The Party’s Final Cocktail

I absolutely love the thrill of investing. There are few things in this world as exciting as the adrenaline rush of high-risk, high-reward stocks. Knowing there were other investors looking for this same excitement, we launched Cocktail Stocks.

Earlier this year, our Publisher Phil Ash challenged the editorial team at Investing Daily to listen closely to our readers and provide them with the most value of any financial publisher. He was adamant that we have no sacred cows. If we can give more value by reallocating our efforts, then he wants it done yesterday.

I really respect him for that. He could easily squeeze more profit from underperforming products by paying some freelancer to throw together content on the cheap. He has no interest in taking the easy way out and diminishing quality.

To that end, I’ve taken a closer look at Cocktail Stocks. Although many readers had a lot of fun (and made money) with Cocktail Stocks, I know we can provide more value by reallocating the resources into our other products. This represents our last issue.

I’m sad to see the party end, but I know you’ll get more for your money in the other Investing Daily resources you rely on.

As we raise our glasses one last time, I leave you with my final thoughts on each of the open Cocktail Stocks positions.

Vale (NYSE: VALE), based in Brazil, is the world’s second-largest producer of iron ore and nickel. Iron ore is used to make steel and the key to the global steel market is China, the world’s largest producer and consumer. The China Iron and Steel Association (CISA) estimates that 73 percent of Chinese steel demand is used by the property construction, infrastructure and machinery industries.

In 2010 and 2011, the Chinese government was worried about inflation; the country’s consumer price inflation reached 6.5 percent in mid-2011, well above the government’s informal 4 percent target. To quell inflation, China aggressively hiked interest rates and bank reserve requirements. The government also directly targeted speculation in the property market in an effort to prevent a bubble forming.

As a result of the economic slowdown caused by these measures, Chinese steel demand growth has moderated and the local market is currently over-supplied. Slumping steel demand has also hit the prices of iron ore and metallurgical coal, the two most important raw materials used to produce steel.

However, there’s not much additional downside for Vale from current levels and the long-term outlook looks far brighter. On the demand side of the equation, with inflation now under control, the Chinese government has cut interest rates and reduced bank reserve requirements. As a result, new lending activity at Chinese banks has picked up meaningfully.

In early September, Chinese officials announced another round of fiscal stimulus, giving the green light to 25 new subway lines, 13 highway projects, airports, energy production and wastewater treatment facilities. The total investment in infrastructure projects approved since the spring is around $135 billion. While that’s a far cry from the $586 billion the government spent during the crisis of 2008 and 2009, the Chinese economy is in far healthier shape today than was the case 4 years ago. On the margin, the stimulus spending will boost fixed asset investment and steel demand.

On the supply side, with steel prices falling under $100 per metric ton, many smaller iron producers with higher cost mines can’t turn a profit. As smaller producers cut back their output that will tighten the supply side of the market.

With the steel cycle beginning to turn, Vale remains a solid long-term buy under 25.

Teekay Tankers (NYSE: TNK) continues to suffer due to the depressed market for tankers. The day-rates charged for tankers remain stuck near the lowest levels in a decade because of a glut of tanker ships built during the boom years for tanker rates from 2003 through 2007.

Over the next two years, fewer new tankers are slated to enter the fleet than has been the case over the past two years. In addition, tanker companies will continue to retire and scrap older ships with day-rates this low. Some companies are converting tankers for other uses such as floating oil production platforms. Over time this will eliminate the glut of ships, but that will take time and the tanker market is unlikely to see improved fundamentals until the 2014 to 2015 period.

Teekay Tankers is a quality company in a tough industry group. Management’s move to enter the product tanker market—tankers used to carry refined products such as gasoline and chemicals—is a smart one because that market faces far less of a supply overhang. We also like the firm’s relationship with its parent Teekay Corp (NYSE: TK), one of the most respected tanker firms in the world.

Teekay is a shrewd long-term speculation on a recovery in the tanker market. While you wait for tanker rates to recover, the company pays out a $0.11 per quarter dividend, equivalent to a yield of over 11 percent at current prices. However, despite that high yield, don’t be lulled into thinking this is a safe income play. The company’s dividend will rise and fall, depending on conditions in the tanker market. At current prices, Teekay Tankers rates a hold and is appropriate only for aggressive investors with a longer term investing horizon.

ProShares UltraShort 20+ Year Treasury (NYSE: TBT) is an exchange-traded fund (ETF) designed to gain value when the price of long-term US Treasuries declines. Because a bond’s price moves inversely with yield, this ETF would rise in value when the yields on long-term Treasury bonds rise.

