March 16, 2011

Fisher Adds to Japan Weight in Portfolio, Criticizes Media Coverage of Quake

Billionaire investor says media, especially TV, is ‘fanning the hysteria’

Ken Fisher reports he has made some portfolio changes as a result of the situation in Japan: he has “increased weight in Japan and picked up some other things, mostly technology, on the presumption that things tied to [Japan] will” improve faster than many people think.

Overall, Fisher (left) told AdvisorOne in an exclusive interview on Wednesday that we have been in a “normal corrective phase since the beginning of the year. There are too many optimists and too many pessimists, and this is cooling down the optimists.” It’s “part of the same chop trend going nowhere,” he explains. “There are all kinds of super bulls and super bears, and not much in the middle.”

Meanwhile, says Fisher, founder and CEO of Fisher Investments, in Woodside, Calif., the firm isn’t changing how it communicates with clients. In a regular “weekly commentary e-mail, we said we think this is largely a tragedy that is being expanded in the media.”

Media ‘Hysteria’

“Rarely do people think they’re hysterical when they really are,” Fisher says, railing at media coverage of the unfolding tragedy in Japan—especially television. The story, he says is being “reported as worse than things there really are.” The media needs to be “responsible about how they are reporting this—TV is fanning the hysteria. I saw Elliott Spitzer interviewing a whistleblower about GE” regarding nuclear plant design—[there have been media reports that the GE design of the most troubled nuclear plant in Japan was less expensive to build and less safe].

Fisher asserts that “society will be hostile toward nuclear and utilities for a good long time. Everyone will be forced back to fossil fuels.”

Asked if he thinks this will boost green power—wind, hydroelectric—Fisher says green power is “dead in the water,” and that the only way wind power would be viable is if the “government provides huge subsidies. We have abundant fossil fuel.” But he doesn’t mean coal—Fisher notes that “natural gas undermines everything, including coal.”

Good technology and real economics tend to win out.” Coal has “enough issues. The breakthroughs in [energy] technology all relate to natural gas.” Fisher says.

It’s a shame because people are acting like there is a major radiation problem all over Japan. I saw a [news] story on ‘Would Americans be safe flying in an airplane over Asia?’” Fisher concludes.

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