Fidelity's Low-Priced Stock Fund Manager Delivers Market-Beating Returns

Joel Tillinghast, manager of the Fidelity Low-Priced Stock fund, “owns one of today’s best investment records,” according to a profile proceeding a recent interview published in Barron’s. In the 26 years he has managed the fund, it returned an average of 13.7% annually (more than 4% higher than the S&P 500). Tillinghast is restricted by the fund’s charter to buying stocks priced at under $35 per share. He explains: “the original idea was that low-priced stocks weren’t well-followed by Wall Street” and $35 is just above the average price of stocks listed on the New York Stock Exchange.” Tillinghast “look[s] for a highly visible discount to fair value . . . and management that is fair and honest” and holds “large stock ownership” in the company. He observed that the fund holds about 9% cash at present, down from 11% last year, because “in the past year or two, I have gone from being a little standoffish about small stocks to thinking that there are a decent number of opportunities, but they are still not abundant.” Speaking about political developments that may affect the foreign stocks making up about 35% of the fund, such as Japan’s recession, Tillinghast commented: “My approach to cycles is to pay less attention to the statistics, but to have a general notion of where we are in the cycle, and what that means for valuations,” noting that “In Japan, there are still a lot of cheap companies with great balance sheets.” Regarding energy stocks, Tillinghast has “an index-like weighting” because of uncertainty in the sector, which he describes as “brutally tough for a value investor.” Comparing conditions that favor value versus growth approaches, he said: for a sustained outperformance of value, you need more dispersion in valuations,” but “when everything is priced the same, it’s lousy for value investors and for active management in general.”