I trust that Thanksgiving provided everyone an opportunity to enjoy quality time with family and friends. Undoubtedly, many of you continued to enjoy the Thanksgiving leftovers through the weekend, and since I suggested they were early Thanksgiving treats last Monday, here is a review of my picks from last week.

  • Frontier Oil (FTO): Monday morning the stock opened at $34.50. Friday afternoon, the stock closed at $37.07. This represents about an 8% gain in just one week.

  • Dell (DELL): I suggested buying this stock Monday morning as well, and it opened at $29.98. The stock closed Friday at $30.33. This represents approximately a 1.5% gain in one short week.

Going back two weeks now, I'd strongly encourage anyone long the Symantec ( SYMC) April 15 calls to add to the position. This option closed at $3.40 Friday, which, in my opinion, is a gift.

Let me explain: If you bought 10 of these calls for $3.40 on Nov. 25, with the expiration date being Friday, April 21, you enabled yourself to control 1,000 shares of Symantec stock at the price of $18.40 (the strike price of $15 plus the option premium of $3.40). Bottom line: For $3,400, you are now in control of 1,000 shares of Symantec until April 21, as opposed to spending $17,640 for an equivalent position in the common stock. What's more, this opportunity comes in a company with a forward P/E ratio of 15.24, $4.43 billion in cash, and $842.7 million in free cash flow. All I can say is, "Lock and load!"

Permit me a related aside. When I write a column, my goal is to put all readers in investments where they have limited downside risk while maintaining the potential for substantial upside. This is one of those situations, but it's not easy. It takes discipline!

Now let's get to the new picks.

Buying Good Health

Centene ( CNC) is a major player in the fast-growing Medicaid managed-care industry, providing managed-care programs and related services to individuals receiving benefits under Medicaid, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The company's health plans serve Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin. Centene contracts with other health care organizations to provide specialty services, including behavioral health, disease management, nurse triage and treatment compliance.

In a speech in St. Louis on Nov. 7, Michael F. Neidorff, Centene's Chairman and CEO, said:

Our Board of Directors determined that a stock buyback is in the best interest of our shareholders. This action is reflective of Centene's ongoing confidence in our underlying medical cost trends and short- and long-term growth prospects. Furthermore, the flexibility of the program will ensure that future share repurchases will not hinder our ability to conclude acquisitions and achieve our goal of building a leading multi-line managed care enterprise.

You have to love seeing a management team with that kind of confidence in its company (and itself). And you'll love these fundamentals even more: Centene has a forward P/E of 13.18, its return on equity is 18.26%, total debt is $88.1 million and the company has free cash flow of $126.61 million.

You can buy it at the 50-day moving average (MA) at $23.62 and look to sell at quarterly resistance, which is $31.89.

My second pick this week is BT Group ( BT), a leading European provider of telecommunications services. Based in the U.K., BT serves over 20 million business and residential customers with more than 29 million exchange lines, and provides network services to other licensed operators.

The company's second-quarter revenue rose 4.8% year over year to $8.51 billion, and earnings per share has now grown for 14 consecutive quarters.

BT earned a staggering $647 million in the three months ended Sept. 30. Revenue from the group's traditional business declined 5%, due to a charge of $122 million for the costs of creating a new business unit required under its agreement with Britain's telecommunications regulator, which saved BT from breaking up its retail and wholesale division.

The company has been focusing on new services, such as broadband, to deliver growth, with revenue from its "new wave" services rising 39% vs. the second quarter last year. This was mainly generated from networked IT services, broadband and mobility, and it reached $2.52 billion, accounting for 30% of revenue, compared to 22% in the second quarter of last year.

In June, the company unveiled Fusion, which blends landlines with mobile phones and allows consumers to use the same phone at home and away. On Nov. 10, CEO Ben Verwaayen said, "The transformation of BT is right on track."

This is a stock you want to buy. In my opinion, this will be a $50 stock 12 months from now. My strategy tends to be "buy and sell," so this type of idea is not the norm for me. But I'm not the only one who thinks the BT Group is a winner -- Citigroup maintains a buy rating on the stock.

Technically, you should buy this stock at the 21-day MA at $36.81 and you can sell at the 50-day MA at $38.01, or wait until the 200-day MA is at $39.21.

If you want to set a stop loss, put it at the 52-week low, $35.15. If this stock trades back down to that number, I would be buying more, not selling. But I always want to give a stop-loss price because everybody is different, especially when it comes to money, and that's what makes the world go 'round.

My third pick is Quiksilver ( ZQK), a global-branded clothing company that produces accessories and related products for young-minded people.

