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If you've never attended an investment conference, you've missed a great opportunity to become a better investor. I recently spoke at the Investment Seminars Inc. (ISI) seminar in San Francisco and as always, came away with a number of good investment ideas.

With close to 5,000 attendeesand hundreds of speakers, there was no shortage of people to talk to or knowledge to be gained. Speakers from many no-load fund families (Cappiello, Berger, United Services, Janus, INVESCO, Lexington, Heartland, Schwab), investment newsletter publishers and investment advisers were available to answer questions and dispense valuable advice.There were a few themes that seemed to be fairly uniform among the investment professionals, including myself.

1. SOUTHEAST ASIA IS STILL HOT. Despite recent weakness, the prospects for mutual fund profits in Southeast Asia are as bright as ever. There is no region anywhere in the world where growth is so assured, and I have no doubt that Southeast Asia will be the most profitable buy-and-hold fund category to own over the next decade.

There will be tons of volatility, though, with that rapid growth. Short-term losses in excess of 20 percent are common and only those with either a discplined market timing strategy or a cast iron stomach should consider these funds. Two of the best, United Services China (800-US-FUNDS) and Guiness Flight China (800-915-6565), were at the San Francisco conference and attendees were able to talk directly to the portfolio managers about the rewards and risks of Southeast Asia.

2. TECHNOLOGY ISN'T AS OVERVALUED AS YOU MAY THINK. Frank Cappiello (Cappiello Emerging Growth), Rod Linafelter (Berger 100), and Art Bonnel (United Services Bonnel Growth) are some of the best money managers in America and each of them remained enthusiastically positive about the technology sector, despite its metoric rise this year.

The phenomenon of corporate downsizing is largely a function of technological advances and that's why the last few years of layoffs have affected white-collar workers and not blue-collar workers. Productivity gains in our ever-increasing global economy are the only way that Americans can continue to raise our standard of living, and those companies that develop technology that increases productivity will continue to grow their earnings and market share.

They all agreed that technology is a volatile sector but unanimously agreed that today's prices will look like bargains a few years out.

3. GOLD MAY GLITTER AGAIN. Lexington and United Services have two of the best precious metals funds in the country and both have produced excellent gains in the past few months. The portfolio managers of both funds are convinced that gold is preparing to break through the $400 an ounce barrier and produce their long-awaited profits.

Much of gold's allure can be traced to the rising riches of Southeast Asia and Latin America. Gold has long been the preferred storehouse of wealth for Third World countries and the increases in per capita income in Southeast Asia and Latin America are substantially going into gold/silver.

Unlike the '80s when gold shot up in price as an inflation hedge, we are seeing an increase in demand. That is why gold will rise despite the low inflation in America.

4. LIMITED PARTNERSHIPS ARE STILL RIPOFFS. Even though there were many representatives from mutual funds and investment newsletters, there were also the usual number of hucksters peddling everything from ostrichs to MTV videos, doggie soda pop, oil & gas exploration deals and Harley Davidson motorcycles. Structured as limited partnerships, these deals are as close to guaranteed losers as I have seen. Yes, an occasional good limited partnership can be found but such an overwhelming majority of limited partnerships turn sour that a blanket "stay away" recommendation is pretty good advice.

If you are serious about managing your own money, investment conferences are a great way to improve your investment skills. They are fun, educational and you get to meet people like me. I hope I see you at one in the future.