Gurus Still Keen on Blue Chips

A number of top value investors are continuing to see big bargains in big blue chips.

Among them: money manager and columnist Whitney Tilson. “If you’re worried about a feeble economy you want to own companies with strong balance sheets,” Tilson says, according to the Associated Press. Tilson doubts the broader market will do much for a while, but he’s snatching up shares of large multinational firms. Such big, well-known firms often command a premium, but “the beauty today is those companies are on sale,” Tilson says.

Tilson says the current pessimism about stocks is a bullish sign. “The stock market has jerked people around so much, they don’t want any part of it,” he said. “But that’s music to my ears. To be a successful investor, you have to buy things that aren’t popular.”

Also keen on big blue chips, according to AP: Jeremy Grantham, Steven Romick, and Bill Miller. In addition, The New York Times reports that fund manager Robert Olstein — whose flagship fund has a strong long-term track record despite some shorter-term struggles — is finding more bargains among U.S. blue chips than he’s ever found. “In this market, the pickings for a value investor are easy,” says Olstein.

The article also gets into Olstein’s overall approach, which involves a dissection of a firm’s income statement. (Financial reports are an area of Olstein’s expertise; in the 1970s, he was co-author of a newsletter that the Times says “in its day, was perhaps the foremost authority on spotting the gray areas of corporate accounting.”) Olstein in particular focuses on free cash flow. And with Treasury yields near historically low levels, he says the cash flow of many stocks is particularly attractive today.

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