Barge Business is Booming

The barge business in America is booming, says Craig Hodges, portfolio manager for the Hodges Small Cap Fund ( HDPSX), so investors should consider getting aboard Kirby Corp ( KEX) while they still can.

"It's an inland barge operator that's doing very well right now, and it will do even better when natural gas prices recover," says Hodges.

The $83 million fund, which garners a full 5 stars from Morningstar ( MORN), is up more than 13% over the past 12 months, putting it in the top 1% of Morningstar's small blend category. Over the past 3 years, the fund has returned an average of nearly 34% annually, outpacing 97% of its Morningstar rivals.

Sticking with the barge theme, Hodges is also bullish on barge - and railcar - maker Trinity Industries.

"Almost three quarters of Trinity's business is supplying the barge and railroad industries, and we are in the early cycle of re-orders for most of the rails," says Hodges.

In the energy arena, Dallas-based Hodges is a fan of SandRidge Energy, which gets most of its output from Oklahoma's Mississippi Lime Shale.

"We think CEO Tom Ward is a great operator. The company is very strong at maximizing very inexpensive, low-risk wells and if you have high oil prices - like I think we are going to have - this company is going to do very well," says Hodges.

Far outside of the oil patch, Hodges also likes Steve Madden ( SHOO), mostly for the company's ability to efficiently and quickly bring product to market.

"They can bring a popular trend to market faster than anybody else. And they have faster turns than anybody else when trends change," says Hodges.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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