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Finding Opportunities in Cash America, Natus Medical


Two small caps beating the Street.


The trick to winning a big dog sled race is that "you just have to get the dogs to all pull at the same time."

This market wants to make a meaningful move north, but we just can't get all the dogs, or in this case sectors, to pull in the same direction. We seem to be stuck in this no man's land of sector rotation chasing performance. The market is giving traders all of an hour to make allocation decisions.

Trouble in Mother Russia and we move into Energy stocks like Apache (APA). Banks report a loss less than expected and they rocket higher until the next blow up. Energy demand drops and we pile out of Oil into retail names like J.C. Penney (JCP).

The point is a strong economy implies that most sectors should be doing well at the same time, a situation we don't enjoy at the moment.

Byron Wien of Pequot Capital made some interesting observations this weekend, pointing out that so far the market in 2008 has defied conventional wisdom, lifting small caps past their big cap rivals this year.

I ran a quick screen looking for small cap stocks that had beaten the Street by at least 5% in each of the last 2 quarters. Limiting market caps to more than $500 million and less than $2 billion, 242 names came up. Let's look at just 2.

  • Cash America (CSH) caught my eye. I had just read an article that Phil Collins is forking over $84 Million to 3 x-wives. The best financial advice I can give him is to try dating instead of marriage. I had this image of Phil pawning his Grammy. Look tough times are good times for pawn shops so intuitively this one makes sense. At less than 14x EPS and earnings growing at over 20% this year I have to take a look.

  • Natus Medical (BABY) has been executing its accretive acquisition strategy and giving shareholders some pretty handsome returns. Add to it the fact that the Healthcare Sector has been one of the more consistent performers and you have a winning ticket. Small companies like BABY aren't burdened by the laws of large numbers. Yes, at 28 times EPS, it's more expensive than large cap healthcare companies but Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) doesn't grow at 40%.

Placing one of these in your portfolio might help a little more than standing on your desk yelling "Mush."

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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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