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Stock market blues? Don’t look for Trump’s bets to dazzle

By Matt Kempner - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Donald says when it comes to the stock market you should hold on, cause it’s already too late to bail out.

Or so I read last week when stock prices were shriveling, as they might soon do again.

You have to figure that a billionaire like presidential fireball Donald Trump knows about a billion times more than most of us do about money and investing.

He has his financial imperfections, of course. He’s had past bankruptcy issues, a real estate meltdown back in the day and a busted casino. And he was wrong in 2007 when he suggested Atlanta’s weakening real estate market wasn’t really crumbling.

But he’s still a billionaire. So in this time of stock market turmoil, I peeked at where Trump put his own stock market bets.

Here’s my conclusion about The Don of Dazzle: When it comes to the stock market, he is kind of boring.

And maybe that should be reassuring for the rest of us.

Investing in the stock market doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t need to involve exotic funds and edgy stocks to be worthwhile.

I guess that even goes for a guy like Trump, who reported that he had $6 million to $30 million in personal checking and savings accounts, which I suppose is just Trump change.

Presidential candidates are required to disclose personal financial holdings and estimate their value in at least broad ranges. Trump disclosed his in July.

Trump’s filing showed him having way more money in the stock market than most people. His holdings are so vast I didn’t bother tabulating many of his corporate stocks that fell under $100,000.

Still, for a guy of his apparent wealth, it looks like he put a relatively small portion in publicly traded stocks.

Which might mean he can be pretty plain vanilla with stock because he’s banking on his big investment growth coming from other areas. Specifically, the kinds of businesses he considers his sweet spot: real estate and golf clubs, for example.

I’m guessing that advisers, rather than Trump, are usually the ones picking what stocks he should bet on.

He’s had a chunk in large companies, including Apple (which is active in China, a country he thinks the U.S. is getting abused by), pharmaceutical maker Bristol-Myers Squibb and Kinder Morgan, which is busy making folks on the Georgia coast mad with its plans for an fuel pipeline they say is destructive and unneeded. He also reported a smidgen of money — a few hundred thousand dollars — in Georgia-based corporate giants, including UPS, Home Depot and Coca-Cola.

But even Trump’s biggest public holding– in Apple – was no more than $8 million.

Sound like lot of money? Put it this way, if Trump is worth $10 billion as he claims, Apple accounted for less than one tenth of one percent of his wealth.

He’s also invested in funds that focus on middle and smaller-sized companies that advisers think have room to grow, such as Tesla Motors, the electric car maker. He bought shares in European and Asian companies. He’s had a little bit in gold and some in U.S. Treasuries.

His biggest fund holding has been in BlackRock’s Obsidian Fund, which apparently is a hedge fund invested in bonds. He reported having $25 million to $50 million in there, but it’s tough to know specifics of how it’s invested. Some of these are the kinds of funds that only the wealthy get to play in.

It’s also tough to know where Trump’s money may be now. The New York Times reported last week that he said he had unloaded investments sometime before the recent market dive.

Phil Larkins, who use to manage money in Atlanta for wealthy investors and is now private investor himself, took a look at Trump’s portfolio for me. He told me it seemed pretty diversified.

And because Trump has so much money in things other than stocks, Larkins reasons that he probably took relatively less of a financial hit than most Americans have in recent days — if he was in the stocks listed in the July disclosure.

“I doubt that he is concerned in the least over the correction in the stock market,” Larkins wrote me in an email. Trump’s “business proclivity has been to invest in leveraged real estate deals, so he has dealt with truly massive cyclical volatilities in his business career.”

Chris Dardaman also scanned Trump’s holdings for me. Dardaman has been around big figures before. He’s the co-founder of Brightworth, which is based in Buckhead and manages money for affluent people. Still, it’s uncommon for Dardaman to peruse a list of assets like Trump’s that goes on for more than 90 pages.

His read: Trump’s stock holdings are pretty middle of the road.

“You can’t be exciting and flamboyant in everything,” Dardaman said.

I’m kind of disappointed.

Matt Kempner’s email: mkempner@ajc.comFollow him on Twitter: @MattKempner

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