Thanks to weak economic growth and the continuing sovereign debt crisis in Europe, investors have been risk-averse over the past few years. Risk-averse investors tend to park money in Treasuries as a safe haven when they’re worried about global economic and credit conditions, even though US bonds have remained ultra-low.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is trying to change this. The Fed’s decision to announce another round of quantitative easing (QE) focused on purchasing mortgaged-backed securities until the employment picture improves is partly an effort to push up inflation expectations. Ben Bernanke is a student of the Great Depression and is willing to use any measures possible to prevent deflation, including inflationary stimulus.

Since the announcement of “QE infinity” in September, inflation expectations have spiked. Inflation is bad news for bonds and other fixed-income investments because it reduces the real yield investors receive. Rising inflation would tend to push up the yields on government bonds, as investors demand a higher yield to offset higher inflation. Holding this ETF is a solid hedge against rising inflation and an eventual rise in bond yields.

iShares Italy Index (NYSE: EWI) is an ETF that tracks the performance of the Italian stock market. As the third-largest economy in the euro zone, Italy is simply too big to fail. The European Union could not afford to bail out Italy, which boasts a far larger economy than troubled Greece.

The good news is that under the leadership of technocratic Prime Minister Mario Monti, Italy has pushed through budget austerity that would have been impossible in a normal market environment. Although the economy remains in recession, Italy should be able to bring its budget back under control over the next few years and improve sentiment toward its markets.

Moreover, the European Central Bank’s (ECB) announced that it’s willing to buy Italian government debt in unlimited quantities to push down borrowing costs. To qualify for this aid, Italy would need to apply for aid from Europe’s bailout fund and agree to fiscal austerity conditions. Italy has not done that nor does it have plans to do so. However, the threat of ECB intervention has been enough to send Italy’s borrowing costs sharply lower. All this bodes well for the Italian economy.

Investors should also remember that Italy’s economy and its stock market are two different things. One of the country’s largest companies is oil giant Eni (NYSE: E) which has projects underway in the North Sea, Middle East and Africa. Eni’s main products are oil and gas, both priced in dollars, not euros. Moreover, oil and gas prices are generally determined by global economic conditions, not what’s happening in Italy. As with many Italian multinational companies, Eni isn’t reliant on the Italian economy for growth.

The Italy iShares rate a buy under 20.

TransGlobe Energy (NSDQ: TGA) of Canada produces about 18,000 barrels per day (bbl/day) of oil from fields primarily in Egypt and Yemen. Egypt is by far the larger market for TransGlobe, accounting for around 90 percent of production in the most recent quarter. Egypt is also the source of most of the company’s growth potential and accounts for 93 percent of this year’s capital spending budget.

TransGlobe produces entirely from onshore fields and enjoys multiple avenues of production growth in coming years. The company works on enhancing and improving production from existing wells. In addition, it has drilled new wells on its existing acreage position, targeting new oil deposits. The company also has been an active bidder on new assets, acquiring concessions on new fields and other companies with land positions in Egypt.

Given the company’s successful drilling results in recent quarters, TransGlobe is on track to boost its production to around 40,000 bbl/day by 2017, more than doubling current output.

The stock was hit earlier this year due to a drop-off in oil prices, but with Brent crude oil prices back well over $100/bbl, the stock has been rallying again. Expect continued volatility in the stock because of fluctuating oil prices, but the long-term outlook for production growth is solid. Egypt has significant political risk but that’s largely priced into the stock. TransGlobe rates a buy under 15 for more aggressive investors.

Market Vectors Gulf States (NYSE: MES) is an ETF that tracks the performance of stocks in several Gulf countries including Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The economy of countries in the Gulf are heavily leveraged to energy prices and with Brent crude oil well over $100/bbl and natural gas prices outside North America still healthy, the region should continue to flourish.

Owning the ETF amounts to a bet that energy prices are likely to remain elevated over the long-term. The Market Vectors Gulf States ETF rates a buy under 23.50.

National Bank of Greece (NYSE: NBG) is the largest retail and corporate bank based in Greece. The bank held a large amount of Greek sovereign debt; the bank’s equity took a major hit when that debt was restructured. The bank has since been recapitalized using bailout funds and it will eventually need to repay this capital injection by raising capital through other means, such as a share offering.

National Bank of Greece controls about one-third of the Greek banking market, which has been clobbered by the sovereign debt crisis. However, that’s well-known and factored into the price of the stock. If Greece is able to restructure its debt, stick to austerity and remain in the euro, sentiment surrounding the stock would improve dramatically.

