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No man was ever wise by chance. Seneca

The single most important criteria to make to this list was that every single stock on the list had to be among the top 100 performing stocks. The strength of each stock was calculated by the following two measures.

1) Highest weighted Alpha - This is a measure of how much change there has been in the stock over a period of one year. Only the top candidates were selected.

2) Relative strength - It is a measure of price trend that indicates how a stock is performing relative to its peers in the industry. Only stocks with very high relative strength values were considered.

In addition to the above the following requirements had to be met also:

  1. 5 year ROE average of 15% or a 5 year projected EPS growth rate of 10%
  2. Current ratio of 3.5 or higher
  3. Sales should be trending upwards for the past 3 years
  4. Quick ratio of 3 or interest coverage ratio of 6.00 or higher

Many key ratios will be covered in this article and investors would do well to get a handle on some of the more important ones which are dealt with below.

Long-term debt-to-equity ratio is the total long term debt divided by the total equity. The amount of long-term debt a company carries on its balance sheet is very important for it indicates the amount of money a company owes that it doesn't expect to pay off in the next year. A balance sheet that illustrates long term debt has been decreasing for a few years is a sign that the company is doing well. When debt levels fall, and cash levels increase, the balance sheet is said to be improving and vice versa. If a company has too much debt on its books, it could end up being overwhelmed with interest payments and risk having too little working capital which could in the worst case scenario lead to bankruptcy.

Operating cash flow is generally a better metric than earnings per share because a company can show positive net earnings and still not be able to properly service its debt. The cash flow is what pays the bills.

Free cash flow yield is obtained by dividing free cash flow per share by the current price of each share. Generally lower ratios are associated with an unattractive investment and vice versa. Free cash flow takes into account capital expenditures and other ongoing costs associated with the day to day to functions of the business. In our view free cash flow yield is a better valuation metric then earnings yield because of the above factors.

The payout ratio tells us what portion of the profit is being returned to investors. A payout ratio over 100% indicates that the company is paying out more money to shareholders than they are making. This situation cannot last forever. In general if the company has a high operating cash flow and access to capital markets, they can keep this going on for a while. As companies usually only pay the portion of the debt that is coming due and not the whole debt, this technique/trick can technically be employed to maintain the dividend for some time. If the payout ratio continues to increase, the situation warrants close monitoring as this cannot last forever. If your tolerance for risk is low, look for similar companies with the same or higher yields, but with lower payout ratios. Individuals searching for other ideas might find this article to be of interest - 5 Stocks To Reflect Upon.

Current Ratio is obtained by dividing the current assets by current liabilities. This ratio allows you to see if the company can pay its current debts without potentially jeopardizing future earnings. Ideally the company should have a ratio of 1 or higher.

Price to free cash flow is obtained by dividing the share price by free cash flow per share. Higher ratios are associated with more expensive companies and vice versa. Lower ratios are generally more attractive. If a company generated $400 million in cash flow and then spent $100 million on capital expenditures, then its free cash flow is $300 million. If the share price is $100 and the free cash flow per share is $5, then the company trades at 20 times-free cash flow. This ratio is also useful because it can be used as a comparison to the average within the industry. This gives you an idea of how the company you are interested in holds up to the other companies within the industry.

Cash ratio is the ratio of the company's total cash and cash equivalents to its current liabilities; this ratio is used as a measure of a company's liquidity. It allows investors to determine how fast the company would be able to pay its short term debts if push came to shove. Higher numbers are better because it makes it easier for a company to ask for new loans, increase in credit lines, etc.

Interest coverage is usually calculated by dividing the earnings before interest and taxes for a period of one year by the interest expenses for the same time period. This ratio informs you of a company's ability to make its interest payments on its outstanding debt. Lower interest coverage ratios indicate that there is a larger debt burden on the company and vice versa. For example if a company has an interest ratio of 11.8, this means that it covers interest expenses 11.8 times with operating profits.

Levered free cash flow is the amount of cash available to stock holders after interest payments on debt are made. A company with a small amount of debt will only have to spend a modest amount of money on interest payments, which in turn means that there is more money to send to shareholders in the form of dividends and vice versa. See 5 Top Weighted Alpha Plays To Reflect On: Part II.

