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Pro Investors' Strategy Session for April

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Kent Croft, Croft Value Fund

After the market's breakout first-quarter performance, investors would likely assume that long-term value investors are having a hard time finding stocks at attractive valuation. Kent Croft, manager of the Croft Value Fund (CLVFX), says many of the geopolitical and natural disaster events have created opportunities for investors to buy solid companies at reasonable multiples.

"We're not at a loss for finding new ideas in this market," Croft says, although he stops short of saying he's a stock picker. "Many companies are selling for less than 10 times earnings, and others selling at good discounts to net asset values or private market values. Given all the uncertainty out there, it's important to know your company from a stock picker's point of view."

Rather than buying a sector, Croft says investors should be comfortable with balance sheets, examining how these companies have weathered tougher times in the past. It's as important as ever to be research-focused and to know your companies, he says.

Croft says investors still need exposure to companies leveraged to a global economic rebound, which is where he sees a lot of potential. The fund owned stocks like Caterpillar (CAT), United Technologies (UTX), General Electric (GE) and Honeywell (HON) before the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and continues to own them as they should benefit from the country's rebuilding.

Like Pursche, Croft is also a fan of Deere (DE), saying that he likes the agriculture industry because it operates independent from the normal business cycle. He also owns Mosaic (MOS), Monsanto (MON) and even Valmont (VMI), which makes irrigation equipment for more efficient use of water.

Turning to the U.S., Croft also likes Lowe's (LOW), which is one of the fund's largest holdings. Croft says the company offers investors visibility of earnings growth over a multi-year period as the housing market rebounds.

"We're not looking for a knee-jerk or big rebound any time soon, but Lowe's is positioned to deal with a prolonged recovery in housing," he says. "They picked up market share in the downturn, so coming out of this, they should have greater earnings power. It's a multi-year process but Lowe's should participate along the way. At some point, housing has to come back."

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