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Fighting an investing slump

April 04, 2006

PURCHASE - Robert Olstein compares his job of picking stocks to a slugger stepping up to the plate in Major League Baseball. In both jobs, you have to be tough enough to take the strikeouts along with the home runs. You may even hear jeers from the crowd if you are in a slump. "A great hitter in baseball has a .333 average," Olstein said in a recent interview. "On the other hand, a great hitter on Wall Street is probably at .700. So the fact is that when you go through your .300 period and underperform as a fund manager, you have to hang in there."

"This is a probability game and investors need to realize that there will be ups and downs."

For Olstein, the portfolio manager of the Olstein Financial Alert Fund, there certainly have been more grand slams than infield pop-ups in the fund's first 10 years.

The Purchase-based fund has risen in nine of those 10 years, a volatile period marked by extreme bull and bear markets. Competing against thousands of peers, the fund ranked as the 43rd best performing stock fund for the 10 years ending Dec. 30, according to The Wall Street Journal. The fund's annualized return of 15.76 percent over that span is nearly double the annualized gain of 8.97 percent for the S&P 500 index.

Gurufocus.com, an Internet site that tracks the stock picks of investment geniuses, lists Olstein as a member of the "Guru Hall of Fame." Others on the list include the better known Warren Buffett and George Soros. Known for a meticulous focus on financial statements, Olstein has a history of warning about accounting problems before the blowups happen.

"I'm really proud of what we have done," Olstein said.

But then his attention turns to the slump in which the

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