Company: REGENERON PHARMACEUTICALS (REGN)

Basic Key ratios

  1. Percentage Held by Insiders = 15.28
  2. Number of Institutional Sellers 12 Weeks = 1

Growth

  1. Net Income ($mil) 12/2011 = -222
  2. Net Income ($mil) 12/2010 = -104
  3. Net Income ($mil) 12/2009 = -68
  4. 12months Net Income this Quarterly/12 months Net Income 4Q's ago = -41.97
  5. Quarterly Net Income this Quarterly/same Quarter year ago = 126.82
  1. EBITDA ($mil) 12/2011 = -171
  2. EBITDA ($mil) 12/2010 = -76
  3. EBITDA ($mil) 12/2009 = -55
  1. Annual Net Income this Yr/ Net Income last Yr = -112.29
  2. Cash Flow ($/share) 12/2011 = -2.02
  3. Cash Flow ($/share) 12/2010 = -1.03
  4. Cash Flow ($/share) 12/2009 = -0.67
  1. Sales ($mil) 12/2011 = 446
  2. Sales ($mil) 12/2010 = 459
  3. Sales ($mil) 12/2009 = 379
  1. Annual EPS before NRI 12/2007 = -1.59
  2. Annual EPS before NRI 12/2008 = -1.05
  3. Annual EPS before NRI 12/2009 = -0.85
  4. Annual EPS before NRI 12/2010 = -1.26
  5. Annual EPS before NRI 12/2011 = -2.41

Performance

  1. Percentage Change Price 52 Weeks Relative to S&P 500 = 110.08
  2. Next 3-5 Year Estimate EPS Growth rate = 37.5
  3. EPS Growth Quarterly(1)/Q(-3) = 1-132.65
  4. ROE 5 Year Average 12/2011 = -30.52
  5. ROE 5 Year Average 09/2011 = -30.52
  6. Return on Investment 06/2011 = -30.86
  7. Debt/Total Cap 5 Year Average 12/2011 = 21.3
  8. Debt/Total Cap 5 Year Average 09/2011 = 21.3
  1. Current Ratio 06/2011 = 4.4
  2. Current Ratio 5 Year Average = 3.81
  3. Quick Ratio = 4.4
  4. Cash Ratio = 3.71
  5. Interest Coverage Quarterly = N/A
  1. Valuation
  1. Book Value Quarterly = 5.25
  2. Price/ Book = 26.69
  3. Price/ Cash Flow = N/A

Points of interest

$100K invested for 10 years would have grown to $756K.

The company reported total revenues of $123.0 million for the fourth quarter and $445.8 million for the year ended December 31, 2011. This includes EYLEA net product sales of $24.8 million for the fourth quarter of 2011. Regeneron ended the year with approximately $811 million in cash and securities, following an offering of convertible senior notes in October 2011.

"2011 was a milestone year for Regeneron led by the approval and launch of EYLEA for the treatment of wet age-related macular degeneration in the United States," said Leonard S. Schleifer, M.D., Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Regeneron. "The EYLEA launch is off to a strong start, with net sales of $24.8 million from launch on November 21 through December 31, 2011. We look to continue to build on this success through 2012, and we now forecast 2012 U.S. EYLEA net product sales of $250 million to $300 million."

Additionally, our collaborator Bayer HealthCare has submitted regulatory applications for EYLEA in Europe, Japan, and other countries, and our collaborator Sanofi has submitted a regulatory application for ZALTRAP in the EU. We are also pleased with progress in our pipeline, where ten antibodies are now in clinical development, including eight that are part of the Sanofi collaboration.

Company: GNC HOLDINGS (GNC)

Basic Key ratios

Percentage Held by Insiders = 2.44

Growth

  1. Net Income ($mil) 12/2011 = 132
  2. Net Income ($mil) 12/2010 = N/A
  3. Net Income ($mil) 12/2009 = N/A
  4. Quarterly Net Income this Quarterly/same Quarter year ago = 543.53
  1. Cash Flow ($/share) 12/2011 = 1.66
  2. Cash Flow ($/share) 12/2010 = N/A
  3. Cash Flow ($/share) 12/2009 = N/A
  1. Sales ($mil) 12/2011 = 2072
  2. Sales ($mil) 12/2010 = N/A
  3. Sales ($mil) 12/2009 = N/A
  1. Annual EPS before NRI 12/2011 = 1.52

