Sunday, February 01, 2009

WealthTrack Wrapup

This week's Consuelo Mack WealthTrack was particularly interesting with three notable guests: Tom Forrester, forrester value fund - only value mgr to make money last year 1/2800; Thomas Russo, Gardner Russo Gardner; Randall Forsyth, Editor in Chief

The main topic for this week's show was the credit markets. As usual for those who are investors, each felt that there was opportunities in this market. Even despite the negative return of the S+P over the past 10 years, there is even some sense among these experts that a reversion to the mean might actually indicative of decent returns in equities in the years to come.

Of particularly interest was the way in which Forrester managed to eke out a positive return last year. His secret was basic: avoid housing and financials. As a result he shifted a large portion to cash and overweighted in other sectors like healthcare.

Summarizing the reality of this past year, Forrester noted that 2008 was the 'year of the balance sheet'. Russo continued this theme by explaining that a major factor in the decline in price of stocks is a result of multiple contraction. Multiples are one way in which it is possible to judge how much investors value stocks since they indicate an amount of value placed on future earnings of the underlying companies.

In response to the idea of a more frugal future, there was a major indicator from Forrester's point of view: savings rates. From his perspective, savings rate is hopefully a bellwether. He thinks...(I'm summarazing and paraphrasing here).."let's see if we get back to 6-8% savings rate where the consumer is building a base and then you can grow earnings on these larger companies again. Once you do that, you can shift from 'balance sheet' mode to the 'income statement' for growing earnings."

All of this was compelling for me to hear, on both a macro and a personal level. The idea of 'hearkening back to the days of Ozzie and Harriet' rings particularly true for me. I think that it would be somewhat encouraging to see the average consumer savings rate increase. Perhaps that would be a mustard seed in what looks to be a series of troubled months ahead.

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