) -- The
led U.S. indices yesterday with a 0.8% rise. Here are three lesser-known stocks that outpaced benchmarks and hit 52-week highs.
climbed 3.8% to $29.36. The research and consulting company's shares have rallied 18% during the past month.
: Stantec's third-quarter loss narrowed to $10 million, or 22 cents a share, as revenue grew 11% to $384 million. The company's gross margin declined from 47% to 45%, and its operating margin tightened from 11% to 10%. Stantec has adequate liquidity, evident in its quick ratio of 1.1. Its 0.5 debt-to-equity ratio reflects conservative leverage.
: We rate Stantec "hold." The stock has returned 19% this year, matching the
Dow Jones Industrial Average
, but trailing the
S&P 500 Index
. We give the company a volatility score of 2.9 out of 10, less than the "buy"-list average of 4.1.
2. Century Aluminum
gained 3.7% to $16.33. The metal producer's shares have surged 67% during the past month as the economy's outlook improved.
: Third-quarter net income increased 12% to $40 million, but earnings per share dropped 18% to 45 cents, hurt by a higher share count. Revenue decreased 59% to $229 million. Century's gross margin fell from 26% to 6%, and its operating margin went from 20% to negative. The company's quick ratio, at 0.8, indicates less-than-ideal liquidity. Its 0.4 debt-to-equity ratio is below the industry average, reflecting modest leverage.
: We rate Century Aluminum "sell." The stock has returned 63% this year, boosted by gains during the past month. Our quantitative model gives Century Aluminum weak scores in all categories. Its shares have a beta of 3.7, so they tend to magnify the market's direction. Century Aluminum is a suitable vehicle for trading or speculating, but it does not satisfy our investment criteria.
1. Alpha Natural Resources
rose 3.2% to $45.59. The coal producer's shares have jumped 17% during the past month.
: Alpha Natural Resources swung to a third-quarter loss of $20 million, or 19 cents a share, from a profit of $67 million, or 91 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 6% to $729 million. Alpha's gross margin widened from 25% to 28%, but its operating margin dropped from 16% to 3%. Its quick ratio, at 1.7, demonstrates ample liquidity. Its 0.3 debt-to-equity ratio indicates modest leverage.
: We rate Alpha Natural Resources "hold." The stock has soared 182% this year, beating major U.S. indices and meriting a performance score of 9 out of 10. However, poor tallies for growth and volatility prohibit Alpha Natural Resources from the "buy" list. The stock is slightly cheaper than peers based on projected earnings, book value and sales. But it's expensive based on cash flow per share.
-- Reported by Jake Lynch in Boston.