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Melvin: High on the New Lows

In addition to checking sectors, another favorite strategy of mine when shopping for cheap stocks is the daily list of new lows. I know the new-high list is more exciting and has all the trendy, sexy stocks, but that's not my bailiwick. If I was a short-term trader, that would be the first place I look each day -- but I am a long-term investor. I want to buy businesses at good to great prices and hold them for several years. As a bargain-hunting vulture, I want to buy what no one else wants at fire sale prices. Those stocks are on the boring, unloved list each day.

I go through this exercise just about every day. I pull up the new-low list and start scanning it for ideas. There is always a lot of junk on the list and I have become skilled at identifying it and moving on. Today is no exception. I see a lot of little biotech companies that are burning cash and floundering in their research efforts. I have no edge in biotech, so I skip these and move on. I do the same with all the Chinese companies on the list. I have no interest in buying companies based in a nation where fraudulent financials and a hostile government are the norm. There are plenty of gullible investors to buy the China meme. I will pass on all of them no matter how cheap they appear.

Moving down the list, I see many Canadian energy companies and master limited partnerships. I am making a note to keep an eye on these, but for now, I am going to pass. The cost of oil production in the Canadian oil sands projects is high enough that the current lower energy prices are crushing margins. They may get interesting if oil gets down near $70, but for now I am going to pass.

Juniper Networks (JNPR - Get Report) is today's list. I love busted growth stocks, so I want to take a quick look. The first thing I do is blow the chart up to monthly prices to get a long-term view. A year ago, the stock was at $45 a share and has since fallen by two-thirds. That gets my attention, so I look a little deeper. A quick calculation of intrinsic value shows the network equipment maker trading at about 90% of my fair value for the stock. It is not below book value yet but it is getting cheaper. But I see insiders are still selling shares even as the stock price falls, and that is a red flag. If they do not want the shares at this price, neither do I.

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