Today, I offer four stocks that have fallen out of favor with investors. Somebody forgot to pay the rent on the Kool-Aid tap and keg. Or the company just misfired, prompting the once faithful to live to fight another day. In these cases, that day could be near.
Citigroup (C). The message board debates heading into Citi's January 18th earnings call made for great theatre. Word of a letter Citi CEO Vikram Pandit wrote to the mega-bank's employees hit the wires, further fanning the flames. Of course, Citi fell short of the street's expectations in January. The stock failed to hold above $5.00 (it closed at $4.57 on Friday).
How to play it. Pandit's quite the wordsmith. He must enjoy writing letters. Another was just released, this time to shareholders, echoing much of the hype he offered in the aforementioned "internal" memo. Once bitten, twice shy? Another Citi dichotomy. If you believe cat calls of "Pandit the Bandit," you're probably scooping up put options ahead of the company's April 18 earnings announcement. I think the Kool-Aid drinkers will start to come out in full force in the coming days, hoping upon hope for more shameless flirtation with $5.00. As I was on the last go-round, I am with the Citi bulls. Even if you have to suffer through another lackluster earnings report, you face the prospect of dividends as early as 2012. This alone ought to help lift the stock price. Citi should continue to post profits and get up to speed with consensus estimates, setting the shares up to easily double over the next two years. Starting in the $4.50's, I think adding C common stock here makes sense, particularly if you are an investor with a time horizon of 3 to 5 years or more.
Ford (F). Ford gets respect, it just can't seem to hang on to it. As I noted in a recent Seeking Alpha article, bargain hunters should love F anywhere under $17.00. As of Friday, it's trading at just $14.36. Not only has Ford's incredible turnaround seen sales skyrocket, but an accounting change in the offing could add as much as $13 billion to the company's 2011 profit. Once the subdued Kool-Aid drinkers get a hold of this news, look out.
How to play it. Like Citi, long-term investors could benefit by accumulating F shares. I am looking at near-term ITM call options, such as the April $14 calls, which closed at $0.85 on Friday, and longer-term OTM calls, including the December $17 calls at $0.88. If F continues the pop it started on Friday this week, I see lots of upside in both plays.
Coinstar (CSTR). I've been burnt by Coinstar. Management keeps head-faking about partnerships. It seems that the Amazon (AMZN) rumor is dead in the water. I took the bait and went long on some March OTM calls, which will expire worthless this week, barring an incredible development. You win some, you lose some. Last week, however, I received an alert over my Briefing.com InPlay service noting potential cooperation between Coinstar and Walmart (WMT). Something's up. And when it becomes official, CSTR shares should rise. Take the Kool-Aid out of the cupboard. The story, looking six month's out, should continue to be Netflix (NFLX) coming back down to earth in the face of efforts by its competitors to strengthen their positions relative to the Netflix juggernaut.
How to play it. I generally don't go to the well one too many times, but I might initiate a position in CSTR ATM call options with April or July expirations. I anticipate firm news, which ought to elevate the shares. I would trade out of the calls immediately after the news. If the hefty premiums scare you, consider the somewhat bold move, given the negative press surrounding CSTR these days, of selling CSTR $40 puts. In this case, you can benefit from the premiums, but run the risk of getting put 100 shares of CSTR stock for every put contract you sell. With time on your side, even the March $40 puts look attractive. You could have sold them for $0.45, as of Friday's close.
Global X Copper Miners ETF (COPX). I sold my position, and took profits, in COPX right before it tanked last week. Copper's supply and demand dynamics remain intact. Plenty of copper Kool-Aid drinkers were humbled by this week's decline in the metal. They have reason, however, to flood message boards predicting a rise from red-headed stepchild to silver and gold status for copper.
How to play it. If you can stomach some short-term volatility, loading up on COPX, which does not own physical copper, but gives you exposure to the miners makes sound mid- to long-term sense. For a more diversified approach, consider the Aberdeen Chile Fund (CH). It pays a dividend and provides your portfolio with not only a copper play, but an inside into one of the world's strongest economies.