ASOS (LON:ASC) has been a stock market phenomenon. While the internet fashion retailer has continued its impressive growth, both domestically and internationally, even more impressive has been the expansion of its P/E ratio which has now reached the nosebleed territory of 100 times 2010 earnings of 18.7p per share to give the company a market capitalisation of £1.4bn. The company floated back in 2001 and first hit most investors radar with a tip at 5p by the renowned city maven Mark Watson Mitchell, but while ASOS has been clearly blessed by the market ever since one does start to wonder where the value lies for buyers at this level.
What has been startling in the case of ASOS has been its continued rise in spite of a very full valuation, and gives proof to the pudding that the market falls in love with its darlings. Institutional investors have long been enamoured with momentum trades and often feel compelled to window dress their portfolios with the most talked about companies resulting in continued buying of market stars regardless of valuation. Studies by William O'Neil & Co , the institutional advisory run by the founder of Investors Business Daily, have shown that many of the stock market's highest performers have risen regardless of valuation but primarily due to the momentum behind current and historic profit potential. Value investors would scoff at such a notion, but clearly, given the right market environment these ideas have merit.
So how do you find the next ASOS, the next company whose market return could be driven as much by P/E expansion as by profit growth? The aforesaid Bill O'Neil's book for retail investors "How to Make Money in Stocks" is a classic text for momentum investors who want to balance technical and fundamental analysis which provides good screen ideas for precisely this purpose. He espouses the 'CAN SLIM' approach to stock picking, an mnemonic that summarises an approach that focuses on market leaders with earnings momentum that have 'something new' to grab the attention of institutional sponsors - much as ASOS has in the previous 12 months.
Bearing these ideas in mind, it was interesting to note several sets of eye catching results last week from 3 companies of different sizes that while priced expensively today may offer investors exposure to some of these ideas. Two of the…