Here's fodder for a sigh of relief: Despite all the recent volatility, the stock market still shows a gain of roughly 6% on a year-to-date basis. Being the contrarian I am, though -- and given all the to-ing and fro-ing we've experienced -- I think shrewd investors ought to at least contemplate whether we're heading for a market correction -- i.e., a decline of 10% and perhaps even more. That's particularly true when a talented money manager has assessed the situation and identified what he calls a "global bubble."
Dialing down risk
Last year, Jeremy Grantham -- the "G" of the world-class GMO money management outfit -- chimed in on what he called "the Wile E. Coyote" economy. In a more recent quarterly report, Grantham observed that "from Indian antiquities to modern Chinese art; from land in Panama to Mayfair; from forestry, infrastructure, and the junkiest bonds to mundane blue chips; it's bubble time!"
Now, normally, as I do my homework for the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service, I put little stock in market prognosticators. Grantham, however, is one of a handful of exceptions. And while I don't share his totalizing view that, eventually, "the bursting of the bubble will be across all countries and all assets, with the probable exception of high-grade bonds," I do think investors would be smart to at least tilt in the direction of more attractively valued large-cap stocks.
Being cautious, of course, is in the eye of the shareholder. Avoiding stocks -- or simply reducing your exposure to them -- is one way of getting that job done, but so is favoring less volatile investments. One option: mutual funds that favor the kinds of stocks that trendy types -- you know, the ones who inflated the market bubble during the late 1990s, only to watch it burst in early 2000 -- typically avoid.
That means tilting toward prospects with the best relative valuations -- stocks that have less room to fall when the market heads south, and greater upside potential when the market turns cautious. A manager at one of our Champion Funds recommendations made out like a bandit in the post-bubble era, racking up a gain of more than 75% between March 2000 and December 2002, while the S&P shed some 33% of its value over that stretch of time.
Impressive. And while this fund plays it close to the vest with its picks -- Anheuser-Busch
The Foolish bottom line
The key to being a successful long-term investor is designing a well-diversified asset-allocation game plan that suits your timeline and tolerance for risk, and sticking to it over the course of many years. But it's possible to be intelligently opportunistic along the way -- and a top-notch fund that specializes in out-of-favor stocks is a great way to do just that.
With that in mind, if you'd like to sneak a peek at this contrarian pick -- not to mention all the others we've recommended since Champion Funds first opened for business -- you're in luck: A free 30-day guest pass is just a mouse-click away. You'll have access to our back-issue archives, model portfolios, and complete list of recommended funds.
This article was originally published on May 16, 2006. It has been updated.
Shannon Zimmerman runs point on the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service and co-advises Motley Fool Green Light with his pal Dayana Yochim. 3M, Colgate-Palmolive, and Anheuser-Busch are Inside Value picks. At the time of publication, he didn't own any of the securities mentioned above. You can check out the Fool's strict disclosure policy right here.