By Renee Ann Butler
Stocks such as Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Bank of America (Bank of America), General Electric (NYSE:GE) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) get massive amounts of media attention -- they are large companies with strong performance -- but that doesn't mean that big fish are the only ones worth cultivating. Under the surface, there are great stocks that have smaller market caps and stronger earnings increases.
Some of the smaller companies in the Industrial Goods sector are perfect examples of this in action. Plus, given the nature of their businesses, they are less risky. After all, as the economy picks up, Industrial Goods is one of the first sectors to realize those gains. Here are four of my top picks.
MRC Global (NYSE:MRC) is a machine tools and accessories company. It has a $2.07 billion market cap and is priced at 12.93 times its forward earnings. Analysts are expecting this company's EPS to increase at an average rate of 15% a year over the next five years. MRC debuted in an IPO on April 12, but don't let its young life in the public markets fool you. MRC is the product of a 2007 buy-out that Goldman sponsored and, based on its sales, it is the largest pipe, valves and fittings distributor in the world. Over the past few years, MRC's operating results have just gotten better and better, and there is no reason to think the trend will not continue. Goldman Sachs still has 10% of the company.
Woodward (NASDAQ:WWD) is a $2.67 billion market cap industrial electrical equipment company. Right now, it is trading at 14.40 times its forward earnings. Consensus estimates put Woodward's earnings increasing at an average rate of 15% a year over the next five years. The company recently approved a $0.08 quarterly dividend ($0.32 a year or a yield of 0.80%). It goes ex-dividend June 1, 2012. While the company has some weaknesses, like weak operating cash flow, I think its strengths are far greater. Woodward has a strong record of earnings growth, revenue growth and an increase in its return on equity. Chuck Royce's Royce & Associates is a big fan of the company. Citadel Investment Group and Renaissance Technologies are also bullish on Woodward.
Lincoln Electric (NASDAQ:LECO) is a small tools and accessories company. It has a $4.06 billion market cap and is priced at 13.12 times its forward earnings. Analysts are expecting this company's EPS to increase at an average rate of 15.57% a year over the next five years. The company has a solid cash position. Granted, it will need it to be able to execute some of its long term strategies and offset low profit margins, but Lincoln Electric is positioned to offset that, with its reasonable levels of debt, robust revenue growth and impressive record of growth in its earnings per share. Chuck Royce's Royce & Associates and Ken Fisher's Fisher Asset Management like this company.
Timken (NYSE:TKR) is a $4.80 billion market cap machine tools and accessories company. Right now, it is trading at 7.68 times its forward earnings. Consensus estimates put Woodward's earnings increasing at an average rate of 12.57% a year over the next five years. While Timken has somewhat low profit margins, it is strong in several areas. The company has had brilliant stock price performance, strong revenue growth and increasing earnings per share, all while keeping its debt within reasonable levels. Israel Englander's Millennium Management, Ken Griffin's Citadel Investment Group and Cliff Asness' AQR Capital Management are fans of Timken.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.