Shares of Arkansas Best are also cheap by another measure: They trade at just 90% of tangible book value. That should provide downside support if the market gets choppy.

Cliffs Natural Resources

Value investors tend to seek out companies that have a strong base of assets but are otherwise temporarily out of favor as near-term sales and profit trends weaken. Undergirded by a strong balance sheet, shares can hold their own until operations improve. Of course, there are so many moving parts to a balance sheet, and all of the assets may be valued more optimistically than the real world data suggest. That's why it's always interesting to look at a company after it has just taken a fresh, more realistic view of its balance sheet.

Mining firm Cliffs Natural Resources ( CLF) is a perfect example. The company recently announced that it is writing off roughly $2 billion in asset values because previously acquired mines are no longer worth as much. This is known as "kitchen sink accounting," when a company aims to get rid of all the bad news at once.

The good news: Cliff's revised balance sheet is now a lot more accurate. The better news: That updated balance sheet is worth a lot more than the company's market value. Cliff's now has roughly $6.3 billion in shareholder value, compared to a market value of just $5.1 billion. That means shares might rally 20% just to get back up to book value.

That's cold comfort to any investors that have seen this stock fall from $100 in the summer of 2011 to a recent $36, but the next stock price move now appears to be upward.

To see these stocks in action, visit the 4 Turnaround Plays for 2013 portfolio.


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