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July 11, 2020, 4:34 p.m. EDT

5 ways to beat the stock market — from a fund manager who’s done this for years

These lessons from Amana Growth Fund can make you a better investor

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By Michael Brush, MarketWatch

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So when COVID-19 hit the headlines in March, Klimo didn’t scour holdings for names to ditch because they might fall more. “We said we own good companies and they will come out strong on the other side. So it will be fine,” says Klimo.

Part of this long-term doctrine means having the sense to stay in good names even if they look expensive. “We will hold if the operational thesis is still intact,” says the fund manager.

For example, Amana Growth has a 6% position in Intuit /zigman2/quotes/203136605/composite INTU +0.13% . That’s a really big holding given that many mutual funds limit size of a single holding to 1%-2% of the overall portfolio. The tax and financial software company looks pricey with a forward P/E in the upper 30 range. Growth may get hit as COVID-19 puts customers out of business.

“But they have a tremendous long-term double-digit earnings growth track record,” says Klimo. “We still like the story long term.” Near-term, Intuit would get a boost if Joe Biden becomes president in January, which would bring lots changes to federal tax laws, in turn supporting demand for its products.

When does Klimo sell? Triggers include a change in the original investment thesis, or signs of management malfeasance.

3. Invest in companies with a sustainable competitive advantage

A favorite is companies with a clear technology edge. Klimo has a 4.7% position in ASML /zigman2/quotes/210293876/composite ASML -2.92%   /zigman2/quotes/206208657/delayed NL:ASML -1.75% , which makes lithography machines that produce chips. ASML has a lock on the market with 75% share. As this business transitions to “extreme ultraviolet lithography,” which uses ultraviolet wavelengths in chip production, ASML will have 100% market share, predicts Klimo. “They will just own the market. They have a technological edge over everybody.”

Another example: TJX /zigman2/quotes/203136811/composite TJX -1.29% , a 2.8% position. Klimo thinks TJX, whose stores include T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods, is so good at discount retailing and setting up the lure of the “treasure hunt,” it has its own niche — and a protective moat that keeps competitors at bay. Now, with retailers going out of business because of the slowdown, TJX will be able to find even more bargains for shoppers, which will help results.

4. Invest in high quality of management

You can spot them by looking at their track records. Klimo owns the home improvement retailer Lowe’s /zigman2/quotes/205563664/composite LOW -0.47% in part because Marvin Ellison took over as CEO in 2018, after years of producing great results at Home Depot /zigman2/quotes/208081807/composite HD +0.82% . Now he’s using many of the same tactics to boost profit margins at Lowe’s — like fine-tuning inventory management and online operations.

Klimo is also sticking with Apple because of the “tremendous” leadership of CEO Tim Cook. Klimo cites Apple’s success with services. Popular offerings like Apple Pay, iTunes and the App Store, have thrived under Cook. Unlike skeptics, Klimo isn’t worry Apple will stumble in smartphone innovation. He expects new 5G-capable models coming out in the fall to be a hit. “We still have supreme confidence in the investment thesis.”

5. Go with diversity at the top

Klimo likes gender diversity in top management and boards because he says it improves company performance. Here, he cites holding Estée Lauder /zigman2/quotes/200740220/composite EL -0.40% , which has five women on its executive team including the CFO, and seven women among its 16 board members. Klimo expects continued growth through expansion in China and other parts of Asia. He also rejects the theory that working from home stifles cosmetics demand. “People still want to look good on their Zoom calls.”

What’s ahead for the economy

Klimo also likes Estée Lauder’s history of holding up in a weak economy. That’ll come in handy, because he doesn’t expect a “V-shaped” recovery. He cites the continuing spread of COVID-19, which will worsen when flu season arrives. Even if governments don’t impose broad lockdowns, companies will shut facilities and stores.

See the latest MarketWatch coronavirus coverage here.

Another risk few people are talking about: State governments’ balanced-budget mandates. Shortfalls in tax revenue will bring large cuts in state services, a big part of the economy. “There is a real big problem coming down the pike from the perspective of state budgets.”

Not that any of this matters for Klimo’s investment strategy. If history is any guide, his fund will just stick with its winners through any worsening of the economy.

At the time of publication, Michael Brush had no positions in any stocks mentioned in this column. Brush has suggested TJX, LOW, HD and EL in his stock newsletter Brush Up on Stocks. Brush is a Manhattan-based financial writer who has covered business for the New York Times and The Economist Group, and he attended Columbia Business School. Follow Brush on Twitter @mbrushstocks.

/zigman2/quotes/203136605/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 366.00
+0.49 +0.13%
Volume: 219,768
Jan. 15, 2021 10:20a
P/E Ratio
49.42
Dividend Yield
0.64%
Market Cap
$100.17 billion
Rev. per Employee
$724,434
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/zigman2/quotes/210293876/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 528.72
-15.93 -2.92%
Volume: 231,424
Jan. 15, 2021 10:20a
P/E Ratio
59.48
Dividend Yield
0.46%
Market Cap
$224.55 billion
Rev. per Employee
$531,306
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/zigman2/quotes/206208657/delayed
NL : Netherlands: Euronext Amsterdam
439.50
-7.85 -1.75%
Volume: 851,351
Jan. 15, 2021 4:05p
P/E Ratio
55.29
Dividend Yield
0.58%
Market Cap
€185.05 billion
Rev. per Employee
€474,699
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/203136811/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 67.14
-0.88 -1.29%
Volume: 976,347
Jan. 15, 2021 10:20a
P/E Ratio
112.46
Dividend Yield
1.54%
Market Cap
$81.67 billion
Rev. per Employee
$145,864
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/205563664/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 169.59
-0.80 -0.47%
Volume: 681,240
Jan. 15, 2021 10:20a
P/E Ratio
24.11
Dividend Yield
1.41%
Market Cap
$124.85 billion
Rev. per Employee
$225,463
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/208081807/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 270.54
+2.20 +0.82%
Volume: 886,127
Jan. 15, 2021 10:20a
P/E Ratio
23.46
Dividend Yield
2.21%
Market Cap
$288.90 billion
Rev. per Employee
$265,155
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/200740220/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 249.01
-1.01 -0.40%
Volume: 238,706
Jan. 15, 2021 10:20a
P/E Ratio
151.75
Dividend Yield
0.85%
Market Cap
$90.41 billion
Rev. per Employee
$297,063
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Michael Brush is a Manhattan-based financial writer who publishes the stock newsletter Brush Up on Stocks. Brush has covered business for the New York Times and The Economist group. He attended Columbia Business School in the Knight-Bagehot program.

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