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STOCK PICKS: Top 5 All-Around for Aug. 19

Kroger, General Dynamics, ConocoPhillips, Cummins and Petrobas-Petroleo Brasileiro S.A. make the list.

Each business day,

Ratings compiles a list of the top five stocks in five categories -- fast-growth, all-around value, large-cap, mid-cap and small-cap -- and publishes these lists in the Ratings section of our Web site.

This list is based on data from the close of the previous trading session. Today, all-around-value stocks are in the spotlight. These are stocks of companies that meet a number of criteria, including annual revenue of more than $500 million, lower-than-average valuations such as a price-to-sales ratio of less than 2, and leverage that is less than 49% of total capital.

In addition, they must rank near the top of all stocks rated by our proprietary quantitative model, which looks at more than 60 factors. The stocks must also be followed by at least one financial analyst who posts estimates on the Institutional Brokers' Estimate System. They are ordered by their potential to appreciate.

Note that no provision is made for off-balance-sheet assets such as unrealized appreciation/depreciation of investments, market value of real estate or contingent liabilities that might affect book value. This could be material for some companies with large, underfunded pension plans.


(KR) - Get Kroger Co. Report

is one of the nation's largest grocery retailers. The company also manufactures and processes some of the foods that it sells in its supermarkets, as well as operates a variety of additional store formats that include convenience stores, multidepartment stores and mall jewelry stores. The company celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2008.

Our buy rating for Kroger has been in place since March 2006. Although the company has generally had poor debt management, we feel that the rating is justified due to strengths such as the company's return on equity, attractive valuation levels, and growth in revenue, net income and earnings per share.

For the first quarter of fiscal 2008, Kroger reported a revenue increase of 11.5% year over year, while net income grew 14.5%. Earnings per share also improved, rising 23.4% from 47 cents in the first quarter of fiscal 2007 to 58 cents in the most-recent quarter. The company's total sales increased 11.5%, while identical supermarket sales increased 9.2% (with fuel) and 5.8% (without fuel). Return on equity also improved slightly in the first quarter, rising to 24.73% from 21.79% in the prior-year quarter.

On the basis of a strong start to fiscal 2008, Kroger raised its identical sales and earnings guidance for fiscal 2008. Management now anticipates identical sales growth of 4% to 5.5%, excluding fuel, while estimating earnings of $1.85 to $1.90 per diluted share. The company had previously released earnings guidance of $1.83 to $1.90 per diluted share. While management is confident in the underlying strength of the company's business model, bear in mind that future financial results could be negatively impacted by increased competition, weather and economic conditions, interest rates, and labor disputes, among other factors.

General Dynamics

(GD) - Get General Dynamics Corporation Report

designs, develops, manufactures and supports technology, products and services for use across the spectrum of military operations. The company's businesses include: mission-critical information systems and technologies; land and expeditionary combat vehicles, armaments and munitions; shipbuilding and marine systems; and business aviation.

Our buy rating for General Dynamics has not changed since July 2003. This rating is based on strengths such as revenue growth, an impressive record of earnings per share (EPS) growth and compelling growth in net income. Sales, earnings and operating margins increased in all four General Dynamics business groups in the second quarter of fiscal 2008. The Combat Systems group experienced increased sales in its armored vehicle and tank programs compared with the year-ago period and significant margin growth.

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New-aircraft volume in the Aerospace group, increased shipbuilding activity in Marine Systems and continued strong demand for tactical communications and computing systems in the Information Systems and Technology sector also contributed to the overall strong performance. Revenue for the second quarter rose 10.8% year over year. This growth appears to have boosted the company's net income and EPS, which improved by 25% and 26%, respectively.

While the stock is trading 12.7% higher than it was a year ago, it should go without saying that even the best stocks can fall in an overall down market. However, we believe that the company's strengths outweigh the risks inherent in this industry.


(COP) - Get ConocoPhillips Report

operates worldwide as an integrated energy company. The company is headquartered in Houston, and operates in nearly 40 countries. It centers its business on four core activities: exploration and production; refining, marketing, supply and transportation; natural gas gathering, processing and marketing; chemicals and plastics.

ConocoPhillips has been rated a buy since April 2003. While the company currently shows low profit margins, we feel that strengths such as its robust revenue growth, compelling growth in net income, attractive valuation levels and notable return on equity justify our rating. For the second quarter of fiscal 2008, the company's revenue surged 55.5% year over year.

