"This has been a horrible year for our kind of contrarian stock picking," David Dreman, manager of the Kemper-Dreman High Return Equity fund, told this morning's Journal. "The irony is, this is the best portfolio I have had in a decade."
Huh? Run that by me again? Horrible performance but great portfolio? I don't think so. That's like saying "We have the best team in the
, even though we finished last." It doesn't compute from where I sit. All it does is confuse.
Let's get more from this man:
"As a value manager, you stay with these good companies because the people who make the changes and give up their discipline usually do it at precisely the wrong time."
Again, I don't think so. Value managers had a tough time in 1998, too.
This quote presumes that there is never a good time to change disciplines. But what if you are doomed to do poorly? Couldn't you have said the exact same thing at the end of last year? Would that have been "precisely the wrong time"? There is never a good time to change, but to
change is to be oblivious to what is occurring all around you. I don't want my managers to be oblivious.
Of course, Dreman expects a major correction in technology. "Meantime," he says, "I just wish
Wrong! They aren't. And they aren't going to be.
Join the discussion on
Message Boards. Ahh, I know it, I am being way too tough on Dreman, who I am sure is as nice as anybody else. I should just praise him for sticking to his guns, as if money managing were some sort of ideological business.
What I think about is what does this paragraph do to the investors besides confuse us? Dreman is telling you that his stocks are the best.
What he really means is that his "companies" are the best. It is an empirical issue whether his stocks are the best, and I can tell you for a fact, they aren't. The best stocks go up. They go up more than the worst stocks. The best companies? Hey, are we running a popularity contest or are we picking stocks here?
Look, I didn't make the rules -- you did. You are the customer. You demand performance. We have to give it to you. There is no rulebook here that asterisks your performance with "would have done better had he not stuck to his guns," or "styles change regularly, so stick with me."
There's simply outperformance and underperformance. In that sense, money management is like the NFL. The losers better change or they will lose again next year.
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund had no positions in any stocks mentioned. His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at