Mutual fund managers are thankful too, you know. Like most Americans, the folks who oversee the nation's mutual funds will join their families Thursday to celebrate Thanksgiving. And like the rest of us, they will fill up on turkey and stuffing, and then waddle over to the television to fall asleep in front of the football game. (Or, like some of us, pretend to fall asleep to avoid cleaning off the table prior to dessert.) There is, however, one thing that separates the average American from a mutual fund manager, and it's not that they are responsible for millions of dollars of retirement money and you can barely balance a checkbook. No, the chief difference is what they count among their blessings. Would anybody at your Thanksgiving gathering, for example, be thankful for New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer? We thought not. That's why TheStreet.com surveyed a number of fund managers to find out what they are thankful for this Thanksgiving holiday.
Amen to That!Fund managers who were long energy shares this year will be among the first to count their blessings at the Thanksgiving dinner table. And most are quick to admit that they wished they loaded up on second helpings back when oil was closer to $40 a barrel. Says George Schwartz, portfolio manager for the ( AVEMX) Ave Maria Catholic Values fund, "I'm deeply thankful we had oil stocks this year. ... I just wish we had more." Along those same power lines, Barry James of the ( GLRBX) Golden Rainbow Fund says he is "grateful utility stocks were so unloved when we found them." On the other hand, some managers welcome the recent pullback in energy prices, especially with winter on the way. John Augustine, chief investment strategist at Fifth Third Asset Management, says he is "thankful to see '$1's' on gasoline signs again in many parts of the country."
Wayne Wicker, chief investment officer at Vantagepoint funds, calls the recent drop in oil prices "a nice holiday present for the already overleveraged consumer." Finally, there are those managers, like Mike Mara of the ( PSRPX) Penn Street Advisors Sector Rotational fund, who are thankful for some of the individual winners in their portfolio. "When I'm enjoying a big slice of apple pie this Thanksgiving, I'm going to be thankful for buying Apple ( AAPL) last year," Mara says.
Hold the StuffingSuccessful investing is not always about buying the right stocks, however. As any fund manager will attest, the key to long-term success often revolves around what not to stuff into your portfolio. John Lekas, portfolio manager for the ( LCCMX) Leader Short-Term Bond fund, is thankful he avoided emerging-market bonds in the wake of a rally in the U.S. dollar. "The dollar is up 14% and it's going higher, with more rate hikes before Greenspan goes away," says Lekas. "That destroys any gains in emerging market paper." Meanwhile, Michael Barron, manager of the ( QUKTX) Quaker Capital Opportunities , is grateful that he "successfully invested in health care without stepping on a big-cap pharma land mine like Merck ( MRK) or Pfizer ( PFE)."
May the Lord Bless ... Eliot Spitzer?Thanksgiving may not be a religious holiday, but a number of fund managers are preparing a special version of grace for this Thursday's celebration, one that includes a few names not normally associated with pilgrims, Indians and Plymouth Rock. "I'm thankful for the appointment of Ben Bernanke," says Axel Merk, portfolio manager for the ( MERKX) Merk Hard Currency fund. "He'll help my gold investments by maintaining Greenspan's policy of keeping the U.S. awash in liquidity." Jim McGlynn, portfolio manager for the ( SEVRX) Summit Everest fund, plans to praise a different set of bigwigs, however. "I'm going to thank people like Carl Icahn and Sumner Redstone for finally realizing that gigantic media companies like Time Warner ( TWX) and Viacom ( VIA) can be split up to increase shareholder value."
And then, of course, no holiday meal could get started without a nod to Mr. Thanksgiving himself, Eliot Spitzer. "I'm thankful for Eliot Spitzer this year," says David Clark of the Piedmont Select Value fund. "When he went after insurance companies, it gave me a fantastic opportunity to buy a quality company like AIG ( AIG) on the cheap." "Amen to Eliot Spitzer running for governor of New York," says Fifth Third's Augustine, who adds that he's also giving thanks that the "U.S. Congress will soon be going home for the holidays."