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Stocks & Bonds

The Oracle Should Have Listened to Us

Our stock picks for Buffett beat the market, but our closed-end favorites turned in mixed results.

Warren Buffett didn't heed our call to invest in five companies that we said were just right for him (see Stocks Buffett Would Love). But any mere mortal who listened to us could claim to have lost less than the market: From the day we priced them, our five picks sank an average of 27% through May 8, compared with a decline of 33% for Standard & Poor's 500-stock index.

The only one of the five stocks to trail the index over the past year was Mohawk Industries (symbol MHK), which lost 40%. That's not surprising, given how closely its flooring business is tied to home building. But Mohawk is well poised for housing's eventual comeback.

A retailer led the pack. Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY), which lost just 12% over the past year, has beaten earnings estimates in each of the past four quarters. As for the others, Tiffany (TIF) lost 32%, Fastenal (FAST) dropped 27%, and Paychex (PAYX) fell 23% (after our story appeared, Buffett praised Fastenal chief executive Willard Oberton on CNBC). At today's prices, we'd recommend the bunch all over again.

In Great Stock Funds on Sale, we described six closed-end funds selling at discounts to the value of their underlying assets. That's often an attractive investment opportunity. Not this time.


Shares of General American Investors (GAM) tumbled 45% in the year through May 8. Central Securities Corp. (CET) fell 36%; it now sells at a yawning 20% discount to NAV. But we can't judge its suitability because the fund has nearly one-third of its assets in a privately owned insurance firm, Plymouth Rock.

The other funds we featured don't sell at compelling discounts. They are: BlackRock Energy & Resources (BGR), down 38%, trading at an 8% discount; Royce Focus Trust (FUND), off 35%, 5% discount; DWS Global Commodities Stock (GCS), down 25%, 7% discount; and Templeton Emerging Markets fund (EMF), off 31%, 1% discount.