Every week I try to find you a way to make money in the stock market. This week, we are going to do it with one of the oldest trades known to mankind: shipping, and I don't mean oil. Excel Maritime Carriers ( EXM) is an owner and operator of dry bulk vessels and a provider of worldwide seaborne transportation services for dry bulk cargoes. The company's vessels carry major bulk commodities, such as coal, iron ore and grain, as well as minor bulk commodities such as fertilizers, bauxite, alumina and steel products. These facts underscore my enthusiasm for this company:
Roughly 90% of the world's exports are still transported by ship. The company has delivered seven consecutive years of profitability. As long as countries continue to trade, Excel Maritime's fleet of vessels will be needed on the open seas to service their needs. As I have stated many times in the past, we are always looking for an edge. When opportunities arise to buy a quality company with proven earnings growth and which is selling at a severe discount, you must use your "edge" and take advantage. Here's what CEO Christopher Georgakis said in early November about Excel Maritime's third quarter, which featured a 234% jump in year-over-year revenue: "These results reflect the successful integration of our new acquisitions into the initial fleet as well as our consistent fleet deployment strategy of period charters." Let me continue: This Greek shipping company has a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 4.41, the return on equity is 40.75%, and its year-over-year quarterly earnings growth is an unbelievable 489%. For $13.75, does this sound like a company you want to own? Technically, you can buy the stock right here and set a stop loss or add to your position just above the 52-week low, at $12.15. If you want to trade the stock, you should have no problem seeing $15. I believe this stock has a real possibility to move up to $20 in the next three or four months. My second pick this week is Celanese ( CE), a global industrial chemical company that isn't talked about much; it's a sleeper. But let me tell you, it's getting ready to wake up.
I am going on the record right now and predicting that this company -- whose primary business involves processing chemical raw materials, such as ethylene and propylene, and natural products, including natural gas and wood pulp, into chemicals and chemical-based products -- will have an awesome fourth quarter. You need to own this company now! Why? Let's go to the videotape: The forward P/E is 7.54, the revenue for the past 12 months is just under $6 billion dollars, and Celanese has $372.63 million in free cash flow. Ready for this? Its return on equity is an astonishing, staggering, mind-boggling 1,500%. I put a good-till-canceled (GTC) order in before the opening bell to buy the March 15 calls at $2.40. If I get filled, I will control 1,000 shares of this underappreciated chemical company all the way until the third Friday in March for $2,400, as opposed to whipping out $17,400, which is what it would cost to buy the common stock at Friday's close. I don't need to explain much about my third pick, Microsoft ( MSFT), except to say it might be the best company in the world. So without further ado, here is how I am going to play Microsoft: Before the opening bell, I will have a GTC order in for the April $20 calls. The price at the close on Friday was $8.10. The closing price on Friday had little to no premium for this call: only 10 cents. For pennies in premium, you can control 1,000 shares of Microsoft going all the way out until the third Friday in April. And now, a quick look at the stocks I recommended
last week: I recommended Centene (CNC) at $23.62; the stock closed Friday at $24.74. I recommended the BT Group (BT) at $36.81; the stock closed Friday at $37.35. Quicksilver ( ZQK) never tested its 52-week low of $10.63. My last pick, VeriSign ( VRSN), I recommended at $22.10; the stock closed Friday at $22.52. For those of you who got filled at $22.10, you are in the sweet spot ... I like VeriSign to go higher!
Clearly, my affiliation with TheStreet.com is based on providing you with information that hopefully leads to successful investments. The measurement of success, or the lack thereof, in the investment world is indisputable: Did I make money or lose money? Nonetheless, we make other types of investments on a regular basis, whereby the measurement of success is not nearly as clear cut. Inevitably, the vast majority of us will require the services of professionals such as doctors, accountants and lawyers, at some point in time. The investment we make in the aforementioned professionals rarely results in a monetary payoff, with the notable exception of litigation, which can result in a monetary reward. However, the benefits we may derive from our investment in these professionals, albeit non-monetary, can often be far more valuable. Is it possible to assign a true value to curative surgery or successful defense of a legal case? Most likely not, though in the least we can say it provides a dividend that compounds daily and is paid indefinitely. Additionally, this dividend allows the beneficiary to actively pursue his or her other investments that do have a direct effect on the bottom line. Hence, these "passive investments" may well lead to an increased level of activity, which translates to greater productivity. Unequivocally, the most vulnerable and dangerous investment we can make is in another human being. Yet most of us make these dangerous investments continually, throughout our lifetime. Despite being tremendously disappointed at times, we constantly pursue friendships for some indeterminable reason. Ideally, there should be a stop-loss mechanism for friendships so as to minimize the pain of an "investment" gone bad. You should have the ability to buy a call on relationships to lock in a certain comfort level. Alas, realism is often the mirror image of idealism. Thus, we have precious little to protect our investment in people other than our original judgment and our ability to constantly adapt. Therefore, an investment in people truly represents the riskiest of ventures. Nevertheless, when successful, the dividend is immeasurable! Remember: Life is a journey. Enjoy the ride!