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By Ian Wyatt
Stocks are expensive right now.
Let me rephrase that: Large-cap stocks are expensive right now.According to John Hussman, head of the Hussman Investment Trust, the S&P 500 currently sells at a price-to-earnings ratio of about 24, based on 10-year average earnings. In his latest weekly letter, Mr. Hussman explains how he uses a cyclically adjusted measure of P/E that incorporates inflation to reach his conclusion that the S&P 500 is overvalued. According to his research, the only time that the broad market sold for 24 times earnings was in 1929, 2000, and 2008. I'll let you draw your own conclusions about entering the broad stock market at such a valuation. My point is: If we're going to find value right now, it's probably not going to be in large-cap stocks. So I recently found a small-cap agriculture stock that's selling at an extremely cheap P/E of just 11 times trailing earnings. That's inexpensive during any period, let alone during a time when the broad stock market has rallied for more than 20 months with barely a breather. I'm not saying it's time to bet against the broad market -- I wouldn't bet against a speeding train like this -- but if you're not buying value now then you're not setting yourself up for success. The company in question is a Mexican poultry producer by the name of Industrias Bachoco (IBA - Get Report). It's a $1.3 billion company, founded in 1953. It went public in 1997, and as a matter of policy, has paid an annual dividend of about 20% of its net income every year except for in 2009. Here's an excerpt on the company's dividend policy from their annual report for fiscal year 2002:
"The Company has maintained as a general policy an annual dividend of 20% of last year's net income. Even though the amount or opportunity of future dividends cannot be guaranteed, Bachoco expects to pay an annual dividend to the holders of outstanding shares equal to an amount of no more than approximately 20% of the net income of the previous year."The company lost money in 2008, so it didn't pay the dividend that year in accordance with its clearly stated policy. But this year it's scheduled to pay a dividend of 2.9%. That's on news that 2010 profits were up 10% year over year from 2009.