Akre: Focus on Pricing Power

Top value fund manager Chuck Akre says that amid an uncertain economic environment and with inflation looming as a possible issue, companies with pricing power are attractive investments.

“At the end of the day it turned out that the best investments to own in the ’70s [when inflation at times raged] were businesses that have pricing power,” Akre tells the Associated Press. “And they’re probably the best things to own now. That’s the single best hedge against the unknown or high inflation or any of those issues.”

Akre, who’s been lagging the market in the short term but has a very strong long-term track record, says he is “not worried about a lot” of things right now, but he does have concerns about the broader economy and high unemployment rate. That’s part of why he’s high on off-price retailers like Dollar Tree and The TJX Companies.

“Consumers need to try to stretch every dollar,” he says. “I happen to think that 80 percent or more of households have virtually every dollar of income spoken for. When we’ve had huge rises in food and gas prices, which are not deferrable, it has to come out somewhere else.”

Akre also says corporate balance sheets are an encouraging sign. They “are probably stronger than they’ve ever been in my lifetime,” he says. “The reason is that businesses slimmed down in a recession and they haven’t the confidence to make big reinvestment decisions.”