5 Stocks Under $5 for 2011

As cliche as the term “stocks on sale” has become, there’s still something exciting about grabbing a great stock for less than five bucks a share. They just seem well equipped to dole out bigger rewards — in terms of percentage gains — than their higher-priced counterparts.

With that as a backdrop, here are five sub-$5 equities you may want to consider as we head into 2011.

1. Cincinnati Bell Inc. (NYSE: CBB) — Cincinnati Bell earned more in 2008 than it did in 2007, and earned more in 2009 than it did in 2008. Now that the economy is out of the rut, however, this regional telecom is anticipated to post less income this year than it did last year.

Respectfully, to the analysts, please notice the trend.

While rampant growth has never been the company’s strong suit, that’s not a fault of Cincinnati Bell — that’s just telecom. The trade-off is amazing value. Priced at only 5.7 times trailing earnings and 6.6 times earnings projections for the next twelve months, it’s a bargain by most standards. And remember, those are highly reliable earnings.

The icing on the Cincinnati Bell cake is the recently-swollen short interest. At 13.8% of the float, all those traders who drove the stock down lately may end up spurring a short-covering rally.

2. Mizuho Financial Group Inc. (NYSE: MFG) — Believe it or not, there are other investment-worthy countries in the Far East besides China. Try Japan, where the banks are apparently coming out of the balance-sheet-blasting credit crunch much faster than their U.S. counterparts. Though the official results aren’t in yet, Japan’s top three banks are expected to have more than tripled their profits in the past six months on a year-over-year basis. As more bad debt is shed from the books, bottom lines should continue to grow.

Are the numbers the real ones, or just the published ones? Great question, though it may not really matter. If the investing public believes in the results, they’ll respond in kind. That’s good news for the likes of Mizuho Financial Group, especially now that the company is looking to expand internationally.

3. LSI Corp. (NYSE: LSI) — After seven earnings beats and no misses in the past 14 quarters (and three beats in the past four quarters), the market should start to recognize that this semiconductor manufacturer is underestimated. The fact that the company is on pace to grow earnings by +37% this year and +8% next year is just gravy.

As it stands right now, LSI Corp. shares are priced at about nine times 2011’s anticipated earnings, which is stunningly low by tech stock standards against that kind of growth.

4. Graphic Packaging Holding Co. (NYSE: GPK) — While most investors are thinking of the obvious ways to play the rebounding economy, the savvy way to play it may well be with a group that’s too obvious to notice, like packaging, signage and printing companies. In fact, the profit of $0.08 per share Graphic Packaging Holding is expected to announce in early November would be a record-breaker for the company.

Graphic Packaging Holding has already proven it’s taking advantage of the recovery by swinging back to profitability five quarters ago, and staying there ever since. The year-over-year comparisons have been nice increases that entire time as well, with the biggest one yet slated with the third quarter’s estimates.

5. Art Technology Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARTG) — Trading at a little more than 18 times projected earnings for the next four quarters, one would be hard-pressed to say Art Technology Group is a “cheap” stock. On the other hand, you have to pay for quality and reliability, and this company definitely falls into that category.

The company, in simplest terms, offers e-commerce solutions. Apparently it’s a good business to be in. Though income was reeled in slightly during the early part of the recession, Art Technology Group never dipped into the red ink at any point in the past four years.

How so? The nature of the business is heavy on recurring revenue; income growth comes from adding new customers/revenue streams. And now that the economy is on measurably firmer footing, new customers should be easier to find. Given 2011’s earnings estimates of a record $0.24 per share, analysts seem to agree.

Action to Take –> There’s a difference between “cheap” and “undervalued.” Cheap stocks are on the low end of the price scale for a reason, so being priced under $5 doesn’t mean you should ease up on your selection standards. These five names are undervalued, and also just happen to be trading under the $5 mark. That could change in a major way, however, over the course of the coming year.

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