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Rating:Odd Lots, March 19, 1999 Not Rated 3.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Friday, March 19, 1999

Odd Lots, March 19, 1999

Reported by Sean Hanna, Editor in Chief

Wonder about all of the activity in Merrill Lynch stock recently. Well, it probably wasn't anticipation of yesterday's earnings announcement by the Bull. More likely it was rumors of a Merrill takeover by Chase. Yes, the Rockefeller's bank is reportedly eyeing the originator of the discount brokerage concept. In a nifty bit of cross-promotionm, Forbes web site reveals that "in the cover story of its April 5 issue, "The Bull Has An Identity Crisis," Forbes magazine will report that it "has seen documents that indicate that the brokerage firm [Merrill Lynch] is now reconsidering an offer from Chase Manhattan to merge with that $366 billion bank.'"

The web site goes on to say that:
In the edition of Forbes due on newsstands on Monday March 22, Forbes reports that "In the margin of a Chase income statement currently under review by Merrill's top executives are handwritten notes" containing the following comments: "Tough to integrate," "Best leveraged-transaction business," "Not client-focused" and "Can negotiations be kept secret?"
How did John Muresianu set the $239 million Fidelity Fifty fund back on track. Today's Boston Globe explains how Muresianu turned the once lagging fund into the third best performer at Fidelity since he took the reigns on Jan. 4. One of his secrets is the Internet. Fully 48 percent of the fund's assets are now invested in technology -- up from 12 percent previously.

Fund companies have left no stone unturned in their attempt to find a special angle to set their funds apart from those of the competition in the increasingly crowded fund marketplace. Not every angle works though. Market neutral funds may be one pitch that falls on deaf ears, according to today's WSJ. The paper points out that none of these funds have a standout track record. "I just don't get it. I just don't get going through all that effort to try to make a few percentage points more than a T-bill," Bob Markman of the Minneapolis-based Markman Funds is quoted as saying. Ouch! Two reasons to consider these funds, according to the WSJ are: their returns are not correlated to those of stock funds, and the usually beat bonds. Not much to market when the Dow is knocking on 10k's door.

'Market-Neutral' and Mostly Money-Losing
  Total return  
Fund name 1999 Since
Date of
Barr Rosenberg Market Neutral -5.9% -6.1% Dec. 1997 $244
Barr Rosenberg Select Sectors M.N. -2.6 +3.6 Nov. 1998 35
Boston Partners Market Neutral -5.1 -6.1 Dec. 1998 1
Dreyfus Premier Market Neutral -7.9 -13.0 June 1998 5
Phoenix-Euclid Market Neutral -5.9 -7.6 May 1998 132
Puget Sound Market Neutral -1.5 -3.4 June 1998 47
Warburg Pincus Long-Short M.N. +0.3 +0.5 July 1998 26

Note: Return figures are for retail shares and, for load funds, the front-end-load "A" shares.

Sources: Wall Street Journal, Lipper, fund companies


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