Don't Get Caught in a Value Trap

Watch out for cheap stocks that turn out to be stinkers.

In your column a few weeks ago about Benjamin Graham's Stock-Picking Strategies, you warned about cheap stocks you labeled "value traps." What are value traps, and how do investors avoid them?

Easier said than done. Value traps -- cheap stocks that turn out to be stinkers -- are like mirages: You think you've found a bargain-priced oasis only to end up eating sand. "It's a real pitfall for value managers," says Peter Morris, manager of Homestead Value fund, which invests in beaten-down companies. "There's no formula to help you steer clear of value traps."

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Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.