5 Stocks That Are Cheaper Than You Think

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Don't let growth stocks with their beefy trailing P/E ratios scare you away.

There are plenty of investments that may seem expensive based on last year's profitability but trade at surprisingly low forward multiples relative to their growth rates.

Let's take a closer look at five stocks that may seem to be outrageously priced today but are actually bargains if we look out to 2012 and beyond.

Company

Aug. 15 Close

This Year P/E

Next Year P/E

My Watchlist

priceline.com (NAS: PCLN) $514.402318Add
NVIDIA (NAS: NVDA) $13.371311Add
Baidu (NAS: BIDU) $144.645033Add
Intuitive Surgical (NAS: ISRG) $351.093126Add
Apple (NAS: AAPL) $383.411412Add

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Valuation is only a number
Many of these multiples -- even those clocking in for next year -- are chunky. You don't often hear something along the lines of "this stock is so cheap that it's trading for a mere 33 times next year's projected profitability."

Then again, there is more to this basket of presumably pricey stocks than meets the cynical eye.

It's easy to underestimate priceline.com. There are people who view the travel portal solely as William Shatner's "name your own price" promotional vehicle, even though the company has grown into a global juggernaut with its more traditional travel booking websites. In fact, just 23% of its bookings are originating domestically these days.

Priceline is coming off a strong quarter. Revenue climbed 44% during the period, with adjusted earnings soaring by 79%. All of this octane and Priceline is trading with a forward multiple only in the high teens? Book it!

NVIDIA was a pioneer in graphic chips, but it hasn't been forgotten in this "good enough" computing trend that finds folks settling for smartphones and tablets when laptops and PCs aren't around. NVIDIA is finding a way to be relevant in all of the popular gadgetry platforms, a move that was confirmed with last week's better than expected quarterly report.

China's leading search engine is the priciest entry in this week's list, but it's worth it. Paying 33 times next year's profit target seems reasonable when you consider that Baidu grew revenue by 78% in its latest quarter with earnings nearly doubling.

Robots have invaded the operating room! Whether it's MAKO Surgical (NAS: MAKO) for orthopedic procedures or Intuitive for prostate procedures, robotic surgical arms are improving the efficiency of medical procedures while reducing surgeon fatigue. Hospitals may be pressed to scale back on some expenditures in these budget-challenging times, but the prospects are brighter for the high-tech innovations that save money in the long run.

Then there's Apple. It's raining iPhone, iPads, and Macs. Apple briefly overtook ExxonMobil (NYS: XOM) for the market cap crown earlier this month -- though it has since temporarily relinquished that particular kingdom to the oil giant. However, the point here is that Apple's stock has been rolling over the years. How can it trade for just shy of 12 times next year's estimates? Well, Apple's history of blowing past Wall Street's targets finds the pros hustling to raise income estimates. Over the past three months alone, Apple's profit target for fiscal 2012 has gone from $28.51 a share to $32.16 a share. If the estimate revisions outpace the stock itself, forward P/E multiples contract.

Adding it up
None of these stocks are immune to a market meltdown. If you're looking for bulwarks, you'll have to find them somewhere else.

These investments are largely high-beta growth stocks and will likely remain that way for several more years. The key here, though, is that they aren't as expensive as pundits make them out to be.

It's the opportunity you didn't know you were waiting for.

At the time this article was published The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Baidu, priceline.com, NVIDIA, Intuitive Surgical, MAKO Surgical, and Apple; writing puts on NVIDIA; and creating a bull call spread position on Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz also believes that expensive stocks can get even more expensive, too. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. He is part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

Copyright © 1995 - 2011 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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