In addition, NBG has a solid market position in Turkey and southeastern Europe. Turkey in particular is a massive emerging market with plenty of long-term growth potential.

The bank is clearly one of the most aggressive plays in the Cocktail Stocks Portfolio but has tremendous upside potential, as Europe works through its fiscal crisis over the next few years. National Bank of Greece is a worthy speculation under 3 for aggressive investors.

China Cord Blood (NYSE: CO) is the first and largest company in China to collect and store umbilical cord blood stem cells from newborn babies. Stem cells are increasingly used in the manufacture of medical treatments tailored to an individual patient. The company operates stem cell storage facilities in Beijing, China.

In its first quarter of fiscal 2013, the company’s profits soared 34.5 percent compared to the same quarter one year ago. The firm also signed up 16,460 new patients for its service, a quarterly record for subscriptions, bringing the total to well over 250,000.

China Cord Blood is a volatile stock but its long-term growth potential is strong. China Cord Blood rates a speculative buy under 4.

Infosys Technologies (NSDQ: INFY) is an Indian information technology (IT) firm that provides clients with business process outsourcing (BPO), which includes functions such as customer service and accounting.

BPO is a relatively mature market with thin margins. Increasingly, Infosys is expanding into more value-added and high-end services such as business consulting and designing and developing custom software applications for business. Infosys should continue to benefit as corporate IT spending increases in coming years. The company also benefits from a top-notch customer list; virtually all of Infosys’ revenue derives from repeat business from existing customers.

The stock is volatile because it tends to move in tandem with India’s local stock market, but the company’s long-term growth prospects are solid. But Infosys under 55.

Symantec (NSDQ: SYMC) makes IT security products. While it’s probably best known for its Norton antivirus and security software sold primarily to consumers and small businesses, it also sells an extensive range of security products to larger enterprises.

The growing need for enhanced IT security is a secular trend. As companies store more data on computer networks, the frequency and sophistication of attacks aimed at stealing that data is increasing. IT security is a necessity, not a luxury. Even in weak environments for IT spending, companies attempt to maintain the spending necessary to protect valuable data and systems.

The company’s new CEO, Steve Bennett, will announce a revamped long-term plan in coming months. In particular, the company is expected to focus more on the burgeoning consumer and enterprise market for mobile devices. The proliferation of business-enabled gadgets such as smartphones and tablets is giving rise to new corporate security threats. Further details of Symantec’s new strategic direction should be an upside catalyst for the stock. Buy Symantec under 18.

Greenbrier Companies (NYSE: GBX) manufactures freight rail cars and offers car leasing and repair services. A train can move a ton of freight for around 450 miles on a single gallon of diesel fuel, making rail a far more efficient mode of transport than trucks. In addition, thanks to investments in track quality upgrades and better IT track management systems, railroads have improved their efficiency and on-time deliveries dramatically over the past decade. Rail traffic in the US continues to grow.

A glut of railcars has depressed pricing, but the gradual reduction of excess supplies is giving Greenbrier the flexibility to increase prices for new cars. In the third quarter of 2012, the company delivered 4,500 new railcars, up from 3,700 units in the same year-ago quarter. The firm also booked orders for 3,100 new railcars.

As of the end of May, Greenbrier held a backlog of 11,500 railcars with a total value of $1.14 billion, compared to a backlog of 12,500 cars worth $1.10 billion at the end of February. That means the average value of railcars in the company’s backlog was about $99,000 at the end of May, up from about $88,000 as of the end of February, a significant jump in pricing. With margins likely to continue rising, Greenbrier rates a buy under 20.

AU Optronics (NYSE: AUO) is a leading manufacturer of liquid crystal display (LCD) flat panel TVs and monitors. Demand growth for LCD displays has been weak in recent quarters and the industry has faced a glut of supply, hurting margins. However, because of weak profitability, the industry hasn’t added much capacity in recent quarters. Supply is beginning to tighten and it’s likely prices will stabilize in the final quarter of 2012 and into 2013.

Another potential demand driver is the introduction of Windows 8  this year, which should unleash pent-up demand for computers and laptops. Many consumers and businesses are delaying new PC purchases until Microsoft’s new operating system is released.

In addition, AU Optronics is shifting into newer higher-margin products, such as thinner and lighter smartphone displays and screens for tablet computers. Growth in demand for these mobile computing devices is far stronger than the legacy PC business and represents a long-term growth opportunity for AU Optronics. Buy AU Optronics under 5.

