TheStreet.com 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 total return performance.ALEXANDRIA, Va. ( TheStreet) -- While the economy shows signs of recovery, increased unemployment remains a headwind that will affect consumers long after the recession ends. Gone is the age of easy money. Thrift is here to stay. As the U.S. economy emerges from crisis mode and returns to slow growth, Americans will shop for moderately priced goods and services while they sock away cash. While discounters like Wal-Mart ( WMT) and Dollar Tree ( DLTR) are likely to keep expanding in 2010, mid-priced retail and entertainment outlets such as movie theaters and bowling alleys will also benefit. Here's one micro-cap stock poised to gain. Alexandria, Va.-based Bowl America ( BWL.A), which has been around for more than 45 years, owns nineteen bowling alleys along the East Coast. Even though its earnings dropped every quarter in 2008, the company remained profitable during a brutal recession. The company's stock has outperformed those of its peers this year, prompting investors to scoop up shares. Earnings for the quarter that ended in March rose 12% to $1.8 million, or 35 cents a share, as revenue increased 4% to $9.2 million. Its operating margin expanded from 26% to 29% and its net margin inched up to 19%. We rate Bowl America "buy" and give it a financial strength score of 8.2 out of 10. The company has an ideal financial position, with $14 million of cash on its balance sheet. It has relied on equity for financing, so it has no debt. Bowl America shares have surged 47% this year, outperforming the 18% gain of the Russell 2000 Index, which tracks small companies. As a result, the stock's price-to-earnings ratio has grown to 21, expensive compared with the broader market. Still, it's trading at the same level as other leisure firms and offers an attractive 4.6% dividend yield, which is above the S&P 500 average.
-- Reported by Jake Lynch in Boston.