Robert Auer, Auer Growth Fund
Auer, manager of the $228 million Auer Growth Fund (AUERX), says he's used to dealing with angry investors to begin the month of April. As a retail broker for 21 years at Morgan Stanley (MS), he saw the pains of tax season first hand.
"I was always cautious from April 1 until April 15 because tax season puts everyone in a bad mood," Auer says. "People who owe on taxes are typically wealthy and are stock investors, and sometimes they have to re-juggle their portfolio. If they didn't withhold enough, they need to get some money to pay. For that reason, I wouldn't be surprised to see the market stall out at this level."Auer's investing strategy differs from other portfolio managers in that he only invests in companies with 25% increases in profits and 20% in revenue while also carrying a price-to-earnings ratio below 12. His portfolio has more than 100 stocks across all market caps. After companies posted corporate earnings for the fourth quarter, Auer scratched many ideas off his list due to P/E ratios that grew too high. But he currently says that the bond market is "close to a tipping point," and that bond-scared money will come back into equities. "It will have no place to go. It could be huge, it could be explosive," he says. Auer has had recent success with many of his stock picks. In September, he told TheStreet that he was investing in Micron (MU) and Marathon Oil (MRO), both of which are up 60% over the past six months. His fund also owned Cephalon (CEPH), which was recently acquired at a rich premium. Looking ahead to April, Auer is a fan of Teva Pharmaceutical (TEVA), which is a leading maker of generic drugs. The stock, which is currently Auer's largest position, is trading below a P/E ratio of 10 based on this year's earnings while it continues to grow at very high rates, Auer says. "For the risk/reward, it's fabulous at the $50 level," he adds. "We think the stock should be $100." Veeco Instruments (VECO), a manufacturer of diodes for LED lighting, is "growing wildly," Auer says, as LED lighting becomes more popular. While he notes the stock is extremely volatile, he says it trades about 10 times this year's earnings and has "fantastic" growth potential. -- Written by Robert Holmes in Boston.
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