Tom Forester, the lone stock fund manager to post positive returns in 2008, sees a range-bound market ahead that will offer opportunities for value investors.
In an interview with Barron’s, Forester says it will be difficult for the economy to sustain strong growth. “The impact of the stimulus package is winding down, and home prices have turned lower again,” he said, adding that it will be key to focus on stocks with low price/earnings ratios. “You aren’t going to get bailed out by earnings growth if the economy slows,” he said.
Barron’s reports that Forester has increased his cash position slightly from late last year. But he still has more than 80% of his portfolio in stocks. He says the range-bound market will provide opportunities to bargain hunt for stocks at the low end of the range and sell others at the higher end.
The piece also offers some insights into the approach that has helped Forester guide his fund into the 98th percentile of funds in its class over the past five years, and the 91st percentile over the past decade. He “looks for companies that have great market positions based on enduring franchises,” Barron’s reports, and he believes buying these stocks at low P/E ratios will lead to long-term outperformance. Forester, whose average holding has a market cap of about $60 billion, also looks for a stable top line, strong balance sheet, healthy dividend yield, and low price-to-cash-flow ratio, according to Barron’s. And, he takes a long-term perspective. “My time horizon is three or four years, so what do I care if I’m low for a quarter or two?” Forester says. “I’m just trying to win the game. I don’t have to win every inning.”