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IRA Investing: Still Searching for a Bottom

Commodity-oriented companies continued to be the only game in town last week and two of my holdings benefited, increasing in price even as the broad market declined. Helmerich & Payne (HP) was up 4.5% and Stone Energy (SGY) was up 3.6%. Both of these companies continue to have valuations well below the median for their industry and I consider them to be attractive.

Rofin Sinar Technologies (RSTI) was down 7% last week. I had previously sold half of my position based on valuation concerns and continue to feel that this stock is fairly valued at current prices.

My biggest loser last week was Cal Maine Foods (CALM), which was off 18.1%. There was no news to account for the decline. I assume investors are speculating that earnings in the current quarter are likely to represent peak levels for this company and are therefore interested in selling the stock. This is the type of thinking that could seriously be applied to any commodity company and, therefore, investors need to realize the risk now being taken in energy, fertilizer and other commodity names.

In this particular case, Cal Maine now sells at an enterprise value/EBITDA ratio of less than three times. This seems to discount some future possible earnings weakness. Inasmuch as the company remains on my screening system as a buy, I plan to continue to hold this stock.

The table that follows shows all the current holdings in my IRA as of the end of last week:

Symbol Name Purchase Date Cost Price Gain
Regular Holdings
CALM Cal-Maine Foods 4/16/2007 $13.30 $27.43 106.24%
CPX Complete Production Services 3/27/2008 $22.37 $23.18 3.62%
EXAC Exactech 11/5/2007 $21.00 $26.90 28.10%
GIB CGI Group 3/9/2007 $8.52 $11.24 31.92%
HP Helmerich & Payne 12/27/2007 $39.88 $51.62 29.44%
ISYS Integral Systems 3/5/2008 $25.90 $29.00 11.97%
LSR Life Sciences Research 3/11/2008 $24.22 $27.90 15.19%
OTEX Open Text 9/14/2007 $25.68 $33.50 30.45%
RSTI Rofin Sinar Technologies 9/21/2007 $35.06 $43.79 24.90%
SCL Stepan Co. 2/27/2008 $34.94 $39.50 13.05%
SCX L. S. Starrett 12/10/2007 $18.88 $19.54 3.50%
SGY Stone Energy 11/1/2007 $43.74 $57.76 32.05%
SPY S & P Dep. Receipts 1/14/2008+ $132.12 $133.38 0.95%
SY Sybase 11/13/2007 $25.79 $25.74 -0.19%
USPH US Physical Therapy 1/17/2008 $13.98 $15.42 10.30%
One Month Screen
No Current Holdings
Performance Results As Of 4/11/2008 IRA S&P 500
Full Year 2007 33.0% 5.5%
2008 Year To Date -2.5% -8.8%
Total Return For IRA

S&P 500 does not include income for current quarter.

Richard Moore, CFA, has 40 years of experience in various facets of the investment business. He has been employed by banks, mutual funds and investment advisory organizations during his career and has also owned retail and service businesses. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Moore appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.
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