Chapin, Davis makes its seasonal picks


Legg Mason Inc. may have its annual Thanksgiving list of stock picks, but investment firm Chapin, Davis has a less well-known but equally seasonal alternative: the Stocking Stuffer list from analyst Michael J. Walker, who publishes Chapin, Davis' The Disciplined Contrarian newsletter.

As the name of his newsletter indicates, Mr. Walker is on the lookout for out-of-favor stocks, for whatever reason. The purpose of the Stocking Stuffer list "is to focus our clients on the attraction of investing in the best of the stocks that get cheap at year-end through tax-loss selling and institutional window-dressing."

That approach drove last year's list of nine stocks to a 22.0 percent annual return, not including dividends. That compares with an 8.1 percent S&P; 500 gain in the same period. Bear in mind, though, that almost half the stocks were sold off during the year.

This year's version (all new companies) includes:

* Betz Laboratories, the market leader in specialty chemicals for certain industrial processes. Current price: $41.125; "buy limit": $45; short-term target: $55.

* Deluxe Corp., which has half the market in printed checks. Current price: $34.875; "buy limit": $37; short-term target: $44.

* Frederick's of Hollywood, the blue-collar alternative to Victoria's Secret. Current price: $5.675; "buy limit": $6.50; short-term target: $8.

NationsBank enters bank-by-phone market

There's someone who wants to get you on the phone, and it isn't the phone company. It's your bank.

With more bank customers relying on ATMs rather than bank branchs, banks that want to sell an expanded menu of services must reach their clients in other ways, such as banking at home by telephone.

NationsBank Corp. is the latest to try its hand at marketing a screen-based telephone that will allow customers to bank at home. This week it announced it will target a million Mid-Atlantic area households with an enhanced version of the ScreenPhone 120 that the former MNC Financial Inc. had been selling to its customers.

The new phone, called ScreenPhone 220, will sell for $89 to $139, depending on the package the consumer chooses.

Meanwhile, First National Bank of Maryland has started test-marketing a new version of the ScanFone system it has leased for several years. Called PhonePlus, it will sell for $199 (plus a monthly fee) and offer a range of banking and nonbanking services, such as paying bills to a variety of merchants and ordering meals.

Chandler named head of Provident Life

When J. Harold Chandler announced his resignation last week as president of NationsBank's Mid-Atlantic region, he caught many by surprise. It appeared Mr. Chandler was a rising star in the NationsBank system, and had little reason to leave early.

The company said he was leaving to take the reigns of a Fortune 500 company not in the banking industry. Sure enough, a day or two later the company was named: Mr. Chandler has become president and chief executive of Provident Life and Accident Co. of America, of Chattanooga, Tenn.

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