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Encouraging Signs From Smallville

Electro Scientific said its order backlog is the highest it has been in six years, which is pre-recession. The balance sheet remains solid; Electro Scientific ended the quarter with $185 million, or $6.32 per share, in cash (excluding restricted cash) and short-term investments, and no debt.

It currently trades at book value, and at just 1.44 times net current asset value, which is very cheap in my book. The company also initiated an 8-cent quarterly dividend in 2012 and currently yields 3%. There is also an active stock buyback program.

Those are small rays of light from three companies. While not enough to declare a return to brighter economic times, they're still slightly encouraging -- even for a skeptic.

Back to Facebook. The stock's woes have little to do with the economy. Expectations were simply too high, and any negative news will continue to weigh on the shares. Even considering the aftermarket drubbing the stock suffered yesterday, this is still a company with a $48 billion market cap -- and one that is unproven.

At the time of publication, the author was long ESIO.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Jonathan Heller, CFA, is president of KEJ Financial Advisors, his fee-only financial planning company. Jon spent 17 years at Bloomberg Financial Markets in various roles, from 1989 until 2005. He ran Bloomberg's Equity Fundamental Research Department from 1994 until 1998, when he assumed responsibility for Bloomberg's Equity Data Research Department. In 2001, he joined Bloomberg's Publishing group as senior markets editor and writer for Bloomberg Personal Finance Magazine, and an associate editor and contributor for Bloomberg Markets Magazine. In 2005, he joined SEI Investments as director of investment communications within SEI's Investment Management Unit.

Jon is also the founder of the Cheap Stocks Web site, a site dedicated to deep-value investing. He has an undergraduate degree from Grove City College and an MBA from Rider University, where he has also served on the adjunct faculty; he is also a CFA charter holder.
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