I am sitting here at the 19th hole of the Inverrary Country Club in Florida with my friend, Fred Dorman, who has for the past four hours given me a proper thrashing. Actually, he did quite well except for the sand traps. Me? I'm a master at the sand. Jack of no trades for the rest of my game but master of the sand. I always liked the beach.
In any event, there are four oldsters at the next table quaffing ice tea and talking about…what else? The terrible stock market. That perks up my ears. One of them even has the audacity to bring up that joke about how you make a small fortune in the stock market. "Start with a large fortune," he guffaws.
Naturally, this doesn't go down too well with me, not when one of my premier stocks is selling for under a dollar.
So, these guys are discussing what to do in this bear market. One of them is a financial advisor (to whom I don't know) and he was pontificating quite nicely on the ways to find winners even in this economic climate. He apparently has all the answers although some of the stocks he mentions have tanked long ago. I hope he isn't a certified financial planner or CPA. I don't think so. He drank his ice team without lemon or sugar, kind of a roughing it sort of chap.
He is espousing on the fact that everyone should be looking for inexpensive yet "classy" stocks (his word, not mine) and he gave examples such as Wal-Mart, which happens to be one of my main guys. But the word inexpensive when referring to Wal-Mart is off the wall. An inexpensive stock is not selling at 55.
To me, he should be looking at valuation and dividend yields, not simply the price of the stock. For instance, the majority of the 50 top flyers today are paying dividends with an average yield of 1.9 percent, which is more than double their yield of just two years ago. In fact, the premium guys nowadays pay a dividend that's greater than the interest rate on a two-year AA-rated corporate bond. Want to get into that water?
Keep in mind that quality will win out in the long run. The vast majority (try 82 percent) of the top 50 received a rating of not less than A-minus. Looking at the S&P 500, only half of the other 450 nailed such a rating.
If you want to break down the 50 big guns today, you'll find included are 13 financials, 10 health care companies, nine consumer products or retail firms, two energy stocks, and three industrials. Not bad, eh?
Frankly, I follow the sage advice given by Warren Buffett and perhaps the guy at the next table should follow that too. Buffett always said that when you are ensconced in a bear market, your portfolio should only hold stocks of companies that are "wonderful." I'll buy that.
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