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Another way to play the trend: Fuel Systems Solutions, which has been around for more than 50 years and generates more than $400 million in annual sales. The stock has fallen more than 40% from its 52-week high to a recent $23 as the company's Italian operations took a big hit from the end of gas engine conversion subsidies from the Italian government. For 2011, sales are on track to fall about 5% to around $407 million. Yet analysts spy a rebound in 2012 as new markets in Asia and Latin America expand. Sales are expected to rise more than 10% to around $450 million and earnings per share may double to around $1.20. Fuel Systems is also gaining traction in the U.S. Those GM pick-up trucks, noted above, will be converted by Fuel Systems' IMPCO division.
Risks to Consider: Natural gas as a transportation source only makes sense in an era of pricey crude oil. If the price of oil falls back, perhaps to below $70 a barrel, then any momentum this nascent industry may have will be blunted.
Action to Take: These stocks are well off of their highs, in large part due to lofty growth expectations that have failed to materialize. Yet a move toward more natural-gas-powered vehicles in 2012 would quickly bring investor attention back to these lagging stocks. As oil prices move back higher, that becomes a rising possibility.
Disclosure: Neither D. Sterman nor StreetAuthority, LLC hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article.
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