With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it seems like an appropriate time to review the stocks in the Bottom of the Barrel portfolio. This year, most deserve thanks for pretty solid performance, but there are a few turkeys -- some expected, some not.
Wholesale Gains in Retail
A quartet of retail stocks in the Barrel have been the best performers this year:
. Retailers have been surprisingly strong in the early months of an economic recovery, and the Christmas shopping season could be merry.
There are reasons to be optimistic about all four, so I've left the near-term performance assignments in place. Cost Plus remains the best choice, although I'll watch Hibbett closely to see if strong early holiday sales spark new interest in the stock. Both Cost Plus and Men's Wearhouse should have good holiday seasons.
Wild Oats may be in the early stages of a technical recovery, but meaningful execution risk exists, as the company continues its remerchandising campaign and changes in distributor relationships. Good fourth-quarter results are needed to keep investor interest from waning early next year.
The top two energy names in the portfolio have also done well.
has recently picked up steam ahead of a strong winter drilling season in Canada. Maverick should also benefit from sustained drilling in the U.S., especially as exploration-and-production companies look to drill deeper wells in search of natural gas. Maverick seems to struggle when it approaches $20, a level to watch if this rally continues. I wouldn't be afraid to use stops around the $18 level if you've enjoyed the recent gains.
also continues to do well, announcing another discovery in the Gulf of Mexico just today. The company has more than 11 wells to complete between now and the end of the year, and if past success is predictive, more good news could push the stock higher before Christmas. In addition, the recent sale of shares from an early investor improves the float, which should attract new investors.
Among the utilities in the portfolio,
recent rally puts the stock at fair value. The stock seems to bounce nicely off the $40 level regularly, and that remains a good place to consider a purchase.
South Jersey Industries
continues to provide a nice yield for longer-term income investors.
faces a relatively flat year ahead. Although I don't think the company will cut its dividend, coverage remains tight.
My opinion hasn't changed on the one stock I've suggested avoiding:
. While it's difficult to play short in a $1.32 stock, Trico's debt remains an issue, and the oil and gas boat business is a very difficult place to make money. Until quality companies like
can make a go in the business, there's no reason to play around Trico.
The two other underperformers in the portfolio --
-- just aren't showing big signs of improvement, although Huffy is a name to watch during the holidays. Playtex remains in a competitive struggle that doesn't look to be improving.
The real estate investment trusts in the income portfolio --
Alexandria Real Estate
-- have all done quite well, especially given the yields. All remain high-quality REITs, but don't expect the same kind of growth in the quarters ahead.
Finally, while the auto industry continues to struggle,
remains a good way to play an eventual recovery. However, there's no need to hurry, and I'm moving the stock to the "Average Performers" list.
Those are the highlights of the Bottom of the Barrel portfolio for November. Next week I'll add another new company to the portfolio.
Christopher S. Edmonds is vice president and director of research at Pritchard Capital Partners, a New Orleans energy investment firm. He is based in Atlanta. At time of publication, neither Edmonds nor his firm held positions in any securities mentioned in this column, although holdings can change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. While Edmonds cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he welcomes your feedback and invites you to send it to