Top Fund Manager Putting Cash To Work

Steven Romick, who has been one of the U.S.’s top mutual fund managers for over a decade, says he’s tilting his portfolio toward larger firms with international, non-dollar exposure.

Romick tells Barron’s that he’s been buying stocks in the past few weeks as markets have struggled. But, he adds, “this isn’t a time to put all our chips on the table. We’ve increased equity exposures, because if you have a fair amount of inflation coming down the road, you don’t really want to be all in cash. If you have deflation, cash isn’t such a bad thing. We think longer-term, you have inflation, but there are clear deflationary pressures out there today. Over many years, we want exposure to other countries with faster growth and other more robust currencies.”

Romick says his fund’s cash position has fallen from 27.5% to about 22.5% in the past few weeks as he put cash to work. “It went into these large-cap businesses that were attractively priced,” he says. “This isn’t the time to be moving down the quality curve, so we actually own more high-quality businesses than at any other point in our history.”

Romick also talks about his concerns, with ultra-low interest rates, high U.S. debt, and short-sighted politicians at the top of the list. He also discusses broader investment strategy. For example, he says that investors need to be prepared for inevitable downturns and rough stretches. “We are a three-quarters step forward, half-a-step back kind of manager,” he says. “To do well over the long term, you have got to be okay underperforming for periods.” He also says that, while he focuses on larger firms, he doesn’t limit his portfolio only to the big boys. “We do buy small-caps when they trade at huge discounts,” he says. “We don’t force opportunity into a narrow niche.”

Finally, Romick offers some specific stocks he likes. Among them: Microsoft and Wal-Mart.