TheStreet.com Ratings provides exclusive stock, ETF and mutual fund recommendations using proprietary tools. Our "safety first" approach aims to reduce risk while achieving total return performance.BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- The following companies have market values of $50 million to $500 million and receive "buy" ratings from our proprietary quantitative model, which considers more than 60 factors. They are ordered by their potential to appreciate. Hawkins ( HWKN) blends and distributes bulk and specialty chemicals for water treatment, and industrial and pharmaceutical use. The numbers: Fiscal fourth-quarter revenue ascended 32% to $68 million as net income surged 194% to $5.1 million and earnings per share climbed 182% to 48 cents. The operating margin increased to 11% and the net margin jumped to 8%. The company has zero debt and ample liquidity, as reflected by a quick ratio of 2.1. The stock: Hawkins has risen 26% in 2009, beating the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 Index. Yet the stock trades at a price-to-earnings ratio of 8, indicating a vast discount to the market, and pays a 2.7% dividend yield. American Physicians Group ( AMPH) provides medical professional liability insurance for physicians and health-care providers in Texas. The company also has an investment arm that gives advice and asset-management services to institutions and wealthy individuals. The numbers: First-quarter revenue fell 2% to $19 million as net income increased 40% to $4.7 million and earnings per share climbed 46% to 67 cents. The operating margin surged to 38% and the net margin widened to 25%. The company boasts minimal debt and ample liquidity, as reflected by $38 million of cash. The stock: American Physicians Group is up 6% in 2009, beating the Dow but underperforming the S&P 500. The stock trades at a cheap price-to-earnings ratio of 8 and offers a 1.3% dividend yield.
NCI ( NCIT) provides IT engineering and professional solutions to federal agencies. With mounting budget deficits and a growing national debt, Washington is looking to streamline. NCI offers an attractive play on this trend. The numbers: First-quarter revenue increased 15% to $105 million as net income gained 29% to $4.7 million and earnings per share climbed 26% to 34 cents. The operating margin improved to 8% and the net margin stretched to 5%. The company has a high quick ratio of 1.6, but just $1.4 million of cash, compared to $31 million of debt. The stock: NCI is flat in 2009, underperforming the Dow and S&P 500. The stock trades at a high price-to-earnings ratio of 23 and doesn't pay dividends. PetMed Express ( PETS) markets prescription and non-prescription medications and health products for dogs, cats and horses. The numbers: Fiscal first-quarter revenue increased 13% to $77 million as net income grew 22% to $8.1 million and earnings per share climbed 29% to 36 cents, helped by a lower share count. The operating margin increased from 14% to 16% and the net margin passed 10%. A quick ratio of 3.7 indicates an outstanding liquidity position, and the balance sheet holds zero debt. The stock: PetMed is up 5% in 2009, beating the Dow but underperforming the S&P 500. The stock trades at a fair price-to-earnings ratio of 17 and doesn't pay dividends. Applied Signal Technology ( APSG) provides intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance solutions for the defense and homeland security markets. The numbers: Fiscal second-quarter revenue increased 18% to $54 million as earnings doubled to $4 million, or 31 cents per share. The operating margin climbed to 12% and the net margin ascended to 8%. The company has an ideal financial position, with just $4 million of debt and $55 million of cash, amounting to a quick ratio of 4.6 and a debt-to-equity ratio just above zero. The stock: Applied Signal Technology has surged 45% in 2009, outperforming major U.S. indices. The stock trades at an expensive price-to-earnings ratio of 28 and offers a lackluster 1.9% dividend yield. TSC Ratings was given an award this year for "Best Stock Selection" among independent research providers by BNY ConvergEx Group. A rating can be viewed for any stock through our screener. Ratings are derived from a variety of fundamental and pricing figures and represent our opinion of risk-adjusted performance. However, the rating doesn't incorporate all factors that can alter a stock's performance. -- Reported by Jake Lynch in Boston. Feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.