Genco Shows the Fleet How It's Done

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Nothing can make tomorrow's leaders stand apart from the pack quite like a knack for exhibiting grace under pressure. This can apply to companies as well, and given the challenging economic environment, I consider this an important means by which to pinpoint tomorrow's outperformers amid the wasteland of seemingly inexpensive stocks.

I try to steer entirely clear of sectors that are structurally impaired and show little indication of improvement on the horizon. I warned investors to run from the mortgage lenders like Bank of America (NYS: BAC) back in early 2008 -- when that stock traded above $42, and I've never looked back. I urged Fools to run from housing-related stocks as fast as their feet could take them later that year, and periodic glances into that space have forced me to remind investors to keep up the pace. Exactly three years have elapsed from the initial warning, and respective declines of 48% and 44% in shares of Cemex (NYS: CX) and USG (NYS: USG) tell a story that's all too common within that space.

But for whatever reason, I seem to have ignored my own guidelines when it comes to the dry bulk shippers. Talk about structural impairment; the persistent oversupply of bulk cargo vessels worldwide makes the U.S. housing inventory appear tame by comparison! Bank of America may have well-earned my designation as the worst stock for 2010, but let's recall that I considered DryShips (NAS: DRYS) the scariest stock in the world when it traded above $6 in October 2009. So why have I ignored my own advice and acquired exposure to this deeply troubled sector? Though it might be partly correct to presume I'm a glutton for punishment, I'd say that primarily it boils down to grace under pressure.

In select operators like Diana Shipping (NYS: DSX) , I observed a consistent penchant for adapting effectively to the prevailing market disruption in a way that placed the company in a position of relative strength -- not merely as pertains to its capacity to survive the lengthy downturn, but more importantly with respect to an improved market position once the dust eventually settles. And the more I see from Genco Shipping & Trading (NYS: GNK) , the more I wish I had chosen that vehicle as well.

Genco exhibited tremendous grace under pressure by delivering a $1.6 million profit during the third quarter amid some of the more disastrous market conditions one can imagine. This despite an average daily charter rate that plummeted nearly 39% to $16,447! And following several very difficult years for the industry at large, here stands a company with a cash position of $301.5 million -- more than the company's entire market capitalization!. Genco's total long-term debt stands at a rather substantial $1.75 billion, but Genco's capacity to operate profitably through this unseemly charter-rate environment leaves me confident that Genco will first survive, and then thrive.

Genco subsidiary Baltic Trading (NYS: BALT) is one I do own, and I chose the vehicle for its spot-based charter strategy that is likely to deliver substantial leverage to the eventual clearing of excess capacity within the industry (whenever that may be). In the meantime, Baltic saw fit to pay a $0.12 dividend for the third quarter despite turning in a small loss of $0.2 million. I'm earning an attractive dividend, then, to compensate for the lengthy wait before easier conditions resume. With carefully selected vehicles that exhibit grace under pressure, I believe some very modest, carefully constructed exposure to the heavily impaired dry bulk shipping sector may yet reward investors who don't mind waiting until the cows come home. To be sure, it's likely that easier and faster avenues to investment gains abound, but as a very minor allocation, I just can't seem to steer clear of the one sector I'd probably have been better advised to avoid.

At the time this article was published Fool contributorChristopher Barkercan be foundblogging activelyand acting Foolishly within the CAPS community under the usernameTMFSinchiruna. Hetweets. For better or for worse, he owns shares of Baltic Trading, Diana Shipping, and DryShips. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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