Mark Dampier: Put your trust in high-quality stocks

The Analyst

As most of you will be aware, stock markets have rallied strongly since the beginning of March. This is certainly a welcome change, but I wouldn't be surprised if markets paused for breath at this stage. Whether or not this rally can be sustained is the big question in investment at the moment.

I remain positive on the long-term potential of shares, but I'm far more cautious about the short-term outlook. It seems to me that a lot of highly cyclical, highly-indebted companies have gone up a long way, despite little evidence to suggest that their situation has materially improved.

Furthermore, my opinion is that we are seeing a dead cat bounce in the housing market. A bit of a bounce was inevitable, and it would have been catastrophic if we had not seen some increase in transactions, but this does not mark a new dawn. Houses still look far too expensive, especially considering that unemployment will continue to rise from here and we have the spectre of the 2010 budget on the horizon.

Whichever party is in charge by then will have no option but to raise taxes significantly (VAT at 20 per cent?) and make tough public sector cutbacks. That will be bitter tasting medicine, but it's the only realistic course of treatment for our sick economy. None of this gives me confidence that a huge economic turnaround is just around the corner.

But the stock market and the economy are not the same thing. Stock markets can actually perform well even when the economy is doing poorly. Over the next two or three years, investors should be focusing on high-quality companies, so I was especially interested to meet the managers of the Liontrust First Opportunities Fund this week.

The fund launched back in November 2005 and, despite achieving relative success since, is still incredibly small at just £7m. However, this can be a great advantage by enabling the fund managers to be far more nimble and largely relieves them of concerns about liquidity. The fund is run by Anthony Cross, who has been with Liontrust almost from the start, and Julian Fosh who joined around a year ago from a small but successful funds run by Saracen.

The fund has a strong investment philosophy which Liontrust calls 'Economic Advantage'. They look for companies with at least one of three key attributes. First, a higher than average level of profitability, which will tend to translate into a strong share price. Second, intellectual property, which can include things that are hard to replicate and should increase a company's pricing power and the ability to protect its profit margin. Finally,a strong reoccurring income, enabling it to weather poor economic conditions.

The fund has 26 per cent invested in the FTSE 100, around 22 per cent in the Mid 250 index of medium-sized companies, with the rest in smaller companies. It holds a good cross section of defensive stocks and more cyclical stocks. The biggest sector overweights include industrials and technology, while the largest underweights are oil and consumer goods.

Neither manager will say whether we are seeing a genuine economic recovery or merely a rebuilding of inventories. This means it is unclear if increases in manufacturing and industrial output are due to a real increase in demand, or simply because companies are restocking shelves from an extreme low point.

In reality, this is a best ideas fund, drawing on promising stock ideas from across the full spectrum of the market. Liontrust is going through a period of flux after two key managers left the firm earlier this year, but I believe they are making a determined effort to get the ship back in shape. Providing you can afford to be patient and take a five-year view, the UK market currently looks very interesting and funds such as Liontrust are positioning themselves in the right place.

Mark Dampier is the head of research at Hargreaves Lansdown, the asset manager, financial adviser and stockbroker. For more information about the funds included in this column, visit

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Payments Operations Assistant

    £23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...

    Recruitment Genius: Telephone Debt Negotiator

    £13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...

    Guru Careers: Communications Exec / PR Exec

    £25 - £30K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a highly-motivated and ambitious Comm...

    Guru Careers: Pricing Analyst

    £30 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst to join a leading e-...

    Day In a Page

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral