Deadliest Catch: Wall Street Edition

By Derek Simon | October 03, 2008 AAA

One of my favorite TV shows is "Deadliest Catch," a program that documents the exploits of crab fisherman as they battle against the unpredictable Bering Sea - and sometimes themselves - doing what many believe is the most dangerous job on Earth.

Investors know better. The most dangerous job on Earth this past week wasn't fishing for crabs; it was assessing the status of one's investment portfolio without the aid of alcohol or sedatives. (For some tips on keeping your portfolio strong in a weak market, read Surviving Bear Country.)

Rough Seas
On Monday of this week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by a record 777.68 points and the NYSE advance-decline ratio resembled a grade school vote for "National Liver & Onions Day," with 94% of the issues negative and just 6% positive. After a brief break in the investment weather Tuesday, which produced a decent market rally, the rough seas returned and by Thursday's close the Dow was on the rocks and getting pounded once again.

Fueling this economic perfect storm is the bailout bust, declining factory orders and rising unemployment - a scenario Warren Buffett referred to as an "economic Pearl Harbor" in an Oct. 1 appearance on the "The Charlie Rose Show".

Running Against the Wind
Yet, as every good crabber knows, even when the fishing is poor, one is likely to find at least a couple of "keepers" in the pot. The same is true of the stock market. Below are five stocks that have bucked the trend this week and may continue to do so:


Company 9/26 Close 10/02 Close Gain
Alabama Aircraft Industries(Nasdaq:AAII) $1.80 $3.08 71.1%
EF Johnson Technologies
(Nasdaq:EFJI)
$1.14 $1.80 57.9%
Delias
(Nasdaq:DLIA)
$2.50 $3.00 20.0%
Gateway Financial Holdings(Nasdaq:GBTS) $5.95 $6.36 6.9%
Fairfax Financial Holdings(NYSE:FFH) $303.00 $329.00 8.6%


Alabama Aircraft Industries

Although lightly traded, there is some evidence to suggest that Alabama Aircraft Industries might finally be taking flight. In the past four days, AAII has shot up 71%, primarily on the news Wednesday that Judge John Buckley of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims had sided with the small Alabama aircraft maintenance and modification service company in its lawsuit against Boeing over a disputed military contract.

Better still, Alabama Aircraft's subsidiary, AAII-Birmingham, recently inked several new deals, including a five-year contract to manufacture air traffic console assemblies used to support the Navy's AN/TPX-42A Shipboard Air Traffic Control installation aboard a variety of different vessels.

In other words, times are good. (For more on small company analysis, read Introduction To Small Caps and Small Cap Research Can Have Big Impact.)

EF Johnson Technologies
I'm not sure I would recommend this stock to my grandmother ... or my parents... or the guy I saw dressed up as a submarine sandwich the other day (why make his life any worse?), but there's no denying EF Johnson Technologies has been on a nice roll recently.

In fairness, the company, which provides secure communications solutions, has been bringing in a lot of new business lately, including a $48 million contract from the Navy that its 3e Technologies subsidiary was recently awarded for a Virtual Perimeter Monitoring System.

Delias Inc.

Retail stocks have been hit nearly as hard as financial issues in recent days, making Delias' 20% appreciation in share price since Sept. 26 that much more impressive. (Delias is a direct marketing and retail company primarily targeting consumers between the ages of 12 and 19).

True, most if not all of that gain was undoubtedly the result of Monday's announcement that Delias was selling its CCS brand assets to Foot Locker (NYSE:FL) in a deal tentatively worth $102 million in cash - but up is up, right? Even if it is only temporary.

Gateway Financial Holdings
According to company literature, Gateway Financial Holdings Inc. "is the parent company of Gateway Bank & Trust Co., a regional community bank with thirty-seven full-service financial centers." Enough said.

Any company with the words "bank" and "financial" featured prominently in its profile that held its own last week deserves credit in my book - even if its banking operations needed an influx of funds to stay "well capitalized," which is one of the conditions of a previously announced merger agreement between Gateway and Hampton Roads Bankshares (Nasdaq:HMPR). (For in-depth analysis of the crisis, check out Subprime Mortgage Meltdown Crisis Special Feature.)

Fairfax Financial Holdings
At a time when most financial companies were getting crushed, Fairfax Financial, a provider of property and casualty insurance, reinsurance and investment management services, was riding high, gaining 8.58% in equity value from Sept. 26 to Oct. 2.

Despite some bad investments that hurt the company's earnings in the second quarter, Fairfax Financial has substantially grown both its revenue and income over the past few years and is arguably still undervalued, with a PE ratio of 4.20 and a PEG ratio of 0.42.

What's more, the stock's -0.63 beta indicates that Fairfax is used to swimming upstream - a desirable characteristic if the investment winds continue to bring foul weather.

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