Picking a Great Trade:
They’re Out There and They’re Waiting

picking stock tradesOne of the best ways to hone your equity trading skills is to take apart a stock that’s done well. Even if you didn’t own a position, a cursory review of a stock’s price action does help you to refine your stock-picking skills. It’s the exact same thing as playing the game of golf. You can’t get better at it unless you practice yourself and learn from a pro.

Case in point, QuinStreet, Inc. (NASDAQ/QNST), a small-cap company that listed its shares for trading earlier in the year. Based in Foster City, California, QuinStreet generates revenues by producing online marketing results to customers. The company sells its services to clients in large, information-intensive industries like education and financial services. Clients pay the company to generate new customer leads, typically in a call center or through other offline means, but also through clicks from web sites. Make no mistake, when you’re surfing the Internet, a lot of people are watching.

Founded in 1999, this company has grown very quickly. QuinStreet recently completed its initial public offering (IPO), selling 10 million shares to the marketplace at $15.00 per share. After fees and expenses, the company raised approximately $140 million to expand its business.

According to the company, it generated revenues of $103.6 million during its latest quarter ended September 30, 2010, representing a solid gain of 32% over the same quarter last year. Net income came in at $7.5 million, or $0.16 per diluted share, compared to net income of $16.5 million, or $0.16 per diluted share, last year.

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QuinStreet recently purchased CarInsurance.com Inc. for $49.7 million in cash, and it has built a major online presence in the insurance business, operating Insurance.com and Insure.com. This is a smart business model in my mind. It’s a multi-faceted business strategy to generate eyeballs for new customers.

Back in July and August, just about every stock, large-cap or small-cap, was trading in the doldrums. Investors seemed only interested in the world’s bad news, and not even the best corporate news could get a stock moving. Then, September came with a little better economic news and there was a huge reversal in stock prices. It was like a new era, and institutional investors started buying stocks.

In QuinStreet’s case, the company was growing, but nobody cared. Then, with investor sentiment much improved in the broader market, the company issued a filing backing its previous guidance for the year. It was like the company made some huge upgrade in its forecast. In reality, it only confirmed what it had forecast earlier. Then, the company reported a solid quarter, it announced a major new acquisition and it picked up a new “buy” rating from a major investment bank.

In no time at all, this underfollowed and previously unloved stock had doubled from a low of $9.79 per share to its recent new record high of around $20.50 per share. This was a great trade and it reveals the illusion of price value on the stock market. What is this company worth: $10.00 a share or $20.00? The answer for the trader is that it doesn’t matter.

One of the absolute best times to be looking for new stock trades is during times of major pessimism. QuinStreet hit a new 52-week low in August and is now hitting new record highs. The company didn’t do anything different. It didn’t do any better than it said it was going to do. I love trades like this. From an all-time low to an all-time high in just three months. From my perspective, it always pays to screen for stocks hitting new 52-week lows. It’s an easy way to generate some names of a few very good businesses that happen to be temporarily missed by the Street.