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Alan Brochstein Looks at Some Companies With Potential to Do Well in a Weak Economy

The current investment environment has become very challenging for investors. Not only have prices fallen dramatically, but the outlook for growth is becoming cloudier.  While many investors react by doing nothing, like deer in a headlight, or perhaps by selling everything, extreme volatility such as the market is enduring can present opportunities.

During this retreat, the selling seems to have been indiscriminant, with the price declines rather uniform across sectors and industries. One way to take advantage of such action is to reposition into industries that might be better able to weather any coming storms, including continued slow growth or even another recession. Three industries that I think should fare well would include dollar stores, off-price retailers and pawnshops.

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Dollar stores focus on the low-end consumer and have shifted since the last recession into more non-discretionary items. As such, they aren’t particularly economically sensitive. The four companies that I track would include Family Dollar (FDO)Dollar General (DG)Ninety-Nine Cents Only (NDN) and Dollar Tree (DLTR).

The off-price retailers could benefit from what's known as "trade-down", i.e. getting formerly better-to-do customers who are now trying to economize. The list here is probably much longer than the three I name, but in any list of trade-down retailers I would also include Wal-Mart (WMT)Ross Stores (ROST) and TJX (TJX).

Finally, pawnshops usually benefit in a sluggish or even recessionary environment, as they provide credit to cash-strapped consumers and also offer low-cost used goods to their customers. Unlike other financial companies, the companies that I follow tend to have little or no debt. I have shared this list before, but the names I follow include EZCORP (EZPW)Cash America (CSH) and First Cash (FCFS).

Here is a table that includes some attributes for the ten stocks I have mentioned, sorted by their price decline over the first 10 days of August:

[click on the chart above to enlarge it]

As always, remember that these aren’t recommendations to buy or sell, just ideas for future consideration. You should always do your own research before investing.

Notice that while all ten stocks fallen in price, many of these stocks are still up in 2011. I have included some other data, such as the Net Debt to Capital, forward P/E ratio and the dividend yield.

While it’s not the focus of this post, with the potentially changing economic environment it’s essential to pay attention to a company's debt levels. Having some debt isn’t necessarily a concern, but you should take it into consideration.  

So, hopefully I have given you a few candidates to consider if you agree that the industries highlighted may perform well in a continuing environment of weak economic growth. The sharp decline in prices might allow you to reposition your own portfolio.  Before investing, you should do your own investigation to identify risks and potential opportunities.


Alan Brochstein
Founder, Invest By Model and AB Analytical Services
TradeKing All-Star Commentator


Disclosure:  Alan Brochstein is long EZPW currently.

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