New York market: Coke strong amid rate rise fears

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The Independent Online
CONSUMER PRODUCT makers and cyclical stocks such as Coca-Cola, Philip Morris and Inco may outperform the broader market in coming weeks amid expectations of higher US interest rates.

"Irrespective of the economy and interest rates, there is a certain number of Cokes drunk, cigarettes smoked and razor blades used," said fund manager Tim Ghriskey of Dreyfus.

Interest rates have been rising this year amid concern that the economy is growing fast enough to accelerate inflation. Although higher rates hurt stocks in general by making it expensive for companies to finance business expansion, companies that sell everyday items probably won't see their profits suffer as much as others, money managers said.

And even if the Fed does raise rates when it meets on 30 June, it may not be too late for investors to target winners.

After interest rates last rose in 1997, the Morgan Stanley Cyclical Index gained 15 per cent through the rest of the year. The index has gained 22 per cent this year.

Inco, Dow Chemical and International Paper, all of which Ghriskey includes in the Dreyfus portfolio, may be among economically sensitive stocks that advance even as interest rates rise, he said.

Some consumer product companies may get a boost from recoveries in emerging markets "as investors look to take more of an international focus", said money manager John Wilson at State Street.

Stocks fell last week as investors debated how much the Fed will raise rates. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index fell 2.6 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite Index 1.2 per cent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which is up almost 14.3 per cent this year led by economically sensitive shares, fell 2.9 per cent, closing at 10,490.51.

In the US bond market, the world's biggest investors are shifting back to being bulls after Treasuries suffered their worst week in three-and- a-half months.

Bonds yields rose 11 basis points to 6.16 per cent on Friday as the prices of those securities fell to a level that many investors find desirable. Bond managers who bought 30-year Treasuries at the beginning of the year and held them have suffered losses of almost 12 per cent as forecasts that the US economy would slow down proved wrong. Now, with yields at their highest levels in 19 months: "This is pretty attractive for us,'' said fund manager David Berry of Lincoln Investment Management.