The new year has obviously brought pleasure to stock market participants, as the Dow has already risen 6.7%. For those who were fortunate to own the "Dirt Cheap Value Portfolio," it advanced at a rate 42% higher, amounting to a 9.5% appreciation clip (from $50.62 to $55.41). Fuel System Solutions (NASDAQ:FSYS) had the dubious distinction of being the only loser of the group, with a 1% paring. Its big winner was Luby's (NYSE:LUB), enjoying a 17.9% rise, reaching a level 5% greater than my target price.
Normally, when a stock reaches its target price it is replaced with another more deserving company, but not this time around. Case in point: As soon as I removed Krispy Kreme (KKD) from the portfolio, it promptly rose 33% (ouch). I have learned my lesson -- leaving too much money on the table is certainly not a good thing, which this investor loathes with a passion.
Will the bullish stock market trend continue? It seems obvious it will, especially with our friends at the Federal Reserve pumping in $85 billion a month through the quantitative easing endeavors. Believe it or not, at the rate the market has climbed in its first six weeks it's on pace to eclipse the 20,000 mark by year-end, but I think a trip to 15,000 by New Year's is more probable. One thing is for sure -- with all this money printing, we are in store for some wicked inflation to rear its ugly head. At the end of the day, precious metals and real estate will be the next safe havens. In the meantime, sticking with the Dirt Cheap Value Portfolio makes sense as it offers more bang for the buck, with less risk. A combination that most experts would deem "mutually exclusive."
Here are the components, updated:
Fuel Systems Solutions -- The company was scheduled to present at the Needham Growth Conference but had to back out at the last minute, when its CFO took sick. Logic would dictate that another member of senior manager would be substituted to at least rehash the power point, but that didn't even happen. Would it be asking too much for the company to include the investment slides on its website? Management has been stuck in a performance rut lately, and events like the cancellation of the presentation further solidify that reality.
Could this have something to do with the reason Piper Jaffray slashed its outlook on the alternative fuel company, from overweight to neutral, and chopped its price target 20% to $16? Maybe this analyst action is the complete opposite of a "pump and dump" scenario, which I term a "bash and buy"? Could it be, by talking the company down, they can get their best clients long the name at a very attractive price?
Management does deserve some credit for issuing a recent press release updating its progress with General Motors (NYSE:GM). In it, the company revealed it had received approval from GM (in late December) to begin shipping product in order to support the automaker's bi-fuel pickup truck line. In addition, GM expanded its Express and Savana Cargo vans into the program.
FSYS is scheduled to release its fourth-quarter earnings next month. Analysts are expecting it to post a 3-cent loss vs. 7 cents on a 20% drop in revenues, from $111 million to $89 million. You can rest assured that based on management's recent dismal track record of missing expectations and guiding down, this time around will probably not be any different. The one positive: A subsequent drop to the $10 area would create a back up the truck moment, allowing fresh buyers the opportunity to hit a sure grand slam down the road. One more wild card: The passing of the Natural Gas Act of 2011 would effectively double the share price in one fell swoop. Just ask Jim Cramer about that.
Diamond Foods (NASDAQ:DMND) -- The snack food maker received a huge vote of confidence when Blackrock reported amassing a 7.85% ownership stake. Wall Street loved the news and quickly tacked on 10% to its battered stock price. Next month, analysts are actually expecting the company to get back in the black. Its second-quarter earnings report is forecast to net 6 cents of earnings on sales of $239 million. This could actually be achieved, as a string of horrible reports have set its bar mighty low. Seeking Alpha authors Tim Phillips and Jim Fish both put up a compelling thesis on why DMND should be owned. The main reason: Its parts are worth more than its whole, making it attractive for a bigger fish to swallow, at a minimum 20% premium.
Luby's -- The iconic eatery has blown right through my price target of $7.00, so I am going out on a limb by raising it another 43% to $10. Why? I think it might be prone to a buyout attempt.
Pep Boys (NYSE:PBY) -- The auto part retailer's real estate empire is impressive. In its latest investor presentation, it revealed it owns the real estate on 232 of its 745 locations. The locations are on its books for $386 million, but the properties have been appraised at $689 million -- meaning that there is $298 million or $5.62 per share of low hanging fruit ready to be picked. Besides its real estate, it has been on a real expansion quest, adding small tire/service locations. In fact, in the last two years it has added 148 locations. The new stores cost about $400,000 each, but are projected to generate annual revenues of $1 million each and EBITDA of $150,000.
PBY is expected to earn 5 cents vs. a 6-cent loss when it reports its fourth quarter. Sales are slated to rise from $505 million to $507 million. The company could also see a bump in its earnings due to the effects of its $50 million stock buyback plan, as there will be fewer shares outstanding to allocate through earnings. As an added bonus, hedge fund manager Mario Gabelli seems to believe in the company, acquiring a 10% position.
JetBlue Airways (NASDAQ:JBLU) -- Offering a meager multiple of only 10 times 2013 earnings estimates, insider buying (a director purchased 50,000 shares), and consolidation in the sector (US Airways and AMR merger) things might be looking up. The stock is primed for more intense upside, especially with the tailwind effects of decreasing jet fuel costs. As a consequence, its target price is being elevated from $7 to $8.
Disclosure: I am long FSYS, DMND, JBLU, PBY, LUB. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.