Diversification Pays

Diversification Pays

Last year, when it appeared that the bear market had ended but a bull market had not yet begun, Dawn Alston Paige, portfolio manager at Durham, North Carolina-based Piedmont Investment Advisors, decided to use a diversified approach when she offered BLACK ENTERPRISE an exclusive portfolio of five stocks. She chose large and small companies across a broad range of industries with good earnings prospects, companies that would provide a cushion if the market relapsed or that had great potential if there were a run-up. “[At the time,] this was a very defensive portfolio we created for BE readers. The market was jittery, and we were concentrating on risk control,” Paige explains.

As the economy picked up steam late last year, so did Paige’s portfolio, surging to a 55.96% gain over the 52-week period from June 20, 2003, to June 21, 2004. By contrast, the S&P 500 grew by 13.52%, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average increased by 12.72% over the same time period.

Paige was prescient with her selection of biotech firm Sepracor (Nasdaq: SEPR) as a company that had great earnings potential. The maker of insomnia treatments and asthma medications did not disappoint, skyrocketing 153.70% from $20.00 to $50.74 per share. “Sepracor was an exceptional stock. Right now it’s a sell or a fair hold. [Investors] should trim positions and buy on significant dips,” advises Paige.

Her selection of insurance provider Oxford Health Plans (NYSE: OHP) also did well. “Oxford Health was acquired by United Healthcare Group. It will definitely add value to United Healthcare,” Paige says. “Technically, since Oxford is a part of United, I would encourage investors to review United -it’s an attractive franchise. The HMO industry group is attractive to us.” The rising cost of health insurance and the firm’s ability to meet customer needs helped lift Oxford’s share price 32.53%, from $41.35 to $54.80.

Berry Petroleum Co. (NYSE: BRY), the small, West Coast oil exploration and production company that Paige identified as a possible takeover candidate, benefited from the sharp spike in gasoline prices caused by the war in Iraq. Shares of Berry Petroleum catapulted 73.62%, moving from $17.40 to $30.21. “Every portfolio needs a solid energy company. Especially if you believe -like me -in an expanding global demand, particularly in China, and the continuing economic recovery in the United States,” Paige says.

One of Paige’s favorite stocks, Dean Foods (NYSE: DF), was also a strong performer in her portfolio. “Dean Foods is a portfolio staple. It’s still a buy, and, while it’s never going to set the world on fire, it’s a solid firm.” The nation’s largest dairy products company produced a solid gain of 17.99%, going from $31.24 to $36.86 per share. With the recent milk shortage driving up prices, Dean Foods should continue to impress.

Paige’s final selection didn’t do as well as the others, but still managed a positive return. ADC Telecom (Nasdaq: ADCT), a small company that makes telecom equipment for cable companies that offer high-speed data transfer services, remained flat, squeezing out a 1.98%