Your expectations can use a refresh button.
Nearly all companies have filed away their 2010 financial performances. We should now be squarely focused on fiscal projections for this year -- and for 2012.
You may be amazed at how quickly some of the market's seemingly overpriced players are growing. Loftier profit targets translate into lower forward P/E multiples.
Each week, I've been taking a look at five unexpected cheapies. Let's try a few more.
This Year P/E
Next Year P/E
Cliffs Natural Resources
Country Style Cooking
Source: Yahoo! Finance.
Valuation is only a number
Many of these multiples -- even those clocking in for next year -- are chunky. You don't often hear something along the lines of "this stock is so cheap that it's trading for a mere 30 times next year's projected profitability."
Then again, there is more to this basket of presumably pricey stocks than meets the cynical eye.
Shares of Alcatel-Lucent haven't had to head lower to get cheaper. Wall Street's simply catching up. Three months ago, analysts figured that the telco services giant would earn just $0.19 a share this year and $0.26 a share come 2012. Now those same pros believe that Alcatel-Lucent can earn next year's $0.26 a share this year. They then see profitability soaring 85% to $0.48 a share next year.
Forget the $7.49 a share that Cliffs Natural Resources posted for 2010. North America's largest producer of iron ore pellets is slated to drum up a profit of $13.06 a share in 2011 and $13.92 next year. Commodities can be volatile, but Cliffs' forward earnings multiple in the mid-single digits is hard to ignore.
Country Style Cooking Restaurants is a fast-growing quick-service eatery chain in China. A euphoric pop in the stock after last year's IPO may have been overdone, but the dynamic concept is attractively priced now. Why pay 17 times next year's earnings for Yum! Brands
Valero Energy is another cheapie. The oil refiner may have missed Wall Street's profit targets in its two most recent quarters, but analysts continue to jack their bottom-line estimates higher. The prices for refined products don't always move in lockstep with upticks in crude, but this spike appears to be raising all ships.
Finally, we have E*TRADE making the grade. The discount broker with the colorful talking baby ads was upgraded by Goldman Sachs yesterday. The call came just as Goldman was downgrading E*TRADE peer TD AMERITRADE
Adding it up
None of these stocks are immune to a market meltdown. If you're looking for bulwarks, you'll have to find them somewhere else.
These investments are largely high-beta growth stocks, and will likely remain that way for several more years. The key here, though, is that they aren't as expensive as pundits make them out to be.
It's the opportunity that you didn't know that you were waiting for.
Interested in reading more about any of these stocks? Add them to My Watchlist to find all of our Foolish analysis. And if you like these five stocks, check out the six stocks that Tom and David Gardner think you should be watching in a free special report.
Country Style Cooking is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Yum! Brands. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz also believes that expensive stocks can get even more expensive, too. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story, except for Country Style Cooking. 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.