Performance

  1. Percentage Change Price 52 Weeks Relative to S&P 500 = 104.94
  2. Next 3-5 Year Estimate EPS Growth rate = 15
  3. EPS Growth Quarterly(1)/Q(-3) = -181.82
  4. Return on Investment 06/2011 = 8.6
  1. Current Ratio 06/2011 = 3.06
  2. Quick Ratio = 1.22
  3. Cash Ratio = 0.73
  4. Interest Coverage Quarterly = 6.69

Valuation

  1. Book Value Quarterly = 9.53
  2. Price/ Book = 4.3
  3. Price/ Cash Flow = 23.50

Points of interest

$100K invested for 2 years would have grown to $205K

Company: UNITED RENTALS INC (URI)

Basic Key ratios

  1. Percentage Held by Insiders = 1.5
  2. Number of Institutional Sellers 12 Weeks = 4

Growth

  1. Net Income ($mil) 12/2011 = 101
  2. Net Income ($mil) 12/2010 = -26
  3. Net Income ($mil) 12/2009 = -62
  4. 12months Net Income this Quarterly/12 months Net Income 4Q's ago = 2333.33
  5. Quarterly Net Income this Quarterly/same Quarter year ago = 165
  1. EBITDA ($mil) 12/2011 = 901
  2. EBITDA ($mil) 12/2010 = 672
  3. EBITDA ($mil) 12/2009 = 606
  4. Annual Net Income this Yr/ Net Income last Yr = 488.46
  5. Cash Flow ($/share) 12/2011 = 10.08
  6. Cash Flow ($/share) 12/2010 = 8.14
  7. Cash Flow ($/share) 12/2009 = 7.39
  1. Sales ($mil) 12/2011 = 2611
  2. Sales ($mil) 12/2010 = 2237
  3. Sales ($mil) 12/2009 = 2358
  1. Annual EPS before NRI 12/2007 = 2.76
  2. Annual EPS before NRI 12/2008 = -0.19
  3. Annual EPS before NRI 12/2009 = -0.76
  4. Annual EPS before NRI 12/2010 = 0.33
  5. Annual EPS before NRI 12/2011 = 1.87

Performance

  1. Percentage Change Price 52 Weeks Relative to S&P 500 = 56.68
  2. Next 3-5 Year Estimate EPS Growth rate = 12
  3. EPS Growth Quarterly(1)/Q(-3) = 2-112.50
  4. ROE 5 Year Average 12/2011 = 162.8
  5. Return on Investment 06/2011 = 4.92
  6. Debt/Total Cap 5 Year Average 06/2011 = 73.69
  1. Current Ratio 06/2011 = 0.84
  2. Current Ratio 5 Year Average = 1.41
  3. Quick Ratio = 0.79
  4. Cash Ratio = 0.25
  5. Interest Coverage Quarterly = 1.93

Valuation

  1. Book Value Quarterly = 1.64
  2. Price/ Book = 28.58
  3. Price/ Cash Flow = 4.65

Points of interest

$100K invested for 10 years would have grown to $433K

Company: CARTERS INC (CRI)

Basic Key ratios

  1. Percentage Held by Insiders = 3.4
  2. Number of Institutional Sellers 12 Weeks = 5

Growth

  1. Net Income ($mil) 12/2011 = 114
  2. Net Income ($mil) 12/2010 = 146
  3. Net Income ($mil) 12/2009 = 116
  4. 12months Net Income this Quarterly/12 months Net Income 4Q's ago = -16.24
  5. Quarterly Net Income this Quarterly/same Quarter year ago = -0.91
  1. EBITDA ($mil) 12/2011 = 229
  2. EBITDA ($mil) 12/2010 = 278
  3. EBITDA ($mil) 12/2009 = 229
  4. Annual Net Income this Yr/ Net Income last Yr = -22.16
  5. Cash Flow ($/share) 12/2011 = 2.79
  6. Cash Flow ($/share) 12/2010 = 3.15
  7. Cash Flow ($/share) 12/2009 = 2.82
  1. Sales ($mil) 12/2011 = 2110
  2. Sales ($mil) 12/2010 = 1749
  3. Sales ($mil) 12/2009 = 1590
  1. Annual EPS before NRI 12/2007 = 1.39
  2. Annual EPS before NRI 12/2008 = 1.38
  3. Annual EPS before NRI 12/2009 = 2.15
  4. Annual EPS before NRI 12/2010 = 2.46
  5. Annual EPS before NRI 12/2011 = 2.09

