Forester Sees a Return to High Quality

Top value fund manager Tom Forester says the market has begun shifting away from junk-type stocks and back toward quality, and he thinks the end of the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program is part of why that trend will continue for several quarters.

“The pendulum is swinging back toward quality. Since early 2009, low quality (usually high beta) stocks have been on a tear relative to high quality stock,” Forester writes in his second-quarter update. “Some of this was aided by QE1 and QE2 and the zero interest rate policies of the Fed. … As QE2 ends, we will see if the S&P rocket has reached escape velocity or whether gravity will reassert itself. We fully expect that higher quality stocks (especially those with bargain valuations) will outperform for several quarters. It is no coincidence that we are positioned accordingly.” (Click here for a PDF copy of Forester’s letter.)

Among the positives Forester sees in the economy: Japanese manufacturing plants are coming back on line after the earthquake and tsunami; and the U.S. dollar could benefit from problems in Europe, which could help lower oil prices and give consumers more spending money.

Forester has several concerns, however. They include US household debt and its impact on housing prices (and therefore the financials) and consumption; US federal deficits and debt as it constrains fiscal policy; European PIIGS debt and their creditor (German and French) banks; and Chinese inflation and slowdown.

“We believe that our bargain, high quality stocks will do well in this environment,” Forester writes. “Our cash and puts have helped dampen the volatility that the market experienced over the past couple of months. As QE2 ends, we believe that we are well positioned.”