5 Warm-Weather Stocks: Buy, Sell or Hold?

MINNEAPOLIS (Stockpickr) -- The official start of spring marks the end of what has been a very long winter. Massive snow storms followed by long stretches of cold weather blanketed much of the U.S. this year. I'm ready to see the sun again -- and more important, I'm ready to get out of the house.

I don't think I am alone. Cabin fever has reached a peak for many. I suspect that not only are people ready to get out of the house, but consumers are ready for another burst of spending. The economy is recovering, and personal balance sheets are being repaired.

As the seasons change, so do trends in the market. Some companies do better during the warmer months, reflecting shifting buying patterns. Business, as they say, is cyclical, and that includes being cyclical around the calendar.

I recall a great example of that cyclicality with the trading of what is now named SMF Energy ( FUEL). Around the time of Hurricane Katrina, this company enjoyed wild swings in share price thanks to speculation that business would improve during hurricane season. When the season ended, investors and traders moved elsewhere.

Are there other examples of stocks that can be expected to do well now that the seasons have changed?

Related: 3 Stocks With Bullish Technical Setups

The stock market has held up well despite rough weather this winter. A mild correction has resulted in a solid base that is primed for future gains. A spring rally is certainly a possibility

Here is my take on five spring fever stocks.

Churchill Downs

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Nothing marks the arrival of warmer weather like the Kentucky Derby. Held during the first week of May, this championship race for 3-year-old thoroughbreds holds a special place in the hearts of sporting fans across generations. There is really nothing else like it.

This signature event held at the Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville is a big moneymaker for the track owner of the same name, Churchill Downs ( CHDN), a major player in the horse business. With a stronger economy, interest in horse racing is expected to be strong.

Related: 10 Best-Performing S&P 500 Stocks of 2011

Interestingly, the arrival of the moneymaking season for the company tends to be greeted by selling by investors. In each of the last two years, the time from May through August has been a down period for Churchill Downs stock. Shares have rallied in advance of the Derby and then investors have taken profits.

Are shares of Churchill Downs poised for a repeat performance this year? Perhaps not, if the stock's compelling valuation trumps the trading trend. Shares of Churchill Downs have rallied since March 15, when the stock traded for $37.50 per share, to the current price of around $41. With the approximately 10% move higher, shares now trade for 34 times last year's earnings of $1.19 per share. Analysts expect the company to make $1.96 this year.

I wouldn't bet against Churchill Downs this summer season. With earnings set to grow by more than 60% this year, the stock is reasonably priced at 20 times forward earnings estimates. A strong Derby this year and Churchill Downs could be off to the races as investors discover the compelling valuation.

Central Garden & Pet

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

It is pretty hard to do any gardening in the winter, especially in the northern climate, so by spring, the green thumbs are bound to be itching to get back to it. With their return to gardening are sure to come plenty of runs to local supply shops such as Central Garden & Pet ( CENT).

This small retailer has been struggling over the last year, with shares dipping to their current price of around $8.75 from a 52-week high of $11.85 last April. For a possible clue to how this stock might react this season, I would suggest taking a look at the trading history in 2009, when shares nearly doubled in value during the summer.

Irrespective of the technical patterns, Central Garden is attractive on a fundamental valuation basis. It is expected to make 85 cents per share per share in the 2011 fiscal year ending in September and 98 cents per share in the following year. At current prices, the stock trades for 9 times the 2012 earnings estimate.

With earnings growing by double digits, this stock is cheap. Spring fever might be the trigger for a strong rally in the stock. Keep an eye on those gardeners. How they spend this season will dictate performance for Central Garden.

I also recently highlighted Central Pet & Garden five growth stocks at reasonable prices.

Dick's Sporting Goods

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Since sports and activities have become a yearlong endeavor, sporting goods stores are not nearly as dependent on spring and summer spending as they may have been in the past. That said, it is far easier to be active in warmer weather than cold weather, and sporting goods companies such as Dick's Sporting Goods ( DKS) may see a boost in sales the coming season. The same is not true of the stock.

