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Cat Litter, Needles on Fund Manager's 'Buy' List

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The stock market may have gotten ahead of itself, but that doesn't mean there aren't still values to be had, says Eric Cinnamond, manager of the Aston/River Road Independent Value Fund (ARIVX).

The mutual fund, launched at the end of 2010, has returned 1.6% over the past month.

Welcome to TheStreet.com's Fund Manager Five Spot, where America's top mutual fund managers give their best stock picks and views on the market in a five-question format.

Are you bullish or bearish?

Cinnamond: I am not finding large discounts in the small-cap market; therefore, I am bearish based on overall valuations. That said, there remain pockets of value, but they are scarce.

What is your top stock pick?

ICU Medical (ICUI) has all of the traits I look for in a high-quality small-cap investment. It is a growing and established market leader with 40% share in the needle-free IV connector market. ICU Medical has a debt-free balance sheet with $7 a share in cash. It generates consistent free cash flow that allows me to value the business with a high degree of confidence. Furthermore, I expect margins and free cash flow to improve in 2011 as investments in the business made in 2009 and 2010 begin to payoff.

What is your favorite sector?

Cinnamond: Generally, we do not focus on sectors. However, I am finding value in areas with more consistent end markets such as processing software, health care and consumer staples.

What is your top "beneath the radar" stock pick?

Cinnamond: I would say Oil-Dri (ODC), which is the market leader in cat litter. They have a great balance sheet, consistent free cash flow and pay an attractive dividend. I'm not a big fan of cats, but I love the cat-litter business. Furthermore, they have new absorbent products along with improving sales at Wal-Mart (WMT), which may provide for a nice catalyst in 2011. Lastly, they should benefit from lower natural gas prices which is used to dry their clay used in their products.

What sector or stock would you avoid?

Cinnamond: I am avoiding industrials and other cyclicals. Many cyclical businesses are currently being priced as growth stocks. Investors are extrapolating recent cyclical growth rates too far out into the future -- they're misinterpreting cyclical growth as sustainable growth. It is not sustainable growth, in my opinion, and is simply a sharp rebound of a very depressed 2009 level.

-- Reported by Gregg Greenberg in New York.

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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