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Top Five Small-Cap Stocks: Stepan

Exponent has been rated a buy since November 2001. An impressive record of earnings per share growth and compelling growth in net income are among several of the company's strengths. For the first quarter of fiscal 2008, revenue rose by 15.1% year-over-year. Net income for the same period increased by 25.6%, rising from $5.06 million a year ago to $6.35 million. Exponent reported that earnings per share (EPS) improved 29.0% from 31 cents in the first quarter of 2007 to 40 cents in the most recent quarter. In fact, the company has demonstrated a pattern of positive EPS growth over the past two years. Finally, return on equity improved slightly when compared to the same quarter one year prior.

Driven by important factors such as strong earnings growth of 29.03%, this stock has surged 57.75% over the past year. We feel that Exponent should continue to climb despite its already impressive performance. 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.

Stepan (SCL - Get Report) is a global manufacturer that produces specialty and intermediate chemicals. These products are sold to other manufacturers to be made into a variety of end products. The company operates in three business segments: surfactants, polymers, and specialty products. Surfactants are the key products in consumer and industrial cleaning products, creating the foaming and cleaning properties of products such as toothpastes, detergents, and shampoos. Polymers such as phthalic anhydride and polyols are used in plastics, building materials, and refrigeration systems, as well as in coating, adhesive, sealant, and elastomer applications. Stepan also produces custom-made specialty products to meet the individual needs of clients. These chemicals include food flavorings and other products used in the food and pharmaceutical industries.
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