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As high-tech boom eases, old workhorse portfolios regain favor

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The workhorses of the mutual fund industry have been around 30, 40, or 50 years. During the past year, however, these old stalwarts were also-rans when compared with the more glamorous high-tech, aggressive-growth mutual funds, which turned in dazzling performances in the stock market boom.

But today, as the high-tech boom has eased off, the workhorse mutual funds are again worth looking at. With the economy apparently shifting from a recovery phase to expansion, stocks held by these old-line mutual funds are becoming much more attractive.

For the most part, these old-line funds are invested not in the nation's very newest issues, nor in the very top blue chips - but in solid, fairly high-capitalization equities, some of them perhaps relatively young. Most of these stocks are cyclical in nature. In an economic downturn they do poorly; in an upturn they not only improve, but, because they represent industries that are the backbone of American industry, they very much reflect the upturn.

At least, that is what fund managers hope.

At the Chicago-based Kemper fund, Thomas V. Williams pilots Technology Fund, which was established in 1948. Originally named Television Fund, later TV & Electronics Fund, Technology Fund now has $700 million in assets. Although its current-asset value is 50 percent higher than in 1982, during the past year it has experienced net redemptions. Mr. Williams attributes this to the age of the fund: Many investors' long-term objectives have been reached, and they want to live off their earnings.

Technology Fund concentrates on higher-capitalization technology companies: American International, Schlumberger, Intel, IBM, Motorola, Lockheed, Burlington Northern, Digital Equipment. Many were bought long ago at low prices. Williams looks for companies that will be leaders five years or more up the road.

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