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A fluid more valuable than oil, and playable in the stock market? That pretty much describes water, and Ryan Connors of Boenning and Scattergood is an expert in water companies.
"The trends driving water are very long-term," he told CNBC. "Most people, when they think of water, they think of brushing their teeth or doing their dishes, and the reality is, water is very much an industrial commodity."
So how to play in water?
"There are really two different sides to the industry," he said. "One is the water-utility side, which would be more suitable for more conservative investors; two of the companies that we like there, that do have some scale, are Aqua America and American Water Works."
He finds that both companies have consistent growth profiles and offer solid dividend yields.
"On what we would call the equipment and technology side of the industry is where you get some of your more aggressive plays," he said. "A couple of companies we like on that side would be Ameron International and Northwest Pipe."
Both of those companies make large-diameter long-distance water pipelines.
How does a five-star fund manager play this volatile market? Mark Keeley of Keeley Asset Management does it with health care and energy stocks.
His five-star Keeley Small Cap Value Fund is up an average of 19.66 percent per year over the last five years, and even shows a gain of nearly 3 percent year-to-date.
"We're looking for undervalued stocks, and that takes us across all market caps and industries," he told CNBC. "We're best known for our work in the small-cap space, and we're still finding value in this market."
Among the names in which he's finding value is Pharmerica.
"Pharmerica was spun off last year from Amerisource Bergen," he said. "It's a pharmaceutical outsourcing company...it's definitely a good place to be, and a good way to participate in the changing demographics as it relates to health care."
He also likes Hill-Rom Holdings, a spin-off from Hillenbrand Industries that makes beds and furniture for hospitals.
"They are definitely a vertically-integrated company, as along as you stayed horizontal," he joked. "We see tremendous opportunity in the hospital-bed business."
Continuing on the "horizontal" theme, Keeley likes Superior Well Services, which specializes in the field of horizontal oil-well drilling.
The recent correction in gold and oil prices might not be completely over.
Stefan Risse, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, told CNBC why he thinks investors should be wary.
More CNBC Intelligence:
SPDRs Gold Trust , Market Vectors Gold Miners
United States Oil , iPath S&P GSCI Crude Oil Total Return Index
Valero , Marathon Oil
Focus on the fundamentals, and you can find yourself some stock-market bargains. So says Meditron Asset Management founder and chief investment strategist Walter Gerasimowicz.
"We're seeing a great deal of volatility," he told CNBC. "The economists missed again on the CPI by 100 percent; however, in terms of this market itself, jumping in and out of it is not the way to beat the market; rather, it is better to focus on companies which you expect to outperform through the generation of higher earnings, and, in turn, higher returns, for the long run."
So which stocks fit Gerasimowicz' profile?
He's concentrating on health care, defense and global infrastructure, and his health-care pick is Amedisys.
"This is one of the largest health-care providers in the country," he explained. "This is one of those non-cyclical, almost recession-proof growth stocks, which will be with us for many years to come."
His defense pick is Lockheed Martin, and his global infrastructure play is Harsco.
Disclosure information for Walter Gerasimowicz was not immediately available.
Options action on Watson Phamaceuticals indicates that traders think it might be a takeover target, according to one options experts.
"This is an interesting stock because it has landed in the cross-hairs of very eager call buyers previously on speculation that it might make an attractive takeover target," said Rebecca Darts of Interactive Brokers said Thursday morning on CNBC's "Squawk Box." "Most recently, we saw this back on July 21, in the wake of Teva's takeover of Barr Pharmaceuticals , but yesterday, with shares in Watson trading flat, we saw call volume hit a 52-week high, sending overall volume to about 14 times the normal volume."
Small-cap stocks haven't been making many big headlines lately, but that could be changing, according to Touchstone's Lawrence Creatura. He's found some interesting names for investors.
His four-star Touchstone Diversified Small Cap Fund is up an average of 11.92 percent per year over the last five years.
