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Fund Managers Say Fundamentals, Not Iran, Move Markets

Oil slid Wednesday, as the Iran hostage drama seemed to near an end. But two fund managers told "Morning Call" that the volatile Islamic nation actually did little to affect the markets. Instead, earnings and private equity are the real story.

Steve Folker, managing director, growth strategies for Fifth Third Asset Management, said that fundamentals, not geopolitics, control oil prices -- and he predicted that those marketplace laws will continue to send oil lower.

Despite attention-grabbing headlines about the Middle East, Nigeria and Venezuela, He says it's "more important what earnings look like" when building an investment strategy.

Folker believes the Federal Reserve will cut rates later this year and into 2008, driving earnings up from the "very modest" levels he foresees for the next two quarters.

Tom Ognar, manager of Wells Fargo's Advantage Growth Fund, said that Tehran's capture -- and planned release -- of the 15 British sailors proves one thing: that the world economy is "joined at the hip." The radical theocracy "needs the rest of the world as much as we need Iran."

But Ognar says the "big story" is private equity. He pointed to the "dichotomy between fixed income and equity," with the latter more "worried" about risk -- the "exact opposite" of the situation in 2000. Ognar agreed with Folker that investors should seek broad mixtures of "high-quality" growth companies.