First Cash Financial Services: Living Large in a Jobless Recovery

| About: First Cash (FCFS)

High-unemployment continues to plague the U.S. economy. According to the Department of Labor, the official unemployment rate recently increased to 9.1%. It's tough to imagine the illusion of a recovery extending much longer when millions of people are unemployed.

And it doesn't take a market expert to absorb all of the aforementioned economic data and come to the conclusion that the U.S. economy is in trouble.

So the question as a small cap investor or any investor for that matter is - how can we profit from high-unemployment and a struggling economy.

It stands to reason that pawn shops would do well during economic hard times.

I have found a small burgeoning company that performed well during the last recession and continues to perform well as high unemployment lingers.

Texas-based First Cash Financial Services (NASDAQ: FCFS) has a stronghold on the pawn shop and cash advance businesses.

With a market cap of $1.2 billion and 627 stores scattered throughout the U.S. and Mexico, First Cash Financial Services offer the traditional pawn shop services plus cash advance stores.

Typically, an individual goes to a pawn shop when they need quick cash. As you can imagine, during tough economic times pawn shops benefit from people in need of cash to pay bills and feed their family.

And even though pawn shops are known as being the middle man between sellers and buyers this is not where most of their money is made. They make large portion of their money through the lucrative business of payday lending.

Payday lenders make small, short-term loans against the borrower's paycheck. This allows the borrower to have cash quicker than going to a traditional bank, depositing the funds and waiting for the cash to become available. And, of course, the pawn shop charges a hefty fee for the benefit of the cash advance. First Cash charges up to 240 percent for such services.

Fundamentally, the company is impressive

First of all, the company has actually upped its EPS in each year of the past decade. A feat not accomplished by many publicly traded companies.

Moreover, First Cash recently reported strong profit margins at 13.1 percent and strong recent growth. It recently upped its EPS 51.5 percent and sales 27.7 percent in the last quarter.

I also like the fact that the company has a very small debt to equity ratio at 0.4 percent. One of the only blemishes on the stock is that at the moment it is not as cheap as I would typically prefer. It currently sells for a PEG of 0.91, which is not overly expensive for a fast growing, fundamentally sound stock.

There is no arguing there is value in First Cash Financial. The question is whether the demand for its services will continue if the economy turns around. Again, one way to gauge the potential for the stock is to watch the unemployment rate. With 9.1% unemployment in May, a large number of people remain out of work and will likely seek out the assistance of the pawn shops during tough times.

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