TSC Ratings provides exclusive stock, ETF and mutual fund ratings and commentary based on award-winning, proprietary tools. Its "safety first" approach to investing aims to reduce risk while seeking solid outperformance on a total return basis.A stock that provides both growth and value is the holy grail of the investment world. Investors usually must accept one attribute and forgo the other. The following are two fast-growing technology companies whose shares have beaten the S&P 500 Index and Nasdaq Composite Index this year. Yet they remain cheap. Both companies are rated "buy" by TheStreet.com Ratings. Only 76 of 1,001 tech stocks covered by TheStreet.com Ratings earn such a recommendation. Atlanta-based Ebix ( EBIX) is an international provider of software and Internet services for insurance companies. Ebix has plowed ahead with impressive growth because it saves insurers money. Additional capital is something insurance companies need right now. The micro-cap company's first-quarter revenue rose 24% to $24 million, beating the industry's average increase of 11%. Earnings per share soared 48%, the ninth consecutive quarter of growth, indicating Ebix is somewhat decoupled from the overall economy. The company's weak points are its lackluster cash position and sizable debt load. Looking at peer valuation in the application-software industry, shares of Ebix are trading at a significant discount based on earnings, sales, book value and cash flow. The stock's price-to-earnings ratio is 10.4, compared with 20 for other apps makers. The stock has jumped 16% this year, beating the Nasdaq's 9.6% gain, and seems poised for a further advance as insurers regain their footing. NVE ( NVEC), another micro-cap, is holding down the fort in Eden Prairie, Minn., despite a semiconductor-industry slump. The company sells devices that use so-called spintronics, nanotechnology that relies on spinning electrons to acquire and transmit information. NVE has carved out a profitable niche in the robotics and medical-device markets, helping it overcome the economic meltdown.
In the fourth quarter, which ended in March, revenue rose 27% to $7 million, twice that of the semiconductor industry's average of 14%. Earnings per share followed suit, climbing 38% and marking the third full year of growth. NVE's operating margin is an eye-popping 61.5%. The company has an outstanding liquidity position and no debt. The shares, compared with other chip companies, are trading at a significant discount based on earnings and cash flow, but are expensive based on sales and book value. NVE has a price-to-earnings ratio of 18.5, well below the peer average of 43.7. The stock has jumped 48% this year, compared with 13% for the S&P 500 Semiconductor Index, which includes Intel ( INTC) and Advanced Micro Devices ( AMD). Once the economy picks up, NVE will be an attractive acquisition candidate for a larger semiconductor player looking to expand in spintronics.