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Value Investors Hunting After Debt Agreement

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Investors initially cheered the news of a debt deal Monday after six consecutive losing sessions that lopped 4% off of the S&P 500, but many were quick to sell into the market lift.

Some value investors, on the other hand, continue to look for attractive long-term opportunities in any exaggerated moves to the downside for quality companies that may result from increased investor uncertainty and fear.

Jason Clark, portfolio manager at value-investment firm Al Frank Asset Management in Aliso Viejo, Calif., added to his favorite companies as well as new positions as the markets have tumbled. With a long-term orientation and a contrarian investment approach, Clark is using uncertainty from the debt-limit debate in Washington to his advantage.

Clark and his firm view as solid value picks Wal-Mart (WMT), Disney (DIS), Chesapeake Oil (CHK) and Cooper Tire & Rubber (CTB), among others.

Clark says he and his firm are pleased to see some level of progress occur in Washington, after President Obama announced Sunday that the White House and Republican congressional leaders had reached an agreement on raising the government's debt ceiling and cutting spending.

The official voting is expected later Monday by the House and Senate, which would avoid a technical default, but Clark says there is a lot of work yet to be done by the country's leadership for the nation's long-term financial structure.

"There is still going to be some near-term investor concern about a potential debt downgrade," Clark says. "Eyes will undoubtedly begin to focus on the economy and the amount of data that will be released this week."

This uncertainty breeds opportunity for value investors. Clark says his firm usually invests all its money, but lately he's kept higher levels of cash as the stock market climbed throughout the year. "Historically, we've maxed out at 2% cash. Now, we're between 4% and 7%, which is low but still a lot more than usual," Clark says. "We've got the dry powder."

Designed for long-term-oriented investors, the Al Frank Fund (VALUX) has total assets of about $104 million and more than 110 stock holdings. Most of the fund was devoted to electronic technology and finance as of June 30. Some of the fund's top holdings are Marathon Oil (MRO), McKesson (MCK) and Norfolk Southern (NSC), according to the latest fact sheet.

Since it was started in January 1998, the Al Frank Fund has had an annualized return of about 10.2%, beating the 4.6% gain of the Russell 3000, which the fund uses as a barometer of the broad stock market.

With the markets in flux, European debt woes continuing and plenty of uncertainty regarding the U.S. debt limit and a possible downgrade of the coveted triple-A rating by credit-ratings agencies, Al Frank Asset Management's value approach with expansive diversification is an investment strategy for investors unsure of which direction to take. Clark says now the focus has turned to dividend-paying stocks.

"We are a bottoms-up investment shop, but we do have a top-down overlay," Clark says. "With the uncertainty in Washington, you're seeing people already looking at dividend payers. There could be additional demand for them, especially with what we're seeing with yields in the bond market, fixed-income market and money markets."

Clark offers 10 stocks that Al Frank Asset Management views as good value stock picks currently, arranged in order of potential upside based on the firm's target prices. The selections are detailed on the following pages.

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