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Three top stock picks from Contra The Heard’s Benj Gallander

Benj Gallander.

Tibor Kolley/The Globe & Mail

Benj Gallander is president of Contra The Heard Investment Letter. His focus is on contrarian investing.

Top Picks:

Orange

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The former France Telecom is the largest telecom company in France, along with operations in numerous other countries. The major question is whether the dividend will be maintained at .80 euro through 2014 as management has indicated. If so, that gives a lovely return and supports the stock price.

AgJunction

Once called Hemisphere GPS, this is a play on the agricultural sector. The company has undergone major changes under the relatively new CEO with a dramatically reduced break-even. No debt, money in the bank.

Bank of Commerce Holdings

Besides the normal dividend, BOCH recently declared a special dividend. The conservative management, which recently steered the company through the recession without an annual loss, would not have declared this if the situation was not excellent.

Past Picks: August 16, 2012

Bank of America
Then: $7.93
Now: $14.04
Total return: +77.79 per cent

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Torstar Corp.
Then: $8.62
Now: $5.38
Total return: +-31.32 per cent

ATS Automation
Then: $8.80
Now: $13.87
Total return: +57.61 per cent

Total return average: +34.69 per cent

Market outlook:

The major wild card right now is the U.S. debt ceiling. If the politicians act like mature adults and agree to raise it quickly that will help to avoid roiling the markets. If not, thunderstorms ahead.

However, the simple fact that the ceiling must be hoisted again underscores the major tribulations that remain stateside.

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