Penny Stock Picks: 5 Under $5

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Making the right penny stock picks can score investors triple-digit gains in a matter of weeks - or days.

Chelsea Therapeutics International Ltd (Nasdaq: CHTP) gained as much as 120% Jan. 15 when it got drug approval from an FDA advisory panel. That brings the drug one step closer to FDA approval.

penny stock picksThen there are the penny stock picks that over years can return more than 1,000%.

Look at BJ's Restaurants Inc. (Nasdaq: BJRI). It traded as low as $1.50 per share in 2000, climbed over $5.00 per share in 2002, and now trades around $29. That's a 14-year gain of 1,833%.

The gains don't come without a rocky ride. As we explained in What Are Penny Stocks?, some penny stocks are volatile, illiquid, or vulnerable to scams.

But the right penny stock picks can lead to big gains in short time frames.

Following are five penny stock picks worth a look today.

Penny Stocks Picks to Consider in 2014

Chelsea Therapeutics International Ltd (Nasdaq: CHTP) is a 10-year-old development stage biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Charlotte, NC. Shares soared as much as 120% on heavy volume Jan. 15 after a panel of federal experts recommended the approval of its most advanced candidate, Northera. A blood pressure treatment designed to prevent dizziness and fainting in Parkinson's disease patients, the advisory group concluded the drug is effective enough to warrant regulatory approval. The outside panel's endorsement came with the condition the drug only be approved for short-term use in a defined group of patients. The FDA will make a decision on Northera on Feb. 14. In addition to Northera, CHTP also has a portfolio of potential therapies for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. These treatments may also be suitable for the treatment of other autoimmune disorders. Over the last year, the stock has traded as low $0.76 and as high as $5.78. Shares were last changing hands at $4.76 and are up 7.33% so far this year.

Plug Power Inc. (Nasdaq: PLUG) is an alternative energy technology provider that engages in the design, development, commercialization, and manufacturing of fuel cell systems for the worldwide industrial off-road markets. The Latham, N.Y.-headquartered company, founded in 1997, sells its products to businesses, government agencies, and commercial consumers. PLUG has revolutionized the material handling industry with cost-effective power solutions proven to increase productivity, lower operation costs, and reduce carbon footprints. Its GenDrive fuel cell has proven to be a superior alternative to lead acid batteries for electric lift trucks in the $20 billion global handling market. News in early January that PLUG inked a deal with FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX) to develop hydrogen fuel cell extenders for 20 FedEx electric trucks, sent shares surging 68% to a 52-week high of $4.90. Institutions own 12% and the average daily trading volume is 19.51 million. PLUG is up 124% this year.

Arca Biopharma Inc. (Nasdaq: ABIO) is a biopharmaceutical company based in Broomfield, Colo., that focuses on developing genetically targeted therapies for cardiovascular disease. Its leading product candidate is Gencaro, a pharmacologically unique beta-blocker and mild vasodilator for the treatment of atrial fibrillation in patients with heart failure and left ventricular dysfunction. This month, Laboratory Corp. of America informed ABIO the U.S. FDA accepted LabCorp's Investigational Device Exemption application for the planned companion diagnostic test for Gencaro. In short, LabCorp will provide patient genetic testing for the clinical trials of Gencaro. Patient trial enrollment is set for Q1 of 2014. Shares jumped more than 25% to $2.54 on the news. Over the last year, shares have traded between $1.13 and as high as $5.92. Shares are up 20.8% year to date at $2.03.

DryShips Inc. (Nasdaq: DRYS), founded in 2004 and based in Greece, owns dry bulk carriers and tankers that operate around the globe. Through its majority-owned subsidiary Ocean Rig, DryShips owns and operates 10 offshore ultra-deep-water drilling units. It also owns a fleet of 42 dry bulk carriers. The company is poised to benefit as offshore oil and gas drilling continues to move further offshore and deep underwater amid energy companies' attempts to find new sources in low-risk areas. Also in DRYS corner is that the Baltic Dry Index - which reflects the average daily equivalent rate of renting a vessel and operating a crew, and has posted several year-over-year declines - is showing life again and ticking upwards. Anticipating further sector and share upside is legendary investor George Soros, who bought into six dry ship companies in Q3 of 2013. His biggest stake is in DryShips. Average daily volume is around 15 million shares, and its 52-week range is $1.62 to $5. Shares are down 18% this year, but improving economic conditions will boost this stock.

Zix Corp. (Nasdaq: ZIXI), founded in 1983 and based in Dallas, provides email encryption and data loss prevention to the U.S. healthcare, financial services, insurance, and government sectors. Last quarterly results of $0.06 EPS beat analysts' estimates by a penny and was up from $0.04 from a year ago. Revenue was $12.20 million, a $10.9% increase from the same quarter a year earlier and better than forecasts of $12.18 million. In a nod of confidence, the company announced a share repurchase program in late November that enables the company to repurchase up to $15 million of its shares from time to time in the open market. ZIXI is well positioned to provide solutions to a growing number of organizations struggling with mobile device security and company-related policies and procedures. Its direct encryption directory, the world's only shared encryption community, includes 39,398,541 members and is growing by 100,000 every week. ZIXI has a market cap of $303 million. Shares are up 2.6% this year to $4.68, and 49.5% over the past year.

Thanks to the legalization of marijuana, these pot penny stocks are up as high as 1,200%