMKT:IYM) which will give you exposure to some of the biggest chemical and mining names in each sector and pays out a 2.1% yield.
This week it's all about "What makes you so special?" In the case of Burger King, Kapstone, and the Direxion Basic Materials 3x ETF, there really aren't any defining factors that make their company or ETF stand out from the sector. Without that differentiation, I see no reason that these three stocks won't head lower.
Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.
The Motley Fool owns shares of McDonald's. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of, and creating a bull call spread position in, McDonald's. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy that never needs to be sold short.