Are you familiar with the dynamic duo of Fama and French? Not as entertaining as the comic British duo of French and Saunders, perhaps, but more relevant to our purpose.

While the names Eugene Fama and Kenneth French may not come up in most dinner conversations, the two have done some very interesting academic research on stocks. In short, they've proposed that there's more to stock returns than volatility -- which was most academics' previous consensus. In research they conducted over various periods and across multiple geographic locations, Fama and French determined that stocks characterized as "value stocks" have consistently outperformed nonvalue stocks.

Today, I've rounded up five value stocks that are all trading at less than two times their book value (you can run the same screen on the CAPS screener). To focus on high-quality stocks, I've cross-referenced these against ratings in our Motley Fool CAPS community of more than 125,000 investors. 


Book Value Multiple

1-Year Change

CAPS Rating
(5 max)





Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE:FCX)




Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK)




UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH)




MEMC Electronic Materials




Data from CAPS, Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's, and Yahoo! Finance as of Jan. 16, 2009.

Five years ago, Monsanto (NYSE:MON) would have made this list with its 1.5 book value multiple. Since then, the stock has caught quite a tailwind and is up more than 400%.

While we can't expect that all of these are going to perform like Monsanto, the CAPS community thinks that these are some good choices when it comes to value stocks. With that in mind, I thought I'd dig a little further into Motley Fool Income Investor pick Duke Energy.

Where is the value?
We don't have to dig too deep to figure out where Duke's value comes in. The safe, dependable business of electric power generation is like a cool drink of water in this arid stock market.

Of course, as most investors have hopefully realized by now, the idea that something is truly recession-proof is just not all that likely. In the case of Duke, as economic activity slows down, some of its customers -- particularly on the commercial side -- will use less power. But while this means that revenue and profit growth will likely slow at Duke, a meaningful drop in energy usage from its four million customers is about as likely as Americans deciding en masse to hold their breath until the recession ends.

Having such a reliable business certainly isn't unique to Duke. Other electric power companies such as Exelon (NYSE:EXC) and fellow Income Investor pick Southern Company (NYSE:SO) should also be reliable performers over the next couple of years. And while I think both of those companies would be fine picks, Duke currently offers a more attractive valuation as well as a more attractive dividend than either of the other two. In fact, it hasn't been since 2003 -- in the wake of the last recession and the blowup of Enron -- that Duke has been valued this low.

But you don't have to take my word for it, there are 1,483 members of the CAPS community who echo my bullish sentiment, versus just 70 who think the stock will lag the broader market. CAPS All-Star KittyLitterClump was one of the most recent members to give Duke's stock a thumbs-up, saying:

Duke Energy has taken a beating. Probably too big of a beating considering it is a major provider of electric and gas. Looking toward the future, Duke Energy is investing and/or purchasing solar photovoltaic power and wind power. Whether wind or solar actually becomes a bigger player or not, at least Duke isn't standing around to see what happens. This stock doesn't deserve the massive beating it has taken.

So what do you think? Are the stocks in this group values, or value traps? Log into CAPS and let the rest of the 125,000-member community know what you think.

More CAPS Foolishness:

Southern and Duke Energy are Motley Fool Income Investor selections. UnitedHealth Group is an Inside Value pick. UnitedHealth Group is a Stock Advisor recommendation. The Fool owns shares of UnitedHealth Group. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer owns shares of UnitedHealth, but does not own shares of any of the other companies mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy wouldn't know a value trap from a hole in the wall, but then again, the disclosure policy is just an inanimate collection of words.