Buy or Sell? Wednesday's Losers: AUQ, FRAN

By David Sterman,

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Among the biggest losers in Tuesday's early trading are AuRico Gold ( AUQ ) and Francesca's Holdings (Nasdaq: FRAN) .

When companies have to deliver bad news, they sometimes turn to a professional group of publicists that work ininvestor relations (IR ), a sort of public relations play for theWall Street crowd. These IR pros are adept at spinning bad news into good news, but investors often see right through it. Perhaps the executives at AuRico Gold were hoping for a positivemarket reaction when they issued a press release noting that activity at a key mine will be stalled for "further development." No matter the explanation, investors spotted trouble, and have pushedshares down more than 20% this morning.

Dig past the press release, and you'll discover that AuRico has been beset by labor troubles at its all-important Ocampo mine, and the fresh delay appears to stem from an inability to find enough workers to staff operations. This is actually an issue dogging many mining firms: Mine workers have been pushing for improved working conditions and higher pay across the globe, and mine operators have been hesitant to meet all the workers' demands. Slowdowns and stoppages have been taking place throughout much of the past year. 

Beyond the labor issues, AuRico is also spending more now to become a lower-cost producer down the road, and in the perverse logic of Wall Street, higher levels of near-term investments in the business are a punishable offense. 

Irrespective of AuRico's near-term expense bulge, mining is still quite profitable, as long ascommodity prices stay firm. And in all likelihood, the sudden $400 million haircut to AuRico'smarket value is likely larger than the actual long-term loss the company will suffer from mining delays. The nice thing about mining is that what you don't extract today, you can extract tomorrow. 

And Barry Allan, who follows AuRico for Mackie Research, noted in mid-August that "AUQ is a company in full transition -- from a higher-cost producer, to a bigger lower-cost producer -- and in doing so, becomes a well-capitalized gold producer with excellent growth prospects. This transition over-hangs the share price." He sees shares eventually rebounding to $15, which represents thenet asset value (NAV ) of the company's mines. 

Francesca's transition
Ever since its debut as apublic company in the summer of 2011, boutique retailer Francesca's Holdings has settled into a nice "beat and raise pattern." The company beats consensus forecasts, and raises guidance. On Tuesday evening, Francesca's delivered another solidquarterly report , led by strong 21% same-store sales growth.

So why are shares getting pummeled today? BecauseCEO and co-founder John De Merritt has announced plans to retire.  The fact that he's only 41 years old and doesn't even have an interest in sticking around as a board member has given some investors pause. That issue, along with the fact that shares trade for more than 30 times projected 2012EPS forecasts, was enough for Jefferies' Randal Konik todowngrade the stock from "buy" to "hold." 

Yet if you own this stock, then you may want to sit tight. That's because up-and-coming retailers that resonate with their demographic (in this instance, women aged 18-35) tend to stay hot for an extended period. The fact that same-store sales are rising so quickly, even as consumer spending remains weak, sets the stage for continued solid growth in the years to come as theeconomy improves. 

Don't own this stock yet? There's no hurry, as shares are unlikely to be rescued by dip buyers in the near-term. That gives you time to fully research this stock. Few retailers have this kind of sales momentum, and if you can get a sense that the company's trajectory will fuel sales and EPS growth by mid-decade, then you may well conclude that today's pullback is the window you need for an entry point.

Action to Take -->  Many quickly-falling stocks have equally rapid rebound potential. These two stocks do not. Both AuRico Gold and Francesca's Holdings may stay rangebound in the near-term, but each company faces fairly bright longer-term prospects. So both of these stocks hold great appeal if you're looking for fresh investment ideas to research.

-- David Sterman

David Sterman does not personally hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article. StreetAuthority LLC does not hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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This article appears in: Investing Stocks
Referenced Stocks: AUQ , FRAN

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