EP Award Promo

BERKO: A soybean-frosted market goes best with a slice of grape pie


Dear Mr. Berko:

Like you, I think the Dow Jones is way too high and that current prices for many stocks are too high. But I have $26,000 I can afford to put at risk in the market. I don’t want to buy commodities or options or invest in fancy computer trading strategies. I would like to buy some issues you think are very underpriced for the long haul. I don’t need this money, and I don’t want to lose it, but I don’t want it to sit there in cash earning less than 1 percent. So I’m willing to risk it in hopes of a potentially good return.

M.B., Aurora, Ill.

Dear M.B.:

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke finally came clean in late March, commenting that there is not enough domestic spending to sustain an economic recovery and admitting that: “We lack a source of demand to keep the economy growing.” Few comments could be closer to the truth or as publicly candid.

Bernanke knows there’s trouble in River City, which is why he’s keeping interest rates low. However, Ben won’t give us the straight skinny about the economy until after the election, because truth always defers to politics, no matter who runs the White House.

I think of the market like grape pie, radish cake and soybean frosting. It looks good, but it just doesn’t taste right to me. However, there may be some very low priced regional bank stocks if you have three to five years’ worth of patience.

One issue that may be fruitful is Doral Financial Corp. (DRL-$1.73), home ported in San Juan. DRL, founded in 1972, has 29 branches in Puerto Rico and seven in Florida and New York, and it could earn 18 cents this year and 49 cents in 2013. Its book value is $3.80 per share, and DRL could be at $8 a share in five years.

Another is Huntington Bancshares Inc. (HBAN-$6.22), a Columbus, Ohio, bank founded in 1866, with 652 branches in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, West Virginia and Indiana. Its book value is $6.53 per share, it pays a 16-cent dividend (which may increase), and it expects to earn 56 cents per share in 2012 and 66 cents in 2013. By 2017, HBAN could trade in the mid-teens.

Synovus Financial Corp. (SNV-$2), founded in 1888 and home ported in Georgia, generates $1.1 billion in revenues from locations in Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. SNV has a $2.55 per share book value and should earn 9 cents per share in 2012 and 18 cents in 2013. By 2017, its share price could reach $8 to $10.

Flagstar Bancorp Inc. (FBC-84 cents) is a Troy, Mich., bank founded in 1987. FBC has 162 locations in Michigan, Indiana and Georgia, and with $303 million in revenues, it may earn a penny a share in 2012. In 2013, revenues should increase by 10 percent, and per-share earnings could improve to 6 cents. The shares, trading at 54 percent of its $1.55 per share book value, are likely to grow fourfold in the next five years.

Finally, Popular Inc. (BPOP-$1.80), founded in 1917 and based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, expects to produce revenues of $1.8 billion in 2012 from nearly 300 branches in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, California and Florida.

BPOP has a $3.97 per share book value and should earn 19 cents per share in 2012 and 29 cents in 2013. BPOP could trade at $10 in the next five years.

Don’t try to cherry-pick from this list. Rather, invest $5,000 in each issue, and use a discount broker such as Schwab or Vanguard and save more than $600 in commissions costs.

prairiemeadows brd 020123 300x250