10 Recession Resistant Graham Picks

by: Hedgephone

It's getting pretty obvious that we are still struggling through the "Great Recession". What we have seen over the past couple of years could possibly be a type of "dead cat bounce" similar to what stocks saw back in 1931 and 1932 when the markets retraced its losses by around 70% before tumbling some 89% peak to trough.

With that said, Ben Graham decided to invest in stocks trading below net current assets during that period to gain a "margin of safety" and he made a 20% annual return throughout the 1930's following a strategy that bought stocks below book value. Here are 10 stocks that could outperform during the coming malaise:

Micron Technology (NASDAQ:MU) shares have been badly bruised of late, but the book value and cash flow at MU remain pretty strong. Last time MU traded at these levels the stock was a good buy. This time around, we are heading into a recession and the technology space is notoriously cyclical. Look for MU shares to catch a strong floor at 50% or so of tangible book at which point value investors can start taking a position in the name provided losses on the income statement aren't too damaging.

Micron is down another 9% today on weak earnings and guidance, but investors may be able to bargain hunt here in the near future. While analysts expect more losses and the company lost fourteen cents this past quarter, the large discount to book is more than enough cushion for bottoms up value investors in my view at 60% or so of tangible book.

New Concept Energy (NYSEMKT:GBR) is a tiny nano cap company trading at a fraction of book with very high levels of insider ownership. At some point, the company may go private and value could be unlocked for outside shareholders.

With a tiny float and plenty of noise around the Yahoo message boards, the stock of GBR can be quite volatile. That said, the combination of lending, retirement community operations, and natural gas holdings is pretty interesting and the discount to book is very compelling here.

Avatar Holdings (AVTR) is a real estate holding company which appears undervalued, but keep in mind this is more or less a play on retirement communities and residential real estate in the beaten down Florida area. At 30% of tangible book value, these shares look cheap and debt to equity at Avatar is quite low. I would be careful here, but think taking a 2% position for your overall holdings in this cheap stock could pay dividends in the future.

I like the fact that investors get the discount to book value as well as close to 17,000 acres of land in this stock. While the company is losing money, hopefully management can find a way to turn things around and stop the bleeding.

A.C. Moore Arts & Crafts, Inc. (NASDAQ:ACMR-OLD) is a cheap name at around 25% of tangible book value and at a discount to liquidation value. Like some others on this list, the company is losing money but the value is real and tangible. Hopefully these guys can either find a buyer for the business or it can find a way to make the business profitable in the future.

The owners of the business, which are the shareholders, no doubt prefer that the enterprise "liquidates before going bankrupt." -- A Warren Buffett quote regarding "cigar butt" stocks, or companies trading below liquidation value.

Bunge (NYSE:BG) shares are too cheap in my view at 8.5X earnings and 65% of book. That said, this is a play on hard assets and will do much better if QE3 is announced and the dollar falls against other currencies given that it is a farming/commodities concern and is fairly diversified across the agricultural commodities.

That said, BG buys and sells commodities and a downturn in prices does not necessitate a fall in earnings for the company overall. Tangible book value per share has grown at a nice clip over the years, and people need to eat in a depression or a recession.

Amedisys (NASDAQ:AMED) has been on my radar screen for some time given that I cover Magic Formula stocks and this business has been on the screen for around a year now. AMED shareholders are down a good 60% in recent months, and at a large discount to book and with a strong cash flow return on capital I think the home healthcare stock is relatively attractive post sell off.

That said, I am still cautious on the overall market and Medicare reimbursement issues continue to weigh heavily on the entire home health industry. Overall, expect the headwinds to continue but one man's trash may end up being the value investor's treasure. People always need home-care in any market. As my grandfather, a surgeon, used to say -- if people get sick they can always trade you a chicken to pay for their doctor's appointment!

Duckwall (DUCK) shares have not fallen much over the past month, mainly because shares are already trading for around 40% of tangible book value. The company has managed to transition out of its lower margin businesses and I think the turnaround efforts here may pay off over the longer term.

That being said, the trend toward e-commerce and away from brick and mortar is so strong that Duckwall's food offering may be the best staple in its current product line up.

Hastings (NASDAQ:HAST) is a small town small business operating 145 stores throughout the Midwest. The company also operates e-commerce website gohastings.com which has grown to boast 300,000 unique visitors. Hastings does over half a billion in revenue yearly but operates in a low margin industry.

I really like the company's transition into coffee and into thrift which I view as two areas which will not be replaced by the internet or be crushed by the coming recession. At just 25% of tangible book, these shares have been punished too much for a recent quarterly earnings loss, provided the company takes steps to adapt to a world dominated by online media.

As a shareholder, former turnaround advisor, and a finance degree holder; I hope Hastings will look long and hard at areas which cannot be replaced by the web -- items like fitted baseball hats, sneakers, toys, vinyl records, coffee, skateboards, food, soft drinks, thrift, pawn, etc. are items the company can focus on besides renting and selling Blu Ray (which should pick up going forward) and selling books which may be in long term decline thanks to Amazon and the e-reader.

Additionally, I hope Hastings can be the leading retailer in America of used tablet computers, Apple IPhones (NASDAQ:AAPL), Blackberries (RIMM), Motorola (NYSE:MMI) 4G phones, and Amazon Kindles (NASDAQ:AMZN). Pawn has been around for thousands of years and will likely do well in the coming financial mess.

The company needs to focus on its business model, not its physical locations. Additionally, it should focus on the product offering and spend money on preserving the top line via new business channels versus expansion as the big box retailers move toward smaller stores and away from the super store concept.

Hastings has been around since 1968, and it has done a good job in years past so hopefully it can stem the tide a bit and turn things around before it's too late.

Disclosure: I am long HAST, BGR, DUCK.