Investment Forum Program for Wednesday, January 31 at 11:30


Focus Topic: Let's talk about oil.  It's been an easy sector for individual investors to make money in recent years.  Now, it's a puzzle.  (See "Barrels of Confusion" published in the January 29 issue of BusinessWeek and posted on the forum website at  Oil stocks are generally selling for low P/E valuations that normally would be attractive, but there is uncertainty about the sustainability of their earnings.  And, there's no end of conflicting advice.  Wall Street analysts are generally negative on oil stocks.  To the contrary, famous oil hedge fund billionaire, T. Boone Pickens, is confidently telling anyone who will listen that the commodity price will soon return to $70 and the good times will roll again.  Joe Quinlan, investment strategist at Bank of America, is quoted in the January 22 issue of Barron's as saying "Iraq still matters.  Gradually increase exposure to the oil patch by buying on the dips."  Internet journalist Jim Jubak ( wrote a column on January 26 entitled "Watch for 2007's oil stock bargains" in which he opined that the time to buy oil stocks will be six months from now.  Both Standard & Poor's ( and Morningstar ( have recently published their energy sector top picks for 2007.


 Strategies: Much quoted money manager Jeremy Grantham has his vision of a formula for investment success in the foreseeable future.  First, lower your expectations.  Corporate profit margins and price-to-earnings ratios are both positioned to decline in his estimation.  His portfolio asset formulation is roughly 50/50 megacap blue chip stocks and bonds.  Among bonds, he especially favors TIPS.  He acknowledges that such an approach will not be especially profitable, but it will provide better returns than other alternatives.   


Mutual Funds: Recently, specific mention was made of the T. Rowe Price Capital Appreciation Fund (PRWCX).  It was cited for the consistency of its returns over the past 16 years.  Well, the discussion had hardly ended when, the very next day, posted an article entitled "Consistency: An Overrated Virtue in Mutual Funds?"  The article stated "It's a mistake to get hung up on the consistency of calendar-year returns when evaluating a fund's worthiness."  Meanwhile, a vast river of money is flowing into hedge funds from pension funds and endowments in specific search of modest, but consistent, returns.  So, of what virtue is consistency?


Stock Talk: Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (TEVA)


He Said It: John Neff, retired longtime manager of the Vanguard Windsor Fund quoted in the January 29 issue of Barron's: "Gold is not an investment.  It's an emotional experience."  Separately, A. G. Edwards claims their statistical research reveals a 100-year trend of falling commodity prices, adjusted for inflation.