I heard the sad news last night that legendary Phillies broadcast announcer Harry Kalas passed unexpectedly yesterday as he was getting ready to do what he loved best: Call a game. Harry was a great guy and a terrific broadcaster. They don't make them any better.Harry will be missed by the team, the fans and myself. He's been a mainstay at Phillies games since 1971. That's quite a track record for anyone. The track record for my deep-in-the-money options trading system is now 100-1, with Monday's $1,000 win on Alcoa ( AA). To pick winning stocks, I use a lot of measures to judge whether shares are truly value-priced. The most important metric I use is the price-to-earnings ratio. But another measure that clarifies the relationship of a stock's going price to its profitability is price-to-cash flow. Earnings per share numbers -- particularly the ones excluding special charges -- can be smoothed by management from quarter to quarter. To counter that, investors can use the P/CF ratio to verify that a stock is a true value name. You can look up the P/CF ratio for stocks on various financial services sites, or calculate it yourself. I get P/CF by dividing the stock's market cap by last year's operating cash flow numbers, which are found in the company's most recent cash flow statements. Let's look at the ratios for a few companies to get a handle on the variation in P/CF ranges. We'll start with a value-oriented stock. On Monday, my pick for my DITM system was Noble Corp. ( NE), an oil-services company whose price has been pummeled despite expectations of profit growth this year. I liked Noble's return on equity (32.5%), price-to-earnings-to-growth ratio (0.48), and low PE (4.2) compared to its competitors.
Noble's operating cash flow in 2008 was $1.892 billion. Dividing Monday's market cap of $6.85 billion by cash flow gives the stock a value-oriented P/CF ratio of 3.62. I compared Noble Corp. with an unaffiliated oil services firm of the same name: Noble Energy ( NBL), which is trading at 26 times forward earnings per share. This stock is priced high relative to its earnings outlook. But based on 2008 operating cash flow of $2.29 billion, its P/CF ratio is an economical 4.6. Yet, Noble Energy's earnings per share are projected to fall 67% this year. Its cash flow will drop accordingly. With a forward-looking cash-flow projection, Noble Energy's P/CF ratio would look very different. Cameron International ( CAM) is another oil stock that just paid off for me, on March 10. At operating cash flow of $987.6 million in 2008, the stock has a P/CF ratio of 5.3. But when I picked it March 2, the stock had a low P/CF ratio of 3.8. The subsequent jump in the share price gave me my $1,000 win a week later. Now let's look at a stock that historically has traded at high multiples, although it has come down in recent months. Almost a year ago, Google ( GOOG) traded at about 30 times forward earnings. Today, it goes for about 18 times expected 2009 earnings per share. And its price to 2008 cash flow is high at 15.2. But a year ago -- when shares went for nearly $600 -- Google had a price to 2007 cash flow ratio of about 32.
As a rule, I pick value stocks that are still solid cash-flow generators. I pick them when they're down and wait for them to pop. Some other recent value-stock wins include Microsoft ( MSFT), which was trading at $16.50 when I picked it and now goes for almost $20. I also won with Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ), picking it at a share price of $29.50 and cashing out a week later when it hit $31.19. So, stick with my rock-solid, value-stock picks, and you'll win with me.