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Winners Come in All Sizes

Aster's fund returned 47.9% in 2003, a tough number to top, even in the most positive market environments. But unlike a number of high-profile fund managers, he does not see raising cash as a near-term alternative.

"Valuations are not as attractive as a year and a half ago, but my stocks will do better than their cash over the next two years," says Aster.

Instead of heading to the sidelines, he remains 98% invested in 50 companies while monitoring 200 prospective names for his next round of bargain hunting. Aster says his patience allows him to wait for his favorite growth stocks to come down to his price range. For example, he kept bar-code manufacturer Symbol Technologies (SBL) in his sights for five years before he picked up shares on the cheap when an accounting scandal took the stock well below $10. Symbol now trades close to $14 a share.

His current favorite pick is Weight Watchers International (WTW), a company whose shares have been hurt by the low-carb craze. In Aster's opinion, Weight Watchers will benefit once the Atkins and South Beach fads pass and Americans return to more traditional methods for weight loss.

Going against the grain even temporarily has never been a problem for Aste. "You don't do well in this business by doing what everybody else is doing."

(OK, fight fans. Here are the answers to the boxing trivia question: The current WBC flyweight, featherweight and welterweight champions are Ponsaklek Wonjongkam of Thailand, Injin Chi of Korea and Cory Spinks of the U.S.)

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