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By Renee Ann Butler

As the market starts to improve, there is a lot of opportunity out there. Inefficiencies are common when the market turns hopeful, and exploiting those inefficiencies is a tried and true strategy for making strong returns. The thing is, if you are like most investors, you don't have $57,000 lying around to buy 100 shares in Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), for instance. Even though you can feel fairly confident you will get a decent return off your investment, that is a lot of money to ante up on one stock. On the flip side, you probably don't want to mess around too much with penny stocks and that sort of thing - they are notoriously unpredictable. Instead, you want stocks that have strong predicted returns and fairly low pricing.

Here are four companies to get you started on your research. They are each priced under $40 a share and the consensus is that these companies are Strong Buys.

Synopsys, Inc. (NASDAQ:SNPS) is a $4.31 billion market cap semiconductor equipment and materials company with a forward price to earnings ratio of 13.25 and expected earnings growth of 8.5% a year on average over the next five years. Synopsys is great because it sells the type of software that is unlikely to be shied away from no matter how uncertain the economy, especially with regard to its mobile devices technologies and cloud infrastructure products. The company reported a mixed Q2 performance in late May, beating revenue estimates but falling short on earnings per share. Both Ray Dalio's Bridgewater Associates and Third Avenue Management sold out of Synopsys in the fourth quarter, when the stock's share price averaged $26.71. I think that may have been premature. Synopsys is currently trading at $29.45 on a mean one-year target estimate of $35.33.

Woodward, Inc. (NASDAQ:WWD) is an industrial electrical equipment company with a $2.64 billion market cap. The company is priced at 14.22 times its forward earnings and is expected to grow its earnings at an average annual rate of 15% over the next five years. Right now, Woodward is priced at $37.45 a share and carries a mean one-year target estimate of $49.57, and I think it will make it. The company is really strong in a number of areas - it has strong earnings growth, revenue growth and a solid financial position overall. Looking at its most recent quarterly performance, reported in late April, the company is doing well. It beat estimates and maintained Q3 guidance. Chuck Royce is a big fan of this company (see what his Royce & Associates is buying).

HSN, Inc. (NASDAQ:HSNI) is a $2.26 billion market cap broadcast retail company with a forward price to earnings ratio of 13.64 and expected earnings growth of 20% a year on average over the next five years. It is currently trading at $38.80 on a mean one-year target estimate of $47.07. In April, HSN acquired Chasing Fireflies LLC, a direct-to-consumer children's and family wear brand and analysts have been upgrading the stock for months. Add to this the company's solid stock performance, impressive earnings per share growth and reasonably low debt, and there is a lot to be bullish about. Joel Greenblatt's Gotham Asset Management initiated a new position in HSNI during the first quarter (see what else Greenblatt is buying here).

Questcor Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOR) is a biotech company with a $2.62 billion market cap. The company is priced at 12.56 times its forward earnings and is expected to grow its earnings at an average annual rate of 38.25% over the next five years. Questcor recently announced that it is extending its share repurchase program by 5 million shares, which will surely add to shareholder value. The company also has reasonable debt, strong levels of return on equity and good revenue growth. Ken Heebner sold out of his stake in Questcor during the first quarter, but I think he jumped the gun. During the first quarter, Questcor averaged $34.79 a share, and now Questcor is priced at $40.51 a share and carries a mean one-year target estimate of $54.

Source: 4 Stocks Under $40 That Analysts Love