The company's primary focus is apparel for young men and women under the Quiksilver, Roxy, Raisins, Radio Fiji and Gotcha (Europe) labels. It also manufactures apparel for boys (Quiksilver Boys and Hawk Clothing), girls (Roxy Girl, Teenie Wahine and Raisins Girls), men (Quiksilveredition and Fidra, the company's golf line) and women (Leilani swimwear). The company also makes snowboards, snowboard boots and bindings under the Lib Technologies, Gnu and Bent Metal labels. Quiksilver generates revenue primarily in the U.S., Europe and since its acquisition of Ug Manufacturing (Australia) and Quiksilver Japan in December 2002, the Asia/Pacific markets. The company's products are sold primarily in surf shops, specialty stores and its proprietary retail concept, Boardriders Club stores.

On Oct. 18, Quicksilver announced that its financial expectations for fiscal 2005 are for sales and earnings increases of over 35% and 25%, respectively. Again, I believe there is limited downside with this stock, and see at least a couple of points to be gained.

You can buy it right here at $12.48, or wait and see if it retests its 52-week low, which is $10.63. I would be looking to sell this stock at its quarterly resistance, which is $16.70.

My final pick is VeriSign ( VRSN). Why does this stock trade at $22 and change? Christmas comes early, ladies and gentlemen. Sometimes in life, things don't make sense. This is one of those times. Buy the stock and take advantage of the early Christmas present.

VeriSign operates intelligent infrastructure services that enable and protect interactions across voice and data networks -- anytime, anywhere, on multiple devices. Whether you're a carrier looking to rapidly deploy new services, a Fortune 500 enterprise needing comprehensive, proactive security services, or an organization looking to evolve its trading-partner network, VeriSign can help.

There is a good chance that if you've used a computer, then you have used VeriSign! Every day, the company processes over 14 billion Internet interactions and 3 billion telephone interactions, and it also provides the services that help over 3,000 enterprises and 450,000 Web sites operate securely, reliably and efficiently.

It's these kinds of services that make VeriSign a great company to own.

VeriSign generates $1.62 billion in revenue, has no debt, $748 million in cash, and when all is said and done and the bills are paid, the company still has $302 million that's left over as free cash flow! Does this sound like a $22 stock to you?

Technically, you can buy this stock at the 50-day MA at $22.10 and look to sell at its recent high of $24.48, or wait until the 200-day MA at $26.18.

Appreciating Those Who Truly Sacrifice

"That was a battle for the ages!"

Although applicable, we are not addressing our expanding post-Thanksgiving waistlines. Rather, we are invariably referring to some sporting event. Pugilistic metaphors and analogies are ubiquitous in the world of sports. Boxing, of course, is essentially a battle for survival between the two participants, so comparisons to war are inevitable.

Football players are often referred to as soldiers; a select subset, with special attributes, are labeled warriors. Coaches instruct their players to adopt a "bunker-like" mentality before big games. The NFL draft, emblazoned in our collective psyche by ESPN as a two-day "covert operation," takes us into the "war rooms" of the respective teams before their pick.

Furthermore, a familiar battle cry of many players, regardless of the sport, is, "Those are the guys I want to go to war with." A different spin on the same theme is the popular refrain, "I want that guy in the foxhole with me." Undoubtedly, these references help to establish and solidify bonds that are integral to the success of a team. Moreover, the camaraderie that pervades athletic locker rooms often translates into lifelong friendships.

Imagine, if you can, actually establishing that camaraderie on a battlefield, in a foxhole. That's exactly what the incredible men and women who comprise our armed forces are doing every minute of every day. On Saturday, the Cadets of West Point and the Midshipmen of Annapolis, removed from the theater of war, will play the 106th rendition of the Army-Navy game. This rivalry, unlike any other, embodies the pure essence of sports, whereby the final score is virtually inconsequential.

For a brief moment in time, the participants in this game, as well as their avid followers, can temporarily escape reality and luxuriate in the glow of unsullied athletic passion. Athletes who attend these marvelous institutions do not enroll with an expectation to pursue a professional sports career. On the contrary, precious few will actually play beyond their college days. Rarely, with the notable exceptions of Roger Staubach and David Robinson, who respectively led their teams the Dallas Cowboys and the San Antonio Spurs to championships, do we even hear their names again.

Nonetheless, many athletes -- indeed, many high-school stars -- opt to attend West Point and the Naval Academy. One would think that a six-year post-graduate military commitment would be a drawback. However, for these athletes, it presents a unique opportunity. They are making the ultimate investment, with absolutely no guarantee of a return, yet they seize the chance to represent their country.

Remember: Life is a journey. Enjoy the ride!

At the time of publication, Dykstra was long Symantec.

Nicknamed "Nails" for his tough style of play during his Major League Baseball career, Lenny Dykstra was an integral member of the powerful Mets of the mid-1980s, including the world champion 1986 squad, and the Phillies in the early 1990s.

Today, Dykstra manages his own stock portfolio and serves as president of several of his privately held companies, including car washes; a partnership with Castrol in "Team Dykstra" Quick Lube Centers; a state-of-the-art ConocoPhillips fueling facility; a real estate development company; and a new venture to develop several "I Sold It on eBay" stores throughout high-demographic areas of Southern California.

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