article , video 02-27-2015

Bill Hench on Consumer and Tech Stocks

A bottom-up stock picker, Portfolio Manager Bill Hench is finding compelling valuations in the semiconductor industry. Bill also believes many Consumer Discretionary stocks are poised to benefit from the recent decline in energy prices.

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Jeff Smith: Bill, what about 2015? Any industry groups that have emerged from your research? And what are your overall expectations for the calendar year?

Bill Hench: We start out the process on a name-by-name basis. However, when you do that, you do tend to build up sector bets or group bets, if you will.

One of the groups that we think should do really well in 2015 is anything to do with consumer—whether it be retail, housing, anything where the consumer can spend more discretionary income, and that ties in exactly to one of the groups that we don’t have a lot of exposure—very little exposure—to, which is energy.

There has been this tremendous reduction in the price of crude oil, but also in the price of natural gas as well. So we’ve avoided energy pretty much on both sides—on the oil and gas side—and really focused on having as much exposure to the consumer as we possibly can.

There are tremendous benefits to lower energy prices, and we think we’re going to see them fairly quickly.

Jeff: Any specific companies, Bill, that emerge from that research?

Bill: Three of the names we like in retail are J.C. Penney, Ascena Retail Group, and American Eagle Outfitters. We like companies that have really done well as far as controlling their inventory, stocks that also have very low expectations, and names that we think can surprise on the upside as far as earnings go. All three of those fit that category very well.

Jeff: Bill, can you share some thoughts on the technology positions in the portfolio?

Bill: As has been the case many times in the past with Royce Opportunity Fund, we have a large representation of technology in the Fund.

The most promising thing, I think, about tech isn’t so much about new products or what the inventory looks like—or any of those other issues—but rather where these things are selling.

A lot of these names are selling at incredibly low valuations, and many of the tech names that are pretty much growing much better than the economy are selling at levels that you would normally equate with some of the more industrial-type names. And at these levels we think they offer great valuation, especially names in the semiconductor world and the semiconductor capital equipment world.

Important Disclosure Information

Bill Hench is a Portfolio Manager of Royce & Associates, LLC, investment advisor to The Royce Funds. He serves as portfolio manager for Royce Opportunity Fund (ROF) and Royce Opportunity Select Fund (ROS). He also serves as assistant portfolio manager for Royce Low-Priced Stock Fund (RLP). The thoughts and opinions expressed in the video are solely those of the person speaking and may differ from those of other Royce investment professionals, or the firm as a whole. There can be no assurance with regard to future market movements.

This material is not authorized for distribution unless preceded or accompanied by a current prospectus. Please read the prospectus carefully before investing or sending money. Royce Opportunity Fund invests primarily in small-cap stocks, which may involve considerably more risk than investing in larger-cap stocks. (Please see "Primary Risks for Fund Investors" in the prospectus.) The Fund’s broadly diversified portfolio does not ensure a profit or guarantee against loss. 

Percentage of Fund Holdings as of 12/31/14 (%)

  ROF ROS RLP
J.C. Penney Company 0.35 0.54 0.00
Ascena Retail Group 0.22 0.00 0.21
American Eagle Outfitters 0.24 1.92 0.53

There can be no assurance that any of the securities mentioned in this video will be included in these portfolios in the future. References to specific securities in this piece are not intended as recommendations and should not be relied upon as the basis for anyone to buy, sell, or hold any security.

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