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My No. 1 Top Holding

By Paul Elliott - Updated Nov 11, 2016 at 4:49PM

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See whether you can guess what it is.

So, what's your No. 1 top holding? When I tell you mine, you may be surprised.

For one thing, it's not a small cap. It's not a story stock, either. It's a big, household name with a very dark cloud hanging over it.

And this should surprise you ... why?
Because I've banged the table on small caps for years -- how you could buy Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) or Motorola (NYSE:MOT), now that they're huge and everybody owns them. The real money, however, was made by investors who bought them years ago.

And that's just partly because their explosive growth phases are ahead of them. These stocks -- and countless others, from Lowe's (NYSE:LOW) to Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) -- were wickedly profitable back when I started investing, for another reason. They weren't so heavily owned on Wall Street.

As a result, demand was relatively light, and the "auction" market for these stocks was inefficient. In fact, second to their ability to ramp up their revenues exponentially, I'd argue that this inefficient pricing explains why small-company stocks have historically outperformed all others.

Confessions of a small-cap junkie
That's why I rarely dabble in big names. But I make exceptions, particularly when markets get out of whack. That's how I got tangled up with my No. 1 top holding 15 years ago: I plucked it from a group that was priced for bankruptcy.

I never even considered that the company would set the world on fire; only that the stock was a value. Plus, it was a name I never expected to get a chance to buy. Which brings me to the reason I decided to write this column.

You see, I think we have a similar opportunity right now. This dawned on me when I noticed my dream stocks popping up alongside the usual "cigar butts" on the old-timers' lists of top value stocks, most notably my pal Philip Durell's Motley Fool Inside Value scorecard.

An "inverted Nifty Fifty"?
Sadly, I can't take credit for that one. Money manager Christopher Davis coined the phrase a while back to explain how America's top companies are increasingly among the market's cheapest stocks. Davis says, "We get this opportunity once every 10 or so years."

I'd say less often than that. There are one-off exceptions, of course. In mid-2003, fallen angels like Corning (NYSE:GLW) and Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) got so cheap you had to give them a look. The same can be said about Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) right now.

Likewise, for my No. 1 top holding back in 1991. But I don't recall seeing anything like this. Earlier, I mentioned Phillip Durell's Inside Value scorecard. Suddenly, in place of the usual has-beens and out-of-favor industries, it reads like a who's who of America's top brands. An inverted Nifty Fifty is right.

I put my money where my mouth is
A while back, I rolled over a 401(k) from a previous job. I considered dumping it into an index fund, but I had a better idea. I bought a handful of big names that I lifted straight from Philip's Inside Value scorecard. I've never slept better.

Remember, I needed stocks I didn't have to watch every day, preferably ones that paid dividends. Philip's scorecard simply told me which names were cheap. Oh, and I also reupped on everybody's whipping boy Bank of America ... you guessed it, my No. 1 top holding.

Yes, things look bleak for my big bank today. But do you think it was easy buying the big banks in 1991? I assure you, it wasn't. Buying value can be scary. But if you've ever wanted to earn "story stock" profits with "value stock" downside risk, the inverted Nifty Fifty could be your chance.

I really think Phillip Durell can help. Especially since you can try his Inside Value newsletter service free for a whole month. You can check out every value stock he's ever recommended, and flip through all the back issues, in a few minutes. If you don't like it, you won't pay a cent.

Whatever you decide, just promise me you'll at least consider the once-in-a-generation buying opportunity this market has handed us. To find out more about accepting this free trial offer, click here.

This article was first published March 29, 2007. It has been updated.

Paul Elliott owns shares of Bank of America, Johnson & Johnson, and a handful of Durell's Inside Value recommendations. Best Buy is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation, as well as an Inside Value selection. Bank of America and Johnson & Johnson are Income Investor picks. Google is a Rule Breakers pick. The Motley Fool owns shares of Best Buy. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Alphabet Inc. Stock Quote
Alphabet Inc.
GOOGL
$122.08 (0.33%) $0.40
Best Buy Co., Inc. Stock Quote
Best Buy Co., Inc.
BBY
$81.33 (1.28%) $1.03
Johnson & Johnson Stock Quote
Johnson & Johnson
JNJ
$166.09 (0.48%) $0.79
Lowe's Companies, Inc. Stock Quote
Lowe's Companies, Inc.
LOW
$208.04 (0.76%) $1.57
Corning Incorporated Stock Quote
Corning Incorporated
GLW
$37.18 (-0.96%) $0.36
Motorola Solutions, Inc. Stock Quote
Motorola Solutions, Inc.
MSI
$255.37 (-0.23%) $0.60
Adobe Inc. Stock Quote
Adobe Inc.
ADBE
$451.02 (1.20%) $5.35

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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