Here's What's Behind Stocks that Rise in Falling Markets


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On April 26, the Dow hit a 52-week high of 11,258.01.

It lost -11.0% through June 2 and has since clawed back some ground but remains -8.5% below its late-April high point. We lived through some big swings in May.

Those big moves don't look like they will abate in the near-term: The "Fear Index ," a measure of investor sentiment based on options trading, has risen to 30 today from 22 in late April, signaling investors are increasingly edgy and uncertain.

The soft economic recovery at home and troubles in Greece and Spain and elsewhere aren't helping anything, nor is the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In a climate like this, when the market has the opportunity to cathartically dispel its anxiety, it will generally take it -- and send prices plummeting.

But despite the challenging environment, a select basket of stocks are still delivering tremendous returns.

Even on the market's worst days, some securities are actually rising in price, sometimes substantially. Great stocks can see their shares gain a lot of ground in a bear market .

What's so special about these stocks?

What sets them apart?

Why, when strong companies like Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ ) lose -7.8% and tech bellwethers like Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) shed -14.9% of their value, can other companies move in the other direction despite a prevailing negative sentiment on Wall Street?

The answer lies in a major business advantage that is so strong, so resilient, that it can defy market gravity. This advantage might be a technological innovation or a new product or a service that's making money hand over fist.

Whatever this exceptional advantage is, it tends to insulate the company's value in bad times. And in good times it allows such companies to do some real open-field running.

One example of such a company is Coinstar (Nasdaq: CSTR) . This innovative firm began putting change-counting machines into grocery stores a number of years ago. Customers bring in a jar of change and Coinstar's machines count it -- collecting a steep fee in the process. The machines then print a receipt that can be redeemed for cash at the store's customer-service counter.

Good business model . Popular service.

Then Coinstar got really innovative. It partnered with major retailers to allow customers to have their change counted with no fee if they would allow their money to be put on a gift card. Gift cards are a gold mine -- they're basically short-term loans that don't pay interest, allowing all those unused balances to generate a return for the company. All the customer gets -- aside from his change counted -- is convenience.

Then came the coup de grace.

Coinstar got its hands on a serious game-changing business called RedBox. These kiosks, now nearly ubiquitous, allow customers to rent DVDs for a dollar a day. It's all billed to a customer's credit card and is bar-code based, so a customer can rent from a machine at, say, the grocery store and return it to any other convenient location. These remarkable machines are extremely handy and very, very popular. There's always a line at the one sitting outside the grocery store near my house.

Here's the kicker: As the Dow fell as much as -11% from April 26 to the present, shares of Coinstar -- an innovative, game-changing company -- jumped +50.6% through Wednesday's close. The chart below proves the adage "a picture is worth a thousand words."

So that's how the company has performed in tough times. In better markets, though, Coinstar screams like a Formula One car down a clear stretch of track. For the past year, it's up +87.1%. For the past five years, Coinstar has gained +186% (versus a gain of just +10.9% for the Nasdaq). Since its debut in 1997, the company has grown in value by +439%, about eight times its benchmark .

So let me ask: Would you rather invest in revved up companies like Coinstar or would you prefer the lackluster results of the overall market?

Well, I sure know which one I'd pick. I know which of those two choices has the power to turn me into a multi-millionaire.

And the fact is that these companies aren't as rare as you might think. In the month that the market took its -11% dive, I found 500 stocks in the United States that gained more than +10%.

How many of these did you have in your portfolio?

I'll tell you about another that's in mine: This small biotech company is going to turn the plastics business on its head. You haven't heard about this company on the evening news yet or read about it in the paper, but you can bet your boots you will. In the meantime, the people who are in the know are holding their shares dear. They didn't lose an inch of ground in the past month of bloodletting.

Like Coinstar, this company's business advantage is so enormously compelling that it puts a deep moat around the shares.

You see, plastics are derived from petroleum. They use oil. And we use a fantastic amount of plastics. I mean, when was the last time you bought anything that didn't have plastic in it or on it? Maybe an apple? Heck, even it comes in a plastic bag!

But that's changing.

A smart startup has special bacteria that it can introduce into corn. These little bugs eat the corn and excrete a substance known as PHA.

It looks like plastic.

It's moldable like plastic.

It's resistant to heat and water just like plastic.

But it's not plastic. It's a totally renewable source of a material that could vastly change how we manufacture the things we use in our daily lives. In fact, Paper Mate is introducing a pen made from this plastic.

It's called the Paper Mate Biodegradable.

That's right. This plastic is totally natural. It doesn't harm the environment at all. Throw it into your compost pile and it will break down just like lawn clippings, a cigar butt or an orange peel. It is a totally "green" material -- a useful product that eco-friendly consumers are going to eat up.

Shares of this little known company have soared +28.9% in the past month. In the past 12 months they've returned a remarkable +121.7%.

Another company that defied the market's gravity was a teeny little British oil exploration firm that I bet not even one investor in 10,000 had ever heard of. I discovered this company as I watched a diplomatic flap unfold after this company and a couple of other British oil companies started drilling some very promising wells off the shores of The Falkland Islands.

I quickly snapped up shares of Rockhopper Exploration (London: RKH) , which thumbed their nose at a falling market and skyrocketed +287.4% in about 90 days! Falling market or not, locating a major undersea field that could contain billions of barrels of oil is going to add to a stock's price. And it did.

I'll be including the name of the plastics company I mentioned earlier, along with nearly a dozen other potential game-changers like it, in my new Fast-Track Millionaire newsletter, scheduled for a mid-month launch. This unique publication will focus exclusively on the stocks that have the potential to explode.

Want a sneak peak? Please join me at a free webinar on June 15 , where I'll discuss four companies with game-changing businesses that could well be the next Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) or Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) . Click here to sign up.

Andy Obermueller
Editor: Government-Driven Investing

Disclosure: Andy Obermueller does not own shares of any security 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
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