Learning from 2007's financial trends

Allan Sloan is a senior editor-at-large at Fortune

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Scott Jagow: Fortune Magazine's Allan Sloan has been perusing the numbers from 2007. And he found these trends: Growth stocks did better than value stocks for the first time in a while. Big companies outperformed smaller ones for the first time in a while. And foreign stocks pummeled U.S. stocks.

OK, Allan, let's break this down. Why did growth stocks do better than value?

Allan Sloan: All right, one reason is that value stocks were doing terribly. A lot of them were the financial stocks, and the financial stocks got clobbered -- and for good reason, as we know, because of all the problems in the debt market. And growth is technology, and technology -- you know, largely technology -- technology did very well.

Jagow: Now, what about the trend with small companies versus big companies?

Sloan: Normally, small companies trade for less than big companies compared to earnings and the stated value. But over the past few years, as people like me sat there with what they call small caps, things got out of whack and the small caps -- in many ways, in the beginning of last year -- were trading for higher ratios than the mid-caps of the bigger things. And life has reasserted itself, as it always does, and everything that had been through with previous years had all reversed.

Jagow: And does that include foreign stocks versus U.S. stocks?

Sloan: No, the foreign stocks have been doing better for quite awhile against U.S. stocks. And foreigns, I mean, so much better. It's a combination of the companies doing better and the dollar weakening. Because if you're investing in companies that keep books in currencies other than the dollar, every time the dollar drops, they do better in dollar terms than a company, like a U.S. company, that keeps score in dollars.

Jagow: So Allan, based on what you've said, what you've discovered about the trends of last year, how does that affect your investing for 2008?

Sloan: What I'm probably going to do -- hating myself every minute -- is I'm going to switch probably even more money from U.S. stock funds into foreign stock funds. I've already cut back a lot on my small-cap funds. And I'm just going to hope that, you know, things work out. But boy, they sure didn't work out last year. It was a really mediocre, crummy year for stocks.

Jagow: Here's to a better 2008.

Sloan: Thank you, Scott -- and maybe next year we'll talk about how much money we made.

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