Pocket change is hard to come by in this iffy economy.
But that's no reason to chase low-priced stocks. It's a desperate move and often ends badly: in the carcass of a foiled penny stock trader.
There are higher-quality opportunities to be had. Plenty of stocks trading between $5 and $10 a share are packed with promise and potential. Sure, they may be risky, but the pursuit of high returns is often saddled with high risks.
I've been scribing this now monthly "5 Stocks Under $10" column since 2001. There have been some huge winners and colossal failures along the way. Extremes are to be expected. By all means, do your own homework if any of this month's names pique your interest.
Got that? Let's go.
Floral arrangements might seem like a luxury if the economy continues to tighten -- but they're also a relatively cheap indulgence. They're not just for anniversaries any more.
Nothing proves that better than the actual performance at 1-800-Flowers. The market's been in a funk for several quarters now, yet 1-800-Flowers has beaten analyst expectations in five of the past six quarters; the one exception was when it hit Wall Street's profit target.
The pros are looking for the company to earn $0.34 a share this fiscal year (which ends in June), after earning $0.26 a share last year. The estimates call for a profit of $0.41 a share next year. In short, 1-800-Flowers is blooming.
I'm a sucker for popular restaurant chains early in their growth cycles. If the concept is sound, it's the best time to buy, instead of waiting until the expansion potential has been sucked dry.
Kona Grill is at that stage, with just 18 locations. It's a unique concept in high-end casual dining. Serving everything from sushi to Hawaiian-spiced entrees, it's a concept that is appealing to diners. Comps fell by 0.8% this past quarter, but that's actually a relative victory given the free falls at many of its rivals.
Kona might not turn a profit until 2009, but this is also the first time in nearly two years that the shares have fallen into the single digits. If you believe in the concept, now is the ideal opportunity to latch on early, below its $11 IPO price.
Harris & Harris
Ready for some small ball? Harris & Harris is a venture capital firm specializing in nanotechnology. The art of shrinking tech has been a buzzword for several years now. It just hasn't been very profitable.
Harris & Harris watches over a portfolio of investments in more than two dozen promising nanotech upstarts. As of the end of September, its net asset value (NAV) was $5.69 a share. That may not seem to make this an attractive valuation at first glance, but Harris & Harris -- a Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter recommendation -- has historically traded at more than double its NAV. Why? Well, NAV is a conservative figure that doesn't price in successful IPOs or even acquisitions of its investments by larger companies at healthy premiums.
This might not be the best climate for stocking the IPO pipeline or for banking on M&A activity, but that explains the historically thin markup that Harris & Harris is fetching now. It's a great entry point for patient investors who know that it pays to think small if you're dreaming big.
Content is still king in cyberspace, even if Internet Brands is trading barely above November's IPO price, and well shy of the $10 to $12 at which it initially filed to go public.
You are probably familiar with some of Internet Brands' companies. It attracts roughly 27 million unique monthly visitors to its niche sites that specialize in industries such as automotive (Autos.com and CarsDirect), travel (Cruisemates, VacationHomes.com), and real estate (Loan.com, RealEstateABC).
It can't hurt that these are historically attractive content realms where advertisers bid high for exposure and lead generation. Content-intensive companies such as CNET
Great Wolf Resorts
I singled out this high-end hospitality outfit as a logical winner for the rebate checks coming with the federal stimulus package. The beauty of the rebate checks is that in addition to a maximum of $1,200 for qualifying couples, there's $300 for children, too.
There will naturally be more pressing uses for the bonus bucks than heading out to a Great Wolf Lodge with its self-contained indoor water parks and themed activities, but I trust that some of it will find its way into Great Wolf's paws.
The company continues to expand. The concept has legs, given healthy revenue per available room trends. If it heads any lower, it would make an attractive acquisition target for larger hoteliers, though my bet is that Great Wolf will win its way back into investor fancy on its own merits.
Five for the road
Turnarounds never happen overnight. These five stocks aren't trading in the single digits by accident. If I'm right about the catalysts, though, they may not be trading in the single digits for too much longer.
Finding promising stocks while they're still cutting their baby teeth is at the heart of the Rule Breakers newsletter. You can check it out for free with a 30-day trial subscription. There are a dozen active stock recommendations in the growth stock research service trading for less than $10 at the moment. Check those out, and I'll be back with more next month.
Harris & Harris and CNET are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz wonders how many people know that Alexander Hamilton is the man on the $10 bill. Rick does not own shares in any stocks in this article. He is part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.