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The weather outside was sunny and brisk, but investment letter pundit Jim Collins was watching dark and gloomy stock-market returns pop onto his computer screen as the trading day ended.

The Dow Jones industrial average, Standard & Poor's 500 and NASDAQ Composite Index had all been hammered that day on investor concerns about rising interest rates and a slowing economy.More important to the dapper, gentlemanly Collins, whose OTC Insight has been the most successful growth stock newsletter of the past 10 years, his own portfolio recommendations took a beating. While they've made a comeback in subsequent days, some ongoing concerns remain.

"My worst fear is if everyone is scared by a lot of tax-cut talk that isn't backed up by real spending cuts," sighed Collins, who believes interest-rate worries will simply run their course if there isn't too much chest-thumping in Washington. "While there will be another nudge up in rates, we can live with it."

His top-ranked model portfolio averaged a 24 percent annual gain over the past five years as tracked by the Hulbert Financial Digest. This year it's down just a sliver, compared to NASDAQ's significant decline.

But don't get the impression Collins, a Harvard MBA whose 32-person staff also manages money, has dismal expectations. He believes one-third of an individual's portfolio should be in a diversified group of small- to mid-capitalization growth stocks.

In many ways, the market is right where Collins wants it: positioned for dramatically strong 1995 results.

He predicts the cycle is about to begin a three-year investment period in which growth outperforms value. Three years of weak growth stock returns, as we just experienced, usually lead to a big year. He expects a 10 percent to 12 percent rise in the Dow and S&P 500 in 1995, a giant 20 percent to 25 percent gain in NASDAQ.

"Stock prices and price-to-earnings ratios are down significantly, but we'll see a reversal of that in 1995 as interest rates peak," emphasized Collins, noting many firms' earnings are growing at a 30 percent clip but p/e ratios are only about 20. "Invest in stocks with rapidly growing earnings selling at modest p/e ratios."

Some recommendations include:

- Cobra Golf Inc., leading manufacturer of oversized club heads that make it easier to hit the ball. It attaches the heads to lightweight graphite shafts that increase swing speed. Golf star Greg Norman uses the clubs, owns 4 percent of company stock and has a 50 percent stake in licensee Cobra Golf Australia. There's little debt, sales are exploding and earnings impressive.

- Tencor Instruments, which provides the semiconductor industry with inspection equipment used in making sure there are no defects in the microchip production process. It went public last year and also acquired Prometrix, a leader in measurement of film thickness used in making integrated circuits. Revenues and earnings are up.

- Andrew Corp., major worldwide supplier of electronic communications products and systems, particularly cellular telephones and coaxial cable. It also supplies specialized antenna, radar and communication reconnaissance systems for defense. Double-digit earnings growth is expected the next five years. Half of revenues come from overseas.

- Tellabs Inc., which provides voice and data networking technology for the communications industry. It makes services such as telecommuting, video conferencing and access to information services available worldwide. Last year Tellabs acquired Finland's Martis Oy, a technology firm whose engineers know the European market well. Earnings are soaring.

- Electronics for Imaging connects color copiers with computer networks, opening a new market for color printing and publishing. Customers for its servers include corporations, graphic design studios and individuals. It enjoys 70 percent market share.

An annual subscription to the monthly 1,400-circulation OTC Insight, which features 100 growth stock picks, is $295. The toll-free number is 1-800-955-9566. Collins' new 6,000-circulation Growth Stock Winners monthly newsletter, with a 50-stock list of more conservative equities, is $105 annually. The toll-free number is 1-800-832-2330.

Andrew Leckey's new book has just hit the bookstores. "The 20 Hottest Investments for the 21st century - Where to invest your money to create wealth and build financial security" ($19.95, Contemporary Books, Chicago) analyzes the financial trends that will flourish in the economic climate of the year 2000 and beyond.