How can any stock market player not be jittery?
Here's the Dow Jones Industrials up more than 200 points, and suddenly -- pow -- the market runs into a blitz: a sharper-than-expected rise in interest rates and an outbreak of fighting between Iran and Iraq that could spread to who knows where.
No wonder the Dow got socked with a with a recent 52-point loss in a matter of a week. To make matters worse, there's the painful recollection of the 100-point drubbings in the DJI in October of both 1978 and 1979.
It all leads to the obvious question: Are we in for another October bloodbath that could start any day now?
The answer was "no" when I put that question to two of the country's investment giants -- Citibank and Prudential Insurance Co. of America. Between them, they run $75 billion of investment assets, with $16 billion of it -- $9 billion at Citibank, and $7 billion at Prudential -- strictly devoted to common stocks.
Although their near-term strategies may differ, there's strong accord on the the kinds of stocks that ought to be owned for the long pull. Their overwhelming favorites -- even in the face of very sharp gains -- are energy and technology. Energy-related securities make up between 35 percent and 45 percent of the stock portfolios of these two biggies; technology, between 15 percent and 20 percent.
In recent weeks, Citibank has raised the cash reserves in its equity portfolios from a normal range of between 10 percent and 15 percent to between 15 percent and 20 percent. And it's continuing to do so on a selective basis. 1
It's not that Citibank thinks the market's in for any stiff setback. Rather, as investment research chief Charles Porten explains it to me, rising interest rates -- plus the fact that people have gains and may want to cash in a bit -- could result in a correction as the market rests for a while.
Citibank's research boss talks enthusiastically of the healthy new issue and venture capital markets. but for now Citibank is trimming positions chiefly in securities in which it has big gains; also, in some stocks in which it has large positions. Most note-worthy in this respect are IBM, Atlantic Richfield, Exxon, Conoco and Standard Oil of Ohio.
Between 40 percent and 45 percent of every equity buck under Citibank's supervision goes into energy-related securities.
I asked Porten how Citibank would structure a new securities portfolio (allowing for the near-term concerns).
A third of it, he says, should be devoted to energy stocks. And these would include Amerada Hess, Marathon Oil, Standard Oil of California, Cities Service, Sun Oil, Dome Petroleum, Halliburton, Schlumberger, Mitchell Energy, General American Oil, Murphy Oil and Superior Oil.
Another 10 percent to 15 percent would go into technology issues, namely, Honeywell, Data General, MCI Communications and Digital Equipment.
Citibank like a lot of other market players, is a big booster of emerging growth stocks. Here, it favors Rolm, Datapoint, Wang Laboratories, Tandy and Cray Research.
Union Pacific and Chessie System are two of the bank's heavily favored railroad plays.