Shares of Dick's have been on a tear during the last two years. A quick glance at the chart and you can see the straight line appreciation of the stock. Shares have almost tripled in value during that time.

As a result of the gains, the stock is fully priced at the moment. The company made $1.63 per share in the year just ended in January 2011. Analysts are looking for that profit number to jump by 18% in the 2012 fiscal year. At current prices, shares of Dick's trade for 20 times the 2012 forward estimate.

It will take one heck of a summer selling season to keep shares at these levels. If the summer selling disappoints, this stock could get hit hard. I would stay away from this one during this spring fever season.

With a B buy rating, Dick's is one of TheStreet Ratings' top-rated specialty retail stocks.

Finish Line

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

A more reasonably priced alternative to Dick's might be Finish Line ( FINL), a retailer of athletic footwear and apparel. I love to run, and there is nothing like running outdoors after being cooped up inside during the winter. In fact, I usually mark the arrival of spring by buying a new pair of running shoes.

Of course, with Finish Line's located across the country, the company is well-diversified with respect to weather risk. That said, there is strong evidence that more runners take to the street in the summer as opposed to the winter, but that has done little with respect to boosting share price during summer months over the last two years.

This year may change that theme. From a valuation perspective, there might be more room to run. Finish Line is expected to make $1.29 per share for the year just completed in February 2011. That number grows by 10% to $1.42 in the next fiscal year. At its current price, Finish Line trades for 12 times 2012 earnings estimates.

If sales grow by more than expected this summer, look for shares of Finish Line to move higher.

Finish Line shows up on a recent list of 6 Retail Stocks to Watch, and it was highlighted earlier this month as one of five specialty retail stocks that could pop.

McCormick

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Spring fever is all about getting outside. One of my favorite outdoor activities is grilling. I can't wait to fire up my grill this year. It has been dormant much too long.

When I cook on the grill, I always use some sort of spice to enhance the flavor of whatever meat I'm preparing. One of my favorite flavor enhancers is Lawry's Seasoned Salt, made by McCormick ( MKC).

While this large, diversified company does well rain or shine, it will need to see a big boost in warm weather sales to see its stock move higher. Over the last two years the stock has been on a straight line higher. Shares have nearly doubled in that time. Not bad for a food company.

From a valuation standpoint, the stock might be a little on the pricey side. Analysts expect the company to make $2.82 per share for the fiscal year ending November and $3.07 per share in the next year. Meeting the number represents about 8% earnings growth. At current prices, McCormick trades for 16 times 2012 estimates.

I'm not sure my buying spices for my grilling will be enough to move this stock higher. The company does pay a dividend of more than 2%, but with growth less than double digits, this stock is too expensive.

With an A+ buy rating, McCormick is one of TheStreet Ratings' top-rated food products stocks. It was included earlier this month on a list of 5 Defensive Stocks to Protect Your Money.

-- Written by Jamie Dlugosch in Minneapolis.

RELATED LINKS:



Follow Stockpickr on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

At the time of publication, author had no positions in stocks mentioned.

Jamie Dlugosch is a founder and contributor to
MainStreet Investor and MainStreet Accredited Investor . Formerly, he was president and CEO of Al Frank Asset Management. He has contributed editorially to The Rational Investor , The Prudent Speculator , Penny Stock Winners and InvestorPlace Media .

More from Investing

Immigration, Instagram and Oil - Here's What You Can't Miss Wednesday

Immigration, Instagram and Oil - Here's What You Can't Miss Wednesday

REPLAY: Jim Cramer on Fed Rate Hikes, Oil Prices and Starbucks Worries

REPLAY: Jim Cramer on Fed Rate Hikes, Oil Prices and Starbucks Worries

What Will GM Do With Cruise -- and Is Its Stock Worth $55?

What Will GM Do With Cruise -- and Is Its Stock Worth $55?

3 Must Reads on the Market From TheStreet's Top Columnists

3 Must Reads on the Market From TheStreet's Top Columnists

This Should Be Your Retirement Savings Plan When the Stock Market Crashes

This Should Be Your Retirement Savings Plan When the Stock Market Crashes