Will Danoff: buy firms that are doing well right now

Forget future earnings, says Will Danoff, portfolio manager at Fidelity. What matters is now.

“I always prefer to invest in companies that are doing well right now,“ says Will Danoff, who manages the $139bn Fidelity Contrafund in the US, the largest active equity fund run by a single person. That’s why his portfolio is heavy in stocks that benefit from a world in which people work and study from home, he tells Bloomberg, rather than contrarian bets such as airlines and hotels that are only likely to recover when the pandemic is over. 

Danoff’s biggest holdings are tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft. Many of these shares have already risen much further than anybody would have expected when Covid-19 first struck. “But if you say ‘would I rather own [a stock like Amazon] for the next ten years or not?’, I think it’s clearly a long-term buy.”

The outlook for markets is unpredictable. “Stock valuations are a function of low interest rates right now, and low interest rates have created some distortions.” High valuations may persist, but that’s not certain – so investors need to be sure they are confident in the long-term earning power of their stocks. “There’s no question that software companies are fast-growing, very high margin and most importantly are capital light – they don’t need to spend a lot of money to grow.” 

That focus on profitability and low capital intensity drove Danoff to sell most of his stake in Tesla in 2017 – a decision that he now regrets. “Selling Tesla was a mistake … ten years from now, it’s very possible that virtually all new cars will be electric vehicles or hybrids and Tesla has the best brand.”

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