Performance

  1. Percentage Change Price 52 Weeks Relative to S&P 500 = 72.3
  2. Next 3-5 Year Estimate EPS Growth rate = 8
  3. EPS Growth Quarterly(1)/Q(-3) = -101.82
  4. ROE 5 Year Average 12/2011 = 21.41
  5. ROE 5 Year Average 09/2011 = 21.41
  6. ROE 5 Year Average 06/2011 = 21.24
  7. Return on Investment 06/2011 = 12.35
  8. Debt/Total Cap 5 Year Average 12/2011 = 36.84
  1. Current Ratio 06/2011 = 5.12
  2. Current Ratio 5 Year Average = 4.48
  3. Quick Ratio = 2.85
  4. Cash Ratio = 1.82
  5. Interest Coverage Quarterly = 24.87

Valuation

  1. Book Value Quarterly = 13.75
  2. Price/ Book = 3.99
  3. Price/ Cash Flow = 19.7

Points of interest

$100K invested for 10 years would have grown to $387K.

Company: RAMBUS INC (RMBS)

Basic Key ratios

Percentage Held by Insiders = 5.65

Growth

  1. Net Income ($mil) 12/2011 = -43
  2. Net Income ($mil) 12/2010 = 151
  3. Net Income ($mil) 12/2009 = -92
  4. 12months Net Income this Quarterly/12 months Net Income 4Q's ago = -1483.88
  5. Quarterly Net Income this Quarterly/same Quarter year ago = -559.34
  1. EBITDA ($mil) 12/2011 = 28
  2. EBITDA ($mil) 12/2010 = 243
  3. EBITDA ($mil) 12/2009 = -58
  4. Annual Net Income this Yr/ Net Income last Yr = -128.53
  5. Cash Flow ($/share) 12/2011 = 0.32
  6. Cash Flow ($/share) 12/2010 = 0.71
  7. Cash Flow ($/share) 12/2009 = -0.75
  1. Sales ($mil) 12/2011 = 312
  2. Sales ($mil) 12/2010 = 323
  3. Sales ($mil) 12/2009 = 113
  1. Annual EPS before NRI 12/2007 = -0.24
  2. Annual EPS before NRI 12/2008 = -1.83
  3. Annual EPS before NRI 12/2009 = -0.88
  4. Annual EPS before NRI 12/2010 = 0.56
  5. Annual EPS before NRI 12/2011 = 0.03

Performance

  1. Percentage Change Price 52 Weeks Relative to S&P 500 = -77.1
  2. EPS Growth Quarterly(1)/Q(-3) = -103
  3. ROE 5 Year Average 12/2011 = -18.99
  4. Return on Investment 06/2011 = -2.06
  5. Debt/Total Cap 5 Year Average 12/2011 = 26.56
  1. Current Ratio 06/2011 = 4.62
  2. Current Ratio 5 Year Average = 7
  3. Quick Ratio = 4.61
  4. Cash Ratio = 4.6
  5. Interest Coverage Quarterly = N/A

Valuation

  1. Book Value Quarterly = 3.91
  2. Price/ Book = 1.22
  3. Price/ Cash Flow = 14.93

Conclusion

Long-term investors should consider waiting for a strong pullback before committing large sums of new money to this market. In the meantime, individuals can sell covered calls or naked puts if you are bullish on the stock to open up additional streams of income.

Disclaimer

This list of stocks is meant to serve as a starting point. Please do not treat this as a buying list. It is imperative that you do your due diligence and then determine if any of the above plays meet with your risk tolerance levels. The Latin maxim caveat emptor applies - let the buyer beware.

Source: 5 Top Rated Relative Strength Plays

Additional disclosure: EPS, Price, EPS surprise charts obtained from zacks.com. A major portion of the historical data used in this article was obtained from zacks.com.