Are you familiar with the dynamic duo of Fama and French? No, they didn't star in Baby Mama -- that was Fey and Poehler. And they didn't sing "Icky Thump" -- that was Jack and Meg White.

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 Motley Fool CAPS screener). To focus on high-quality stocks, I've cross-referenced these against ratings in our CAPS community of more than 130,000 investors.


Book Value Multiple

1-Year Change

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

American Oriental Bioengineering (NYSE:AOB)




General Electric (NYSE:GE)




Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI)




Markel (NYSE:MKL)




American Eagle Outfitters (NYSE:AEO)




Data from CAPS; Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's; and Yahoo! Finance as of March 13.

Five years ag, Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick GameStop (NYSE:GME) would have made this list with its 1.8 book value multiple. Since then, the stock has gone on a massive run, gaining more than 180% while the S&P index took a nosedive.

While we can't expect that all of these are going to perform like GameStop, the CAPS community thinks the stocks on today's list are some good choices when it comes to value stocks. With that in mind, I thought I'd dig a little further into Markel Corp.

Where is the value?
Markel may be familiar to investors via its nickname as a "baby Berkshire" -- a comparison drawn between the company and Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-A). While this is quite a compliment, there are important differences between Markel and Berkshire.

Berkshire was once a struggling textile business that was transformed into a stock market gorilla by Warren Buffett, who went about using the cash produced by the textile business to buy stocks and whole businesses. Today, the company does significant insurance business, but also has a huge amount of revenue from other businesses ranging from candy to manufacturing to jet rentals.

Markel, on the other hand, is and has always been an insurance business. The company dates to the early 1920s, when Sam Markel began brokering insurance coverage to jitney buses. Over the years, the company has become a major player in the market for specialty insurance coverage -- coverage outside of the standard policies offered by insurers like Allstate and MetLife. Today, that expertise in specialty coverage is where much of Markel's value comes from.

Of course, if that were the whole story with Markel, it probably wouldn't bear the "baby Berkshire" label. Markel also lays claim to super-investor Tom Gayner, a value investor that many compare to -- you guessed it -- Warren Buffett. Over the past five years, Gayner has steered the Markel portfolio to average annual gains of 2.8%, even as the S&P index plunged 32%.

But will it beat the market?
Though Markel's stock has taken a significant beating over the past year, it remains a clear favorite among CAPS members. Of the 2,646 members who have weighed in, 2,586 of them have given the stock a thumbs-up.

CAPS All-Star JohnPRutledge recently joined the chorus of Markel bulls, saying:

This Baby Berkshire is well managed and will do well over the long term. The CIO's deployment of float is quite impressive. It will be interesting to see the investment rejiggering and new stakes planted as I write this review. We won't know what [Markel] is doing right now for some time, but I think its shareholders will be mighty pleased with the way management is positioning the company for the years ahead.

So what do you think? Are the stocks in this group values, or value traps? Log into CAPS and let the rest of the 130,000-member community know what you think.

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