It seems like just a matter of time until the FTSE 100 hits the hallowed 7,000 mark.
The moment an entire generation of investors has been waiting for…
Stocks are well and truly back in fashion — and after 14 years of hurt, the market is merely a whisker away from making a brand new all-time high.
That’s great news for many reasons.
It reflects how much better the economy is faring, with manufacturing activity booming and new jobs being created. It shows how far we’ve come since the financial crisis…
And it means that almost everyone who has ever bought (and held onto) a stock-market tracker is showing a capital gain on their investment!
How about that for an endorsement of buy-and-hold investing?
But as someone who is constantly hunting for opportunities among cheap shares, I have to admit something:
This roaring market isn’t making my life easy!
During the crisis years, buying opportunities were never too hard to find — but 2014 is proving to be a very different beast for value-minded investors.
I’m Still Buying!
Even though the market has had a great run, and opportunities aren’t easy to find, I’m not sitting on my hands…
And with interest rates so low, there’s no way I’m sitting on piles of cash, either!
It might be a challenge, but I’m still finding good opportunities to invest my money into top-class shares.
Indeed, not every stock is on a mad, speculative ascent.
In fact, if you know where to look, I think you can still find cheap, attractive shares to own for the long term.
They’re not always popular — in fact, some are outright obscure! — but I do rather enjoy getting my hands dirty and digging around for potential hidden gems.
Today, I’m going to unveil three opportunities that I think could match that billing…
In my view, they’re all attractively priced, and for now they all seem to be off most investors’ radars…
Three is a Magic Number
Let’s get straight to it: investment idea number one!
This is actually a share I’ve owned for several years…
Stanley Gibbons (LSE: SGI) is the oldest merchant of rare stamps and collectables in the world, having occupied its world famous shop on The Strand since 1891.
People have been collecting stamps, fine art and antiques for hundreds of years, and Gibbons occupies a specialist role within this slow-moving niche. Its reputation and brand, in my view, are underappreciated by the market.
The shares have dropped 27% since reaching an all-time high earlier this year, and in my view, this pullback could offer investors a chance to take a closer look.
Having acquired the similarly reputable rare-coin vendor Noble Investments last year at an excellent price, Gibbons is expected to make a record pre-tax profit of £13m this year, and trades on a forward P/E of just 12!
I think the market has seriously underestimated the new-look Stanley Gibbons, and I’m personally considering topping up my holding for the first time since 2011…
A defence play boasting high barriers to entry
My second stock isn’t exactly “obscure”… in fact, it’s a constituent of the FTSE 100!
But Meggitt (LSE: MGGT) is far from a household name — and with the shares down 18% from their highs, they’re out of favour with investors, too.
I see hidden underlying potential in this aerospace and defence specialist, despite recent pressure on global military spending.
Meggitt makes precision equipment parts that are required to work in extreme conditions. Fire sensors that are equipped on 90% of commercial aircraft for instance, and braking systems that are used on both Airbus’ and Boeing’s leading jets.
Meggitt’s specialised niche affords the company high barriers to entry, and competitive advantages in its field — which, combined with consistent and expanding cash flow, piques my interest.
With the shares trading at 14x forward earnings, Meggitt might not seem like a screaming bargain — but if the company can show it can return to strong growth, I think the shares could be re-rated significantly higher, reflecting a premium earnings multiple for that expansion potential.
It’s on my watchlist!
Down 42% but could now be a bargain
Lastly, I’d like to highlight something of a higher risk (but potentially higher reward) “bargain” opportunity.
It’s another share that I own personally…
The company is ITE Group (LSE: ITE), which operates trade shows and exhibitions in emerging markets.
The biggest of those markets, sadly for ITE recently, is Russia… and with geopolitical tensions boiling higher, ITE’s largest market faces the threat of sanctions and disruption.
Yet in my view, the market has severely overreacted in marking down ITE’s shares, which are off a whopping 42% from their high point last year.
ITE appears to have a great business model, collecting plenty of cash up front from its customers, and creating events that compound their importance with visitors as time goes by.
In my opinion, ITE will survive and overcome the problems it faces in its largest market in 2014 — eventually expanding its reach further into new regions.
Trading at just 10x forward earnings, ITE looks cheap to me — although this situation isn’t for the faint of heart, and isn’t without the immediate risks that come from operating in Russia.
I’m a fan of the shares at these levels personally, and expect I’ll buy more if we see another leg down in the price.
So there you have it Fools — three potentially undervalued investment ideas in a market that’s hitting new highs!
The Motley Fool's top analysts believe that only a handful of companies will actually make big gains this year, so I highly recommend that you read their brand-new report into Where We Believe The Smart Money Is Going In 2014.
The report offers in-depth commentary on building the 'perfect portfolio' for an unpredictable bull market, is completely FREE and without obligation. Simply click here to get yours sent to you instantly, while it remains available.
Mark owns shares in Stanley Gibbons and ITE. The Motley Fool has recommended shares in ITE.