(A digest of investment opinion from the world's leading financial advisers)
- Few newsletter writers are as bearish on stocks right now as Richard Russell, who since 1958 has edited the Dow Theory Letter (P.O. Box 1759, La Jolla, CA 92038). Russell is concerned that investors are not nearly as pessimistic as they should be and have not yet driven stock prices as low as he believes reality warrants. "People today are stubbornly optimistic, despite the onset of the greatest debt mountain in history and persistent divergences on the part of some of the averages and indexes."- Since Tom Mansico took over the management of the Denver-based Janus 20 Fund in March 1988, it has risen a whopping 92 percent, more than twice the general market's performance. Mansico's secret? He doesn't try to time the market. He focuses on only 20 to 25 stocks at a time. And he doesn't depend on one particular investment philosophy, but looks at every stock differently. Recent favorites: American Stores, Circus Circus, Deutsche Bank, Liz Claiborne, Kroger, Nike, Wal-Mart, Waste Management.
- Electric utility stocks have not reacted as positively as usual to falling interest rates because of the specter of higher oil prices, notes Dow Theory Forecasts (7412 Calumet Ave., Hammond, IN 46324). "However, the quality issues remain attractive for investors who desire income with some capital-gains potential." DTF recently recommended four strong electric utility stocks, with 7 percent-plus yields, that it believes will soon begin reacting to falling rates: Northern States Power, Orange & Rockland, Potomac Electric, SCE Corp.
- The stocks to be focusing on now, says David Leibowitz of American Securities, are "those that have proven they can increase earnings and dividends despite a recession or other economic uncertainty." To put specifics behind this theory, Leibowitz recently listed 60 well-known companies that have increased both earnings and dividends over the past 10 years. Six had price-earnings ratios 20 percent below the market average: Banc One, Fifth Third Bancorp, Marshall & Isley, Old Kent Financial, Rockwell International, Wallace Computer Service.
- Forward selling is when gold mines sell tomorrow's production today. "But you reach a point where you can't sell any more future production," observes Adrian Day, writing in Investing magazine (824 E. Baltimore St., Baltimore, MD 21298). "And you don't want to sell when you think prices will rise. That's the situation now. It means there will be little forward selling in the years ahead. And fewer sellers mean higher prices."
- International bonds have provided both higher yields and higher total returns than U.S. bonds for several years now, notes International Fund Monitor (P.O. Box 5754, Washington, DC 20016). "The key to picking international bonds is to find countries with high yields and declining interest rates as well as a strong or at least stable currency. Picking bonds, however, is much harder than picking stocks. That's why it's wiser to stick to one of the 40 or so international bond funds now in existence."
- One clear signal that your broker isn't acting in your best interests is if he or she is overly zealous in pushing unit trusts, new issues or high-load mutual funds, advises Personal Investing (161 Devonshire St., Boston, MA 02110). "Such products usually earn brokers extra commissions but may not be suitable for your portfolio."
(Investor's Notebook reflects the opinions of professionals. It does not endorse specific investments, and no endorsement is implied or should be inferred. For more information, contact the individual firms cited.)