Century Aluminum Shares Surged: What You Need to Know

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Just days after industrial commodities stocks like AK Steel (NYS: AKS) and U.S. Steel (NYS: X) suffered a steep sell-off on global growth fears, metals and mining stocks surged back to the fore on Tuesday. Metals magnate Century Aluminum (NAS: CENX) was one of the stars of the day, rising 10% in share price as of this writing.

So what: Chalk it up to renewed optimism that European politicos finally "get it" -- and will figure out a way to clean up their debt mess.

Now what: Volatility has been prevalent in the markets this month, so Century's gains today may prove as fleeting as last week's losses. Longer-term, however, it's hard to argue against the attractiveness of buying a stock at 11 times earnings, when it's pegged for 20% long-term growth ... and yet, that's exactly what I'm going to do.

The way I look at it, Century's supposed "profit" of $97.5 million "earned" over the past 12 months doesn't hold up under close examination. Actual free cash flow for the period was just $9.5 million -- less than 10% of reported net profits. I have to wonder: How would folks who bought Century at "11 times earnings" feel if they were told the stock sold for more than 100 times free cash flow? Would they still feel as enthusiastic about owning it?

And will they buy more? If you're interested in tracking Century Aluminum's success in coming quarters, make the job easier on yourself.Add Century Aluminum to your Fool Watchlist, and get up-to-date insight on all the goings on at this company.

At the time this article was published

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