"That's where the best companies are," he told CNBC about the small-cap space. "The companies are understandable, and investors appreciate that."
So which stocks does he want investors to understand?
Topping his list is Brown Shoe.
"This is a classic value play," he said. "It's a depressed multiple applied to a depressed earnings profile, and right now, the stock is so inexpensive it's almost like a call option, which goes into the money if consumers return some day to buy shoes, and it seems to be a pretty safe bet that they will."
He also likes United Online, which recently bought FTD.com.
"It's got an ISP dial-up business, which is in decline, and it has an Internet-content business, which is expanding," he explained. "It's a stock going through a transition."
Rounding out his selections is Ceradyne.
Options traffic is signaling some bearish expections for retail and multinationals in the coming months, according to one analyst.
Moves in options for S&P retail ETF indicate that traders are looking to protect themselves against a drop in the sector, said Rebecca Darst on CNBC Wednesday.
One billion potential guzzlers: Anheuser-Busch, the official international beer sponsor of the Beijing Olympic games, has built stronger partnerships with the Olympics -- and with China.
Tony Ponturo, Anheuser-Busch VP of global media/sports marketing, talks Budweiser and Beijing with CNBC's SportsBiz blogger Darren Rovell.
Molson Coors Brewing
In the grip of a bear market, in the throes of recession, what's the best course of action for an investor? Morningstar's Bill Bergman says it's the best time to buy.
"Historically, it's proven to work, and it makes sense," the stock strategist told CNBC. "During recessions, we have a great deal of productivity improvement, and looking backward, it certainly proved to be a good strategy."
Even for a contrarian, Lowe's might seem to be an unusual top pick.
"It's squarely in the middle of the cross-hairs," he admitted. "We have a difficult economy -- I don't want to understate that -- but Lowe's is a great operator, committed to customer service, and someone who's going to benefit in the long run from the shakeout that's happening in housing right now."
Another "Buy" opinion:
Bergman says his firm favors so-called "wide-moat companies," companies with durable competitive advantages that endure during recessions and are positioned to flourish after they are over.
Companies like Fastenal.
"It's actually near an all-time high, but we still think it's a buy," he said. "It's a company that actually grows during recessions, an industrial supplies distributor that's sensitive to housing and to the conditions in manufacturing."
Gold demand is soaring. George Milling-Stanley, manager of gold market analysis at World Gold Council, offered CNBC some fun facts about the "6,000-year-old hedge" -- and why he wishes he could buy more of it.
Global investment demand for gold in the second quarter: $3.5 billion, up 29 percent from the same quarter in 2007.
Demand breakdown annually:
- Jewelry: 65 percent, or "2/3 to 3/4" of annual consumption.
- Investment: 13 to 14 percent
- Industrial: 12 percent
- (The remainder: Medical & miscellaneous.)
Milling-Stanley says jewelry provides a dependable floor -- while investment demand determines whether prices will rise or fall going forward.
By nation: India accounts for 25 percent of annual demand; the U.S., Egypt and Vietnam follow.
Gold ETF holdings dropped in April; but recovered in May and June.
A Contrarian View:
Price correlations: At the moment, gold is following oil because of the effects on crude of the stronger dollar , Milling-Stanley says. But this is not a mathematical relationship, he says. But the dollar-to-gold connection is "a very, very strong inverse relationship."
As gold is both a commodity and a currency -- and is never totally consumed/used up, unlike most other commodities -- the analyst says it always enjoys offsets, particularly as an alternative to stocks and bonds.
"Gold has been an excellent 6,000-year-old hedge versus inflation and geopolitical tension -- which doesn't seem to be going away. I only wish I could afford to buy more of it," Milling-Stanley said.
Top gold ETFs:
- SPDR Gold Shares
- iShares COMEX Gold Trust
- Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF
- PowerShares DB Gold
Disclosure information was not available for Milling-Stanley.