AN ECONOMIC MOOD SWING

Ron Johnson's portfolio performance stalled although the economy gained speed

It could be said that the five stocks selected by Ron Johnson, the former chief strategist at Smith Graham & Company Investment Advisors L.P., experienced serious mood swings during the last 12 months, much like the overall stock market. When BLACK ENTERPRISE spoke to Johnson last year, trends associated with the economy dominated his stock selection decisions. The economy has improved in the last year, but Johnson’s portfolio yielded mixed results.

“The economy has performed admirably in the face of the nagging challenges associated with high oil prices,” says Johnson, now the Chase Chair, professor of finance at the Jesse H. Jones School of Business at Texas Southern University. “A year ago, the U.S. economy and the global economy hit a soft patch. But by the summer’s end, it had come out of the soft patch and was fully in gear.”

In spite of the economy’s decent performance, Johnson’s stock selections experienced a 5.88% loss during the 52-week period from May 28, 2004 to May 27, 2005. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 3.48% and the Nasdaq stock index rose 4.48% during the same time period.

One of Johnson’s better performing stocks was American Express Co. (NYSE:AXP), the global provider of travel-related and financial advisory services. Its stock rose 5.94% from $50.15 to $53.13 per share. According to Johnson, during the economic upswing, American Express “increased the number of cards issued, and then their customers continued to spend strongly. That helped increase the stock price.”

Boston Scientific Corp. (NYSE: BSX), a company that manufactures and markets surgical supplies, encountered major difficulties in early July 2004 when it announced the recall of its Taxus drug-coated stents. Many of them had failed during coronary angioplasty procedures. “The news led to major questions concerning the expectations for the company … a disappointment to say the least,” says Johnson. The stock fell 36.91%, from $44.30 to $27.95 per share.

Johnson had success with CVS Corp. (NYSE: CVS), which operates more than 5,000 retail and specialty pharmacy stores in the U.S. Its stock grew 32.69%, from $20.71 to $27.48 per share since last year and executed a 2-for-1 stock split on June 7, 2005. Johnson says CVS benefited from acquiring more than 1,000 Eckerd stores late last year. “This company outperformed its industry, and both sales and profitability rose during the past year.”

Another success was Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT), a discount, middle-market department store merchandiser. Its stock jumped a healthy 20.47%, from $44.41 to $53.50 per share. “This stock clearly benefited from its sale of Mervyn’s and Marshall Field’s [retail stores], which were dead weight to the company,” says Johnson.

Finally, Gentex Corp. (NASDAQ: GNTX), a company that designs, develops, and manufactures proprietary electro-optical products for the auto industry, suffered. Its stock slid 51.59%, from $38.05 to $18.42 per share. But the company had a 2-for-1 stock split on May 9, 2005. “The principal problem for Gentex was that its biggest customers are GM and Ford, and both these auto companies are cutting back,” Johnson says. “For the first quarter

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