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FPA's Robert Rodriguez Likes Cash

Are you getting paid enough to hold stocks and bonds?

Robert Rodriguez doesn't think so. That's why he keeps raising the cash stake in his $2 billion (FPPTX) FPA Capital fund. The California-based contrarian currently has more than a third of his portfolio in cold hard Treasury bills. The rest has been faring quite nicely in small- and mid-cap value stocks, and he has no qualms about holding more cash until valuations fall or risk premiums rise.

And it's not like holding the cash is hurting his performance. The fund has been a winner for over two decades and is up 14.5% this year, almost triple the Russell 3000 Value Index. Rodriguez also keeps a relatively low expense ratio of 0.85%, so it's hard to accuse him of charging too much for a glorified money fund.

Rodriguez chatted with The about the virtues of cash, as well as what it would take to get him back in the game.

What is your view on stocks at this time? Obviously, you are not too bullish.

I am not too optimistic. My mutual fund is going to all-time record highs in cash. Presently, we are at 37.5% liquidity, plus we have a takeover liquidating that will take us up to 39%. And then after that we have a pending takeover that will take us to 42%.

Does that bearish prediction include energy stocks? You have stakes in quite a few energy companies like National Oilwell Varco (NOV) and Patterson-UTI Energy (PTEN).

We think the energy rally is advanced. We have trimmed our positions in a couple of holdings, but we still view energy as a strategic area long term. What is going on in the energy sector is a multiyear phenomenon, not a two- or three-year occurrence. It's going to be a five- to 10-year phenomenon.

Also, there's a lot more talk than action in the energy sector. The weightings of financial services and technology stocks in the S&P are far greater than the weighting in energy. Energy is presently at one-third of the level of its 1980 peak at about 31% of the S&P index. Right now, technology is about 20% and financial services is also about 20% of the S&P. So if that is an indication of how enthusiastic people are, then we still have a long way to go for portfolios to get deployed in this area.

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