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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Cult’ stocks carry plenty of risk

 (The Spokesman-Review)
Meg Richards Associated Press

NEW YORK – Even as market experts forecast modest returns for 2005, investors have snapped up shares of stocks that appear overvalued – a troubling sign that suggests people are pinning their hopes on short-term momentum instead of long-term fundamentals.

The broader market sagged during the year’s first two weeks of trading, but even on days when the major indexes were weak, investors showed great interest in stocks like Sirius Satellite Radio Inc., Taser International Inc. and other issues with questionable potential. The fact that so many are so excited about companies offering so little makes some more conservative analysts nervous about a rise in speculation.

“The momentum monkeys are back. ‘It’s going up? Let’s buy it,’ ” said Jeffrey D. Saut, chief investment strategist at Raymond James & Associates.

Saut considers Sirius, Taser and other issues that have developed strong followings despite minimal earnings, or even losses, to be “cult stocks.” Since their gains are driven by momentum, these stocks tend to be quite volatile. As of Friday’s close, the Nasdaq was down more than 4 percent since the start of the year, the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index has shed nearly 7 percent. Yet fear in the marketplace, as measured by the Chicago Board of Options volatility index, or the VIX, has remained at lows not seen since the mid-1990s.