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TheStreet Open House

Top Five Small-Cap Stocks: Balchem, Natus

We have rated American Ecology a buy since October 2005. Strengths such as revenue growth, a largely solid financial position, and a notable return on equity influenced this rating. For the first quarter of fiscal 2008, revenue rose 19% year over year. This growth appears to have trickled down to the bottom line, improving earnings per share 19%. In fact, the company has demonstrated a pattern of positive EPS growth over the past two years. A slight improvement in return on equity can be seen as a modest strength for the company. Finally, while total debt increased slightly year over year, it remains at an almost negligible level.

Looking ahead, the company anticipates fiscal 2008 earnings to be in the range of $1.17 to $1.23 per diluted share. This estimate is based on the company's record first-quarter results and its strong outlook for the second quarter. Additionally, we feel that American Ecology's strengths outweigh the fact that the company currently shows weak operating cash flow.

Exponent (EXPO) is a science and engineering consulting firm whose multidisciplinary team of scientists, physicians, engineers and business and regulatory consultants brings together more than 70 different technical disciplines to solve complicated issues facing businesses. Its professional staff can perform in-depth scientific research and analysis or very rapid-response evaluations to provide clients with the critical information they need.

Exponent has been rated a buy since November 2001. For the first quarter of fiscal 2008, revenue rose by 15% year over year. Net income for the same period increased 26%, to $6.4 million. Exponent reported that EPS improved 29% to 40 cents in the most recent quarter. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive EPS growth over the past two years. Return on equity also improved slightly from the year-ago quarter.

Driven by strong earnings growth and other factors, this stock has surged 58% over the past year. We feel that Exponent should continue to climb. The company believes that it remains well positioned to capture new opportunities for growth as it moves further into fiscal 2008. For the full year, management expects to report high single-digit to low double-digit growth in revenue as a result of the company's plans to pursue strategic opportunities. However, Exponent's future results could be negatively impacted by any disruptive changes in both general and industry-specific economic conditions and the effects of tort reform and government regulation of the company's business.

Natus Medical (BABY) is a provider of health care products used for the screening, detection, treatment, monitoring and tracking of common medical ailments. The company also has products used in newborn metabolic testing. Natus' principal product lines include its ALGO and ABaer screening products for newborn hearing screening, its Echo-Screen OAE device for hearing screening in newborns and hearing monitoring in young children and adults, its Navigator and AuDX products for diagnostic hearing assessment in children and adults, and its neoBLUE LED line of phototherapy devices for the treatment of newborn jaundice. The Ceegraph VISION product line for diagnostic electroencephalograph (EEG) monitoring, the Sleepscan VISION product line for EEG monitoring of sleep disorders, and the Neometrics newborn screening data management systems are also key product lines for the company. The company sells its products in over 80 countries.

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