And then there were four. The baseball postseason has progressed from the eight-team division championship to the four-team league championship series in the past week. Arguably, the better team won each of the first round series: the Boston Red Sox were revealed as too one-dimensional, the New York Yankees as lacking clutch hitting, while the Atlanta Braves revived their annual role as bridesmaid. As for the San Diego Padres, they proved they really didn't belong in the postseason, as reflected by their lackluster regular-season record. As baseball moves toward its climax, the stock market has been having some "climactic" action of its own. Hopefully, the recent selling pressure is paving the way for a sustainable rally, possibly starting with Thursday's advance by the Nasdaq Composite. (Major averages were modestly higher midday Friday.) And just as baseball's postseason separates the contenders from the pretenders, that is the goal of this column, and brings us to today's picks.
debut column. In addition to Bank of America's stock trading at a below market P/E multiple, its dividend yield of 4.8% makes it particularly attractive at these levels. And who knows, maybe the recent weakness in stocks will compel the Fed to be less aggressive than feared, and that would give a boost to a lot of stocks -- financials in particular.
Trading near its five-year low, Bristol-Myers Squibb ( BMY) is another great American franchise that's too good to pass up. One of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies, Bristol-Myers also makes nutritional products, including the Enfamil line of baby products, as well as other over-the-counter products and medical imaging devices. The company trades with a forward P/E of under 17 and a ROE of nearly 23%. The company generated over $19 billion in revenue in the past 12 months, and it has over $3 billion of cash on hand and a debt-to-equity ratio under 0.6, well within the "acceptable" range for this key metric. But rather than buy the common stock, I'm planning to buy the January $17.50 calls with minimal premium in the $5 range -- give or take 20 cents. Once again, you must use all your weapons when playing for big dollars, and options give you the ability to leverage your position. I am now poised to control 1,000 shares of Bristol-Myers until the third Friday in January for around $5,200 -- as opposed to spending about $22,000 to buy 1,000 shares of the common stock. There are downsides, though. Remember, nothing in life is free. The clock is working against you as the January expiration approaches -- this is known as time decay, or theta, in options parlance. You have to pull the trigger when you get an opportunity to take a profit and move on to the next victim! (For a list of options definitions, please check out the
glossary for TheStreet.com's Options Alerts newsletter.) Methanex ( MEOH) is not the "household" name that Bank of America and Bristol-Meyers are. But you have to look for stocks off the beaten path, and recommending names like Methanex is what separates this column from the typical advice a broker would provide; plus, this advice is free vs. the outrageous fees still(!) charged by full-service brokers.
Methanex is the world's largest producer and marketer of methanol, and it has operations in North America, Latin America, Europe, the Caribbean and throughout the Asia Pacific region. Methanol can be found in almost everything, from windshield-washer fluid to recyclable plastic bottles, plywood floors to paint, silicone sealants to synthetic fibers. In addition, methanol is a key factor in a process that can make gasoline burn more cleanly; this could be crucial now that fuel-efficiency is suddenly chic again. In the future, the company believes, methanol could be used as a source of hydrogen for fuel cells. Methanex recently announced plans to shut down production at two self-described "high cost" plants. But for its Kitimat site in British Columbia, the company has also announced a partnership with EnCana ( ECA) that gives Methanex the right to continue to use the terminal and "provide a secure, long-term supply of methanol to our customers in the Pacific Northwest," Bruce Aitken, president and CEO of Methanex, said in a press release. "It will enable us, over time, to offset some of the Kitimat shutdown costs and will provide EnCana with a convenient terminalling facility on the west coast of Canada." Methanex shares have been weak since midsummer but, again, I prefer to buy stocks when they are on sale rather than chasing momentum. After its recent decline, Methanex trades with an attractive forward P/E of 7.20 while sporting return on equity of over 27% and a modest debt-to-equity ratio of 0.34.
Nevertheless, stereotypes still dominate society's landscape. Many people believe that athletes are only capable of pursuing careers in sports after their playing days are over. Similarly, many people believe that highly successful businessmen and professionals in the technical fields were most likely not great athletes. Interestingly, I have found that a significant number of professionals actually excelled in athletics. As a matter of fact, many will attribute a great deal of their present-day success to the lessons they learned playing ball (of various kinds). Therefore, stereotypical images need to be viewed for what they are: generalizations about certain groups of people based loosely on perceived knowledge. Hence, the perpetuation of the "dumb jock" syndrome, despite the numerous accomplishments of former professional and college athletes in unrelated fields. I endeavor to move forward, honing my investment skills as I continue to learn and broaden my knowledge base. Hopefully, I can build on my success and help dispel the myth of the "dumb jock." Remember, regardless of what I do or not do, images can be deceiving. Ultimately, all we can do is grasp the opportunities presented to us, and do our best to capitalize on them. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity, and I am dedicated to representing myself and TheStreet.com well. Life is a journey. Enjoy the ride!