STOCK WATCH


9 Stocks for Valentine's Day

Elizabeth Ody

Put a little love in your portfolio with these shares.



Valentine's Day should be a burst of cheer amid all the economic gloom. The National Retail Federation's spending survey found that Americans plan to put up a total of $15 billion in the name of Cupid this year, or $103 per person. Granted, that's $20 less than last year, but it's still a far cry from macaroni-necklace territory.

So, assuming you aren't watching the stock market instead of catering to your beloved on the 14th -- and you have no excuse because it's a Saturday -- where can you invest before then to put yourself on the receiving end of that $15 billion? By the way, most of these stocks are trading for much less than they did a year ago, which is no surprise.

Although Valentine's Day is often called a "Hallmark holiday," that ubiquitous supplier of corny cards is privately owned. American Greetings, however, is publicly traded and stands to sell a big bunch of the 190 million Valentine's Day cards Americans will be buying this year. The shares (symbol AM) are in the bargain bin -- at $4.76, that's only six times estimated earnings of $0.75 for the fiscal year ending February 2010.

The stock, which went for $20 a year ago, is still reeling from a gigantic loss in the quarter that ended in November and the company's downgrade to junk status by Standard & Poor's a few weeks ago. But a share-buyback program and an 9.3% dividend yield at this price -- assuming the dividends survive -- offer some love while you wait for better times.

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February 14 is the most important day of the year for florists. There's a good chance that many among the one in three Americans who will be purchasing flowers will shop at 1-800-Flowers.com. The online florist is luring thrifty lovebirds with a 25% discount on early deliveries and with ideas for gifts for less than $40.

In fiscal 2008, which ended in June, 54% of the company's $919-million sales came from selling flowers to individuals. 1-800-Flowers.com also sells to other florists and owns gift-shopping businesses, such as confectioner Fannie May and basket wholesaler DesignPac Gifts. Profits may be wilting, but they haven't dried and died. Its adjusted earnings for the second quarter, which ended in December, came in at $0.23 per share, or 21% lower than last year. At $2.31, the stock (FLWS) trades at 14 times estimated profits of $0.16 per share for the fiscal year ending in June.

If you're headed online for gifts, chances are that Amazon.com will be one of your first stops. The e-tail powerhouse has been a rare bastion of strength in retailing. Earnings per share for the fourth quarter, which ended in December, rang up at $0.52 -- tearing up analysts' average estimate of $0.39. Amazon's massive catalog and deals on shipping keep customers coming back, while buzz over the second-generation Kindle has investors on the edge of their seats. At $63.31, the stock (AMZN) trades for 43 times estimated 2009 profits per share of $1.48.

More than 8 billion candy "conversation hearts" will hit stores this year, but all that sugar is empty calories to your portfolio -- hearts maker New England Confectionary Company is privately owned. But you could pocket some profits on the 1.5 billion chocolate Kisses that will sell for V-day this year through shares of The Hershey Company. The candy-bar and peanut-butter-cup maker seems to be benefiting as consumers trade down from boutique-label imported chocolates. Hershey, one of the rare blue-chip stocks that are up from a year ago, posted strong results for its fourth quarter, boosting profits per share by 9%, to $0.59. At $35.80, the stock (HSY) trades for 18 times estimated 2009 earnings per share of $1.95.

While some of us are popping chocolates, others will pop the big question. That's sweet for Tiffany & Co., which earns nearly 20% of its revenues from engagement rings and wedding bands. Tiffany is offering free shipping and engraving for Valentine's Day gifts -- a rare deal that's presumably intended to overcome lousy sales at the Christmas season. Tiffany's sales declined 21%, to $687 million, in November and December, from the same period in 2007. At $21.56, Tiffany stock (TIF) trades for half what it did one year ago. It's at 11 times estimated fiscal 2010 profits of $1.97 per share.

But Blue Nile, with its emphasis on a low-pressure, value-minded selling process, could sway grooms-to-be who cannot afford a blue box. Through Web sites targeting the U.S., the United Kingdom and Canada, Blue Nile offers a wide variety of jewelry styles at low prices. Blue Nile (NILE) has even more riding on the spirit of the holiday than Tiffany does. Nearly 70% of its sales are engagement rings. At $22.49, the stock trades for 28 times estimated 2009 profits per share of $0.80.

Nothing says "amorous" like a pink-striped bag from Victoria's Secret. The lingerie retailer accounted for 62% of sales at Limited Brands in fiscal 2008, which ended in January. Sales at the undergarments chain came in at $5.6 billion for the year-flat from the year before. Limited Brands hasn't yet reported profits for its fourth quarter, but analysts are expecting a skimpy $0.64 per share, which would be a 32% decline from the same period last year. Not so skimpy, however, is the stock's 6.8% dividend yield. At $8.24, the shares (LTD) trade for nine times estimated fiscal 2009 profits per share of $0.93.

Last but not least, Pfizer (PFE) and Eli Lilly (LLY) could each give your portfolio a Valentine's lift. Sales of Viagra and Cialis are mere drops in the pharmaceutical giants' respective buckets. But you should take any excuse to adore these stocks. After all, demographic trends argue indisputably for the drug industry's long-term sales growth, and these stocks are cheap. At $14.07, Pfizer shares trade for seven times estimated 2009 earnings per share of $2.10. Eli Lilly shares, at $36.94, trade for nine times estimated 2009 earnings per share of $4.15. Both pay generous dividends, but Pfizer just cut its payout after buying Wyeth.




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