In This Corner

As the volatile stock market climbs to new highs, investors continue to fight for the best returns. Our investment roundtable tries to pick the winners as the battle between growth and value rages.

[In the meantime], you can have serious runs on certain industries, companies or countries.

Lew:That would hit the financial side pretty hard.

Paige: Well, some of the opportunities that exist now in the market I think are in consumer staples. People will be hoarding food. Anybody who lived through the Depression is telling their grandchildren and children, buy food and take money out [of banks]. July [1999] to March 2000 will be the time frame.

Pearson: I disagree. If you look at some of the staple companies, they don’t have pricing power anymore. The volumes have been going down. Earnings have been coming down. Gillette (NYSE: G) has reported flat earnings for three years now. I think the opportunities, going forward, are in the financial area. Not only are the financial services exploding, but you’re talking about companies growing 15%, 16%, 18% and selling 18 times [earnings], so that there are still reasonable, good growth companies with reasonable valuations. Also, I have a bias toward technology.

Paige: You’ve got a lot of consumer goods companies, small- or mid-cap type names in which the pricing power isn’t necessarily there but they’re in a cycle, and, at this point, they’ve been beaten down. They’re cheap and you can get 12% to 20% earnings [growth], depending on the company. [Many of] these companies are extremely cheap, and if they do well from the fourth quarter [of 1999] into the first quarter of 2000, you can’t beat that.

B.E.: What do you view as the best sector bets for investors over the next few months?

Paige: Going forward, we’re looking at electrical equipment types of industries, basically. One name would be SCI Systems (NYSE: SCI), which is contracts, manufactures and outsourcing. I am also still pretty positive on retailing. I think the consumer [market] is going to continue to be strong. Another area where value is to be found is in the financial sector. Among banks, I’m pretty heavy in the Southeastern banks, where population growth is good and business is pretty strong.

Thomason: I think one of the best sectors of the market right now, from a value standpoint, is the enterprise software market because of this issue with Y2K. I think a good name I like in that sector is PeopleSoft (Nasdaq: PSFT). The stock price is off tremendously. It’s down to, like, $16. This was a $55 stock not long ago. It has been down for a while, but I think that [it will come back]. On the flip side of that, I will look at quasi Internet companies. Another name that I really like is Borders Books (NYSE: BGP) because they are competing with Amazon.com. Amazon has 90% of the online book traffic and Borders is at about $14 [a share], but I think they’ve got good management. Another name I like is Mattel (NYSE: MAT), the toy company.

Lew: Like I said earlier, I focus on technology. I thought about which sectors within technology are the ones that I want to put the most emphasis on.

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