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Skechers or Smuckers, It's Value Stocks' Time

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Value stocks have grossly outperformed growth stocks this year, and that comes as little surprise to Malcolm Polley, portfolio manager for the Stewart Capital Mid Cap Fund (SCMFX), who says the economic downturn is making investors more price conscious than ever.

The $21 million fund, which garners four stars from Morningstar (MORN - Get Report), has returned more than 13% over the past year, better than 70% of its rivals. Over the past three years, the fund has returned nearly 20 basis points annually, better than 93% of its peers.

Welcome to's Fund Manager Five Spot, where America's top mutual fund managers give their best stock picks and views on the market in a five-question format.

Why are value stocks the better bet right now?

Polley: From our perspective, value stocks make a lot of sense simply because you are focusing on how much you pay for something. And in the uncertain environment we have been in over the last couple of years, where principle preservation seems to be the key, focusing on how much you pay for something makes a lot of sense.

One stock you like is Skechers(SKX). Why is this a value stock now?

Polley: We have not liked retailers for a long time. But Skechers offers a very strong value proposition. You can go in and find a similar shoe that is much more expensive that essentially Skechers has copied. Shape Ups is a great example. It's probably their biggest seller. If you go into a shoe or sneaker store and ask them what their top seller is, it will likely be the Skechers Shape Up.

Another stock you like is J.M. Smucker(SJM). Why the jam maker?

Polley: They have done a fantastic job of integrating acquisitions. The Smuckers family still has a sizable stake, so they have skin in the game. The acquisition that we were most [struck] with was the International Multifood acquisition of a couple of years ago. They did a wonderful job of integrating what had been an underperforming business.

Banks have been under pressure recently. You like Northwest Bancshares(NWBI). Why?

Polley: Northwest Bancshares is what you call a second-stage deconversion. They were converting from a mutual holding company to a stock company. We had the opportunity to buy the stock at below tangible book value, which means all the good will has been taken out. In other words, we got it at a great price point. They have a wonderful footprint throughout the North Atlantic area. They have done a lot of acquisitions over the last five or six years. They continue to do acquisitions, and they have a lot of capital to do so.
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