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19/3/98

By the time you read this, the Budget will be over and will be presenting lots of opportunities for IFAs to rearrange their clients&#39 affairs.

Sensibly, to my mind, I am spending the day with Aberdeen Prolific, one of my favourite fund management companies, watching the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and listening to Budget reactions on the racetrack.

Whatever has happened in the Budget, there is one opportunity for IFAs which I believe to be outstanding at present. This concerns smaller company unit trusts and investment trusts.

The art of making money on the stockmarket is selling the fashionable and buying the unfashionable. Tracker funds and large company unit trusts are all the rage at the moment – and rightly so, because their profits and dividends have been rising faster than those of many smaller companies.

But they are now expensive, and profits made by smaller companies are forecast to rise by 14 per cent this year, compared with just 7 per cent for larger companies.

Over the past 20 years, only in 1991 were smaller companies cheaper than they are now. Their dividend yields are also about 1 per cent higher than those shares in the FTSE 100 index. So long as the unit trusts avoid the slow-growing industrial sector, they are likely to outperform larger companies by a considerable margin.

Virgin&#39s "Skoda" tracker funds are most unlikely to outperform Perpetual&#39s "Aston Martin" funds over the next year or two.

Apart from Perpetual&#39s smaller company funds, I like Gartmore&#39s UK smaller companies and Schroder&#39s UK smaller companies funds. In Europe, I also like Invesco&#39s European smaller companies fund and Baring Europe

Select, which is invested mainly in smaller companies too.

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Marketwatch

Shares in Northern Rock fell back 5p to 558.5p on Tuesday after its shares surged by 14p to 564p on Monday after reports that the former building society is in takeover talks with Lloyds TSB.

Marshall replaces Ions at Aberdeen Prolific

Gary Marshall has been named sales and marketing director at Aberdeen Prolific, replacing John Ions who has left to join Société Générale Asset Management.

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