Ferris, Baker Watts loses a research teamThe investment...

Banking & Finance

September 24, 1992|By David Conn

Ferris, Baker Watts loses a research team

The investment firm Ferris, Baker Watts Inc. said goodbye this week to its institutional research department when Clifford F. Ransom II and Beryl "Budd" Bugatch departed for sunnier climes.

The two, who constituted the sum total of the company's institutional research team, left the Baltimore office of Ferris to join Raymond James & Associates in St. Petersburg, Fla.

"At Ferris, Baker Watts they were a combination of research and sales," said Ferris Executive Vice President Ted Urban. "They were, along with a few others, the institutional research and sales department."

The two "will be doing more pure research without -- some view it the opportunity, some view it the burden -- of sales," Mr. Urban said.

Mr. Bugatch, who ran his family's furniture store chain until it closed in 1983, had carved a research niche in the furniture and general retailing industries; Mr. Ransom was more of a generalist who focused primarily on Mid-Atlantic public companies. Both were in the process of moving this week and couldn't be reached for comment.

Mr. Urban insisted that research will continue at Ferris, which still has five analysts in the retail research department. He said that although institutional sales and research "is not a critical area to the firm in terms of revenues or profitability," the company intends to restaff the department, although "it may take a while to find the right person or persons."

"If you want to run a free want ad. . . ."

Highlandtown native helped unveil GM Card

When General Motors Corp. unveiled its much-anticipated GM Card last week, the man behind the hype was none other than a Highlandtown native son, Ronald N. Zebeck, who heads GM's credit card operations.

Before moving to Detroit, Mr. Zebeck spent five years at Pennsylvania's Advanta Corp., one of the nation's largest issuers of gold MasterCards. But true aficionados of credit-card culture may recall Mr. Zebeck from his days at Citicorp, when he helped marshal the marketing of the Choice card -- formerly the Baltimore-born NAC card -- out of his Towson office.

His boss then was another Highlandtown grad, Bill Hodges, who since has gone on to bigger, if not necessarily better, things at Sears, Roebuck and Co.'s Discover credit card program.

Not one to forget his past, when it came time to order the more than 30 million pieces of mail for the GM Card direct marketing blitz, Mr. Zebeck turned to a Timonium printing brokerage he had used while at Choice: Professional Marketing Products Inc. That firm, in turn, subbed out work to several area companies, including Oles Envelope Corp. and Direct Marketing Associates, according to Frank J. Neff III, Professional Marketing's owner.

Highlandtown may not be Wall Street just yet, but it's becoming quite a farm league for the majors.

Local forecaster sees sunny skies for stocks

If you're more interested in what direction the financial markets are going to go and how long they will take to get there -- as opposed to exactly how high or low they'll go -- a Baltimore economic forecasting firm has a system for you.

E.T. Advisory Corp. is run out of the home of Mark Sagel, a 33-year-old native and resident of Baltimore. It was during his time as an interest-rate consultant with a Memphis investment bank in the early 1980s that he and his sister purchased the rights to the forecasting system devised by the late economist Henry Wheeler Chase, a contemporary of the legendary investment theorists R. N. Elliott and W. D. Gann.

Mr. Chase's system predicts both the direction and the duration of major movements in the financial markets. So what does the future look like? Mr. Sagel says he's "98 percent sure" that the Dow Jones industrial average, now at 3,278, will reach 3,750 to 4,000 in the near term, probably by the second quarter of next year.

He says "we're nowhere near seeing the bottom in interest rates," with probably a drop of a full percentage point by the fourth quarter of next year, although the next few months don't look very promising for bond prices.

Maybe it's just more talk, but some of Mr. Sagel's roughly 10 clients are convinced. E.T. has been "uncanny in [identifying] times when there's going to be major turns in the market," said an institutional bond salesman with First Tennessee Bank who buys Mr. Sagel's advice out of his own pocket, but asked not to be named.

As Mr. Sagel put it, "Some of the things I'll tell you will be ludicrous, but usually that means they're right."

'Built By Bonds Week' a nationwide campaign

Any excuse for a celebration. For those hermits out there who haven't noticed, this week is officially "Built By Bonds Week" in Maryland, as declared by Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, two great fans of the municipal bond market.

The hoopla is part of a nationwide campaign by the Public Securities Association, a trade association of banks and brokerages that trade fixed-income securities. Baltimore was selected to kick off the campaign, according to the PSA, because "it offers clear examples of the social and economic benefits of projects built by municipal bonds," including, of course, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which was built with the help of $155 million in Maryland Stadium Authority-issued revenue bonds.

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