Five Minutes with portfolio manager Sam Peters

Five Minutes With Baltimore portfolio manager Sam Peters.

As the stock market roller-coastered last week, sending some investors into a panic, Sam Peters said the reaction was understandable.

Instead of selling off shares, he said, investors should view these fluctuations as a time to buy. But the memory of the recession, which he called "a time of extreme trauma," is still fresh.

"When you see such drama playing out on your screen, people want to see a story, they want to know what's going on, and the story they come up with is that the economy is going off the rails and recession is imminent," he said. "Just psychologically, those wounds have kind of scabbed over a little bit, but when you get these price fluctuations, it's like picking at a fresh wound."

Peters, the portfolio manager of three value funds at Legg Mason affiliate ClearBridge Investments, said he thought the probability of another U.S. recession was "very low."

"There's a wide menu of stocks that are much cheaper than they were a week ago," he said Wednesday as the market rally began late in the week.

Peters grew up on a cattle, oil and gas ranch in New Mexico and credits his grandmother, Mary Frances Merchant, with spurring his interest in finance. A businesswoman more comfortable with "tangible" things, she was skeptical of Wall Street, he said.

"She always had a great quote, which is 'Everything is cyclical,'" he recalled. "She tended to be contrarian. She knew that when people were optimistic and have no worries, that's when they get into trouble, and when people get pessimistic, that's when there's opportunity."

Though he thinks any downturn in the market will be temporary, Peters said he isn't immune to the emotional response some investors have during corrections.

"That's why people say stocks are risky," he said.

Peters unwinds from the stress of his job by training for and participating in triathlons, Ironman competitions and marathons. His wife, Suzanne, participates, too, and usually "crushes" him, he said. In a recent marathon, Peters said his wife's finish time was an hour faster than his own.

"She's in a totally different ZIP code," he said.

cwells@baltsun.com

Sam Peters

Title: Portfolio manager of three value funds at ClearBridge Investments, a Legg Mason affiliate

Age: 46

Born: Santa Fe, N.M.

Residence: Guilford in Baltimore

Education: B.A. in economics, College of William & Mary; MBA, University of Chicago

Family: Wife, Suzanne, and two sons, Josh, 12, and Noah, 9

Hobbies: Participating in triathlons, Ironman competitions and marathons; he also holds a pilot's license

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