Face-Off on Stocks: BP, Nokia, Hewlett-Packard

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down
Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

With equities swooning again in June and the S&P 500 ($INX) off more than 5% on the year, there's little question this is a stock-picker's market, at least until investors can put European debt fears behind them -- and that could take a good long while. Still, with so many blue-chips beaten down so mercilessly in this season of selling, some buys must be out there, no?

BP (BP), which used to stand for British Petroleum but now just screams Big Problems, hasn't looked this cheap in years. But on the bearish side, how do you adequately price a stock for all the uncertainty created by what's already the worst oil spill in U.S. history and not over yet? In other words, BP is either a spectacular bargain -- or a very dangerous speculative play.

Then there's Nokia (NOK). The world's largest handset maker always looks like a buy, but then the stock never seems to go anywhere. That's the classic definition of a value trap. Bulls, however, can point to the company's amazing global market share and emerging market opportunities. Is Nokia cheap -- or cheap for a reason?

And finally there's mammoth Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average ($INDU). By some reckonings the stock is undervalued relative to the company's new-found strength in sales of PCs, printers and servers -- not to mention its acquisition of Palm (PALM) and what that means for HP's mobile future. Then again, bears see a company that essentially wraps plastic cases around commoditized products and parts -- meaning that margins probably peaked long ago.