Roundy’s (NSDQ: RNDY) is a grocery store chain focused on the Wisconsin and Illinois markets. The company enjoys interesting competitive advantages, including positions in attractive locations that experience less of a competitive threat from traditional grocery retailers and big-box retailers. With a $0.23 percent quarterly dividend, the stock offers a more than 14 percent yield.

Nonetheless, the company experienced in the second quarter of 2012 a more than 3 percent decline in revenue from stores open more than one year. Management noted in its conference call that price competition is heating up in its core Midwest markets. It’s unlikely this will change over the near term and I expect Roundy’s to cut its dividend in 2013.

Roundy’s was an interesting story that just didn’t pan out. Sell Roundy’s and take the loss.

Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX) pioneered the service that allows customers to rent online the DVDs of movies that are delivered to their homes via the mail. As technology evolves, the company’s business has shifted in favor of allowing subscribers to stream movies directly to their TVs via the Internet.

The problem with Netflix is growing competition, which is pushing down prices. Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN), Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) and others now offer a service similar to Netflix.

Netflix enjoyed a distinct advantage over would-be competitors in the early years because of its network of distribution centers and mailing facilities to manage the distribution and return of DVDs. But with Netflix subscribers increasingly shunning DVDs and Blu-ray Discs for content delivered instantly via the Internet, the firm’s much-vaunted distribution chain has lost value. The shift online opens the door for almost any company with an online presence to compete with Netflix, including the big heavyweights such as Apple and Amazon.com. Both of these competitors sport market capitalizations that dwarf Netflix.

Technically, Netflix looks vulnerable and has been a weak performer despite strength in the broader market indexes. A break in the stock’s price below 53 would likely signal another leg lower for the stock to around 40 to 45. Investors who shorted the stock on our recommendation should hold their shorts for now and look to cover those positions for a profit if the stock falls to around 45.

Tata Motors (NYSE: TTM) is India’s largest producer of commercial vehicles with about a 60 percent share of the domestic market. In 2008, the company purchased Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), a unit that now accounts for more than half of the firm’s total revenues.

JLR has significant growth opportunities in China, a market that accounts for 17 percent of JLR’s revenues, more than triple what it was just three years ago. The firm is also seeing strong demand for its Range Rover Evoque model, prompting it to boost production at its UK-based plant.

An excellent play on growth in two of the world’s most exciting emerging markets—China and India—Tata Motors is a buy under 25.

New Gold (AMEX: NGD) is benefiting from a jump in inflation expectations caused by global central banks’ latest round of monetary easing. In particular, the US Federal Reserve has announced a third round of quantitative easing (QE) dubbed “QE Infinity,” by which the bank plans to buy roughly $40 billion worth of mortgaged-backed securities per month until labor market conditions improve.

Meanwhile, the European Central Bank (ECB) announced a plan to buy debt issued by countries such as Italy and Spain in unlimited quantities to ease the region’s financial crisis. Rising inflation expectations has pushed up gold prices and we expect gold to top $2,000 per ounce by early 2013.

New Gold’s growing low-cost production is the stock’s main attraction. The miner has four operating mining projects: New Afton in Canada, Mesquite in California, Cerro San Pedro in Mexico and Peak Mines in Australia. These mines produced a total of 387,000 ounces of gold in 2011 at a cash cost per ounce of less than $450, not bad when you consider that gold averaged about $1,700 per ounce over the past year.

New Gold stands out because of its declining production costs, a rarity at a time when rising diesel prices and labor costs have eaten into many operators’ profit margins. Management expects New Gold’s production expenses to decline even further when mine expansions and new mines come online.

Output has declined at its California-based mine, which has a production cost of more than $700 per ounce. Meanwhile, output from Cerro San Pedro continues to ramp up, at a cost of about $250 per ounce. The 100 percent-owned New Afton mine entered production in July 2012 and is yielding about 85,000 ounces on an annualized basis. Factoring in the copper that’s also produced at New Afton, the company’s cash costs for gold production are in the negative.

The El Morro mine in Chile is New Gold’s most exciting growth prospect. The junior operator owns a 30 percent stake in this project, while mining giant Goldcorp (NYSE: GG) owns the remaining equity interest and is funding the mine’s development. This site also yields substantial amounts of copper that help to defray mining costs. The mine is expected to begin producing commercial quantities of gold in late 2016 or early 2017.

Management expects New Gold’s output to increase to between 450,000 and 500,000 ounces in 2013 from 387,000 ounces in 2011. El Morro and other long-term projects should enable the miner to grow its gold output more than 800,000 ounces by 2017. Buy New Gold under 13.


 

 

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