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With unemployment still high and consumers struggling for cash, the pawn shop operators have stepped into the void left by traditional lenders. EZCORP Inc. (EZPW - Snapshot Report) is trading at just 12.5x forward estimates even as shares hit new 5-year highs.

This Zacks #2 Rank (buy) operates pawnshops where it provides loans and credit services to customers who have short-term cash needs.

The company offers non-recourse loans collateralized by personal property in its stores, known as pawn loans. It also offers payday loans, installment loans and auto title loans.

EZCORP operates 1000 stores in North America, including 500 pawn stores in the U.S. and Mexico and 500 short-term consumer loan stores in the U.S. and Canada.

Partnering With Rev Worldwide

On Mar 10, the company announced it was partnering with Rev Worldwide, which develops prepaid debit card and mobile payment programs, to bring new products to its customers.

"We want to be less centered on the short-term cash needs of the cash and credit constrained customer and more focused on serving a variety of financial needs for a broader range of consumers," said Mark Kuchenrither, EZCORP's Senior Vice President of Strategic Development.

The company is testing several products that it hopes to launch in stores later in the year.

Shares Soar to New 5-Year Highs

After the news of the partnership with Rev Worldwide, shares have broken out to the upside. You can see the recent breakout in the 6-month chart.

Still a Value Stock

Despite soaring, shares still have value.

In addition to a low P/E ratio, the company has a price-to-book of 2.5, which is under the 3.0 value cut-off.

The company also has a stellar 1-year return on equity (ROE) of 20.8%.

Revenue Jumped 18% in the Fiscal First Quarter

On Jan 20, EZCORP reported its fiscal first quarter results and beat on the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 11.3%. Earnings per share were 69 cents compared with the consensus of 62 cents. It was the third earnings surprise in the last four quarters.

Revenue climbed to $218.8 million with same store revenue rising 13%. The company opened 29 new stores in Mexico, Canada and states outside of Texas.

In a continuation of its strategy to diversify its product offerings, U.S. payday lending represented only 16% of total revenue in the quarter, down from 20% in the year ago quarter.

EZCORP is expected to report fiscal second quarter results on Apr 21.

This Week's Value Zacks Rank Buy Stocks

While the luxury retailers make a serious comeback, what about those catering to the other end of the shopping spectrum? Stage Stores Inc. (SSI) recently reported fiscal 2010 earnings that rose 32% from 2009. This Zacks #1 Rank (strong buy) has an attractive price-to-sales ratio of just 0.4. Read the full article.

As stocks and other financial assets climb, investment management firms are back to making big bucks. BlackRock, Inc. (BLK) is giving back the cash to shareholders as it recently announced it was increasing its dividend by 37.5%. This Zacks #1 Rank (strong buy) trades at just 14.8x forward estimates. Read the full article.

The consultants are always among the first to see real growth as they are brought in when the animal spirits are revived. CGI Group Inc. (GIB) has surprised on the Zacks Consensus Estimate 3 out of the last 4 quarters. The Zacks #1 Rank (strong buy) is also a value stock, trading at just 12.9x forward estimates. Read the full article.

Companies are spending on technology again. Ness Technologies (NSTC) recently announced record quarterly revenue. This Zacks #1 Rank (strong buy) also has attractive valuations, with a price-to-sales ratio of just 0.4. Read the full article.

Tracey Ryniec is the Value Stock Strategist for Zacks.com. She is also the Editor in charge of the market-beating Zacks Value Trader service. You can follow her at twitter.com/traceyryniec.

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