"The dividend yield on stocks has only been this low 15 percent of the time since 1926," observes Steve Leuthold of the Leuthold Group in Minneapolis. Those times included the third quarter of 1987, the last three quarters of 1961, and all of 1972, periods that preceded sharp market setbacks. In fact, all of Leuthold's value measures are "very, very negative" now. "Stay near the exits," he warns. "Historically, this market is not cheap."
- There's nothing flashy about Bergstrom Capital. This closed-end fund doesn't advertise, and it operates from a modest office in Seattle, which it shares with four other companies. Yet its reclusive manager, Erik Bergstrom, has made an average 24 percent on his investors' money over the past 15 years by discovering promising stocks and holding on to them for a very long time. Largest recent positions: Amgen, Southwestern Bell, Baxter International, U.S. West, Huntingdon International Holdings, Quantum Chemical, Bristol-Myers Squibb, H&R Block.- Oil stocks have been battered recently by concerns about overproduction. But in light of the diminished supply of oil from the former Soviet Union, this selling has been overdone, says United & Babson Investment Report (101 Prescott St., Wellesley Hills, Mass. 02181). "The major international oils take pride in the long-term management of their assets. And dividend payments have historically stabilized and even increased in periods of adversity." U&B's favorite oil stocks: British Petroleum, Chevron, Exxon, Mobil, Texaco.
- "Politicians will do whatever they can to get people to spend again," observes William Ehman of EGS Partners in New York. "They're buying votes, pure and simple." This pump-priming will produce an economic pickup soon, Ehman believes, along with a modest increase in inflation. Both of these eventualities favor cyclical stocks. Ehman's favorites: Ethyl, Federal Paperboard, W.R. Grace, International Paper, Masco, Rohm & Haas, Stanley Works, Stone Container.
- ARM funds, which invest in adjustable-rate mortgages, have the liquidity of money-market funds, yet yield up to 2 percent more. They are also not nearly as sensitive to interest-rate fluctuations as short-term bond funds are. When searching for an ARM fund, advises Fortune magazine, "consider the sales charge. A hefty load can dramatically lower your return. Two new ARM funds have no sales charge at all: Benham Adjustable Rate Government Securities and T. Rowe Price Adjustable Rate U.S. Government."
- At its peak in 1986, platinum sold for 60 percent more than gold. It now sells for less than gold. According to Robert Stovall of Stovall/Twenty-First Advisers in New York, platinum also sold for less than gold late in the last two recessions. Then it reasserted its dominance. Stovall expects it will again and would play this spread by buying platinum futures and selling gold futures short.
- Many investors would like to bypass stockbrokers entirely by buying their shares directly from the company. But according to Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine (1729 H St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006), only seven companies allow investors to buy their initial shares directly: Central Vermont Public Service, W.R. Grace, Johnson Controls, Kroger, Procter & Gamble, Questar, Texaco.
Investor's Notebook does not endorse or recommend any specific investments.