Sunday, July 13, 2008

Kiplinger's on Bill Miller

In an article more balanced than its headline would suggest (Kiplinger's: "Is Bill Miller Toast?"), Russel Kinnel writes of the Legg Mason portfolio manager,

Many saw Miller as a cagey investor who was always one step ahead of other investors. They figured he could sniff out the right industry just in time to beat his peers and the market. But that's not an accurate description of how Miller operates. Rather than flitting from one industry to another, Miller invests with a five- to ten-year horizon and consistently favors the same sectors.

Right and wrong times. Miller likes financial, technology and Internet stocks. And he typically holds some retail, media and health-care stocks, too. However, he hates most commodity businesses, including oil and copper. Those sector biases were perfect for the markets of the 1990s but have hurt results since oil prices started to spike three years ago. It makes sense that Miller did well in low-inflation environments and has fared poorly in today's world, with financial stocks in crisis and natural resources very precious.

The article goes on to talk about the example of, how Miller bought it before the dot-com bust, but ultimately made good money on it, partly by averaging down, and partly by having the strength of conviction to hold it long enough.

One thought I've had recently, which I haven't fleshed out in a post yet, is what sort of investments would you want to own when the secular bull market in commodities is winding down and the next secular bull market in stocks is beginning? Bill Miller's holdings might be a source of ideas if he's still in the business then.

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