This appears to have helped boost earnings per share, which rose dramatically from 18 cents in the second quarter of fiscal 2007 to $3.50 in the most-recent quarter. At the same time, net income increased 1,707.0% in the second quarter. Net operating cash flow increased 14%, while the company's return on equity exceeded that of the same quarter one year prior, rising from 12.86% to 19.07%.

The company recently signed an interim agreement to develop the Shah gas field in Abu Dhabi and also approved the continued funding for the development of the Yanbu Export Refinery Project. Additionally, the company plans to expand the Keystone crude oil pipeline system in North America.

Looking ahead, management anticipates full-year fiscal 2008 production to be consistent with the company's operating plan. The company has authorized a $10 billion share repurchase program for fiscal 2008, and expects to repurchase between $2 billion and $3 billion in the third quarter. Bear in mind that crude oil and natural gas prices are highly volatile and cyclical in nature. A downturn from the currently high pricing trends could affect the future profitability of the company, as could further slowdown of the U.S. economy.


(CMI) - Get Cummins Inc. Report

designs, manufactures, distributes and services diesel and natural gas engines, electric power generation systems and engine-related products. These products include filtration emissions solutions, fuel systems, controls and air-handling systems. The company is headquartered in Columbus, Ind., and serves customers in more than 160 countries through a network of 550 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 5,000 dealer locations.

Cummins has been rated a buy since March 2004. Despite its low profit margins in the second quarter of fiscal 2008, we are impressed by the company's revenue growth, stock price performance, and improved earnings per share (EPS). The company reported that its second quarter financial results were the best in company history, largely due to strong global demand. Cummins' revenue rose 16.3% year over year. That appears to have helped boost the company's EPS, which improved 39.9% compared with the prior-year's quarter. EPS rose to $1.49 in the second quarter from $1.07 in the same quarter of fiscal 2007. Net income rose 36.9%, rising from $214.00 million a year ago to $293 million. Additionally, the company appears to be very successful in managing its debt levels and has the ability to avoid short-term cash problems.

Although Cummins' consumer-related markers were affected by the continued economic weakness in the U.S., management stated that its global growth strategy was clearly effective in helping the company achieve its second quarter performance.

The company raised its sales guidance for fiscal 2008 to a 15% increase, up from the previous guidance of 12%. However, the company's future results could be negatively impacted by rising commodity costs and general economic conditions.

Petrobras-Petroleo Brasileiro S.A.

(PBR.A) - Get Petróleo Brasileiro SA Report

is the national oil company of Brazil, engaging in the exploration, exploitation and production of oil from reservoir wells, shale and other sources. This integrated energy company began domestic production in 1954 and international production in 1972.

Petrobras has been rated a buy September 2004. The company reported that its net income increased 29% year over year in the second quarter of fiscal 2008, fueled by higher international oil prices, higher oil and gas production and the increase in gasoline and diesel prices in Brazil in May.

In its release discussing the quarterly results, management reported that operating cash flow increased 27% over the same quarter last year. It also reported that domestic sales of oil products and national gas increased 8% when compared with the second quarter of fiscal 2007.

Although almost any stock can decline in a broad market decline, we feel that Petrobras should continue to move higher. The company continues to make investments in human resources and infrastructure in order to achieve its objectives, including investing in refineries and vertical integration of the production change to add value to its oil, thereby generating higher revenue from domestic and international sales.

Additionally, the company made several new discoveries during the second quarter, such as light oil in shallow water in the southern portion of the Santos Basin. Bear in mind, however, that any unexpected sharp downturn in oil and gas prices could negatively affect Petrobras' future earnings.

In addition, oil prices are highly volatile and cyclical in nature and could be vulnerable to weaker economic conditions. High prices may also create heightened demand for lower-cost alternatives, and could thus hurt overall demand for oil and gas products.

Our quantitative rating is based on a variety of historical fundamental and pricing data and represents our opinion of a stock's risk-adjusted performance relative to other stocks.

However, the rating does not incorporate all of the factors that can alter a stock's performance. For example, it doesn't always factor in recent corporate or industry events that could impact the stock price, nor does it include recent technology developments and competitive dynamics that may affect the company.

For those reasons, we believe a rating alone cannot tell the whole story, and should be part of an investor's overall research.

This article was written by a staff member of Ratings.