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Currency devaluation is a serious business. Here's how you can avoid major damage as the dollar comes tumbling down.

Retail sales are soft, unemployment hit a 26-year high in August and a U.S. Treasury official warned Wednesday that millions more home foreclosures are likely. Oddly enough, though, most of Corporate America has never been flusher.
Financials, utilities and transport companies still carry plenty of debt, to be sure. According to Standard & Poor's, though, all other members of its index of 500 of the nation’s largest companies collectively hold about $700 billion—more than ever before.
The reasons are several. First, companies were hoarding cash well before th
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e recession; their stockpile has topped $600 billion since 2004. Second, most companies responded to the past year's sales downturn with a sharp reduction in spending. Third, as corporate lending dried up over the past year, many companies trimmed or halted dividend payments to store up funds. Fourth, most companies didn't exactly buy low over the past year—share repurchases and cash takeovers all but disappeared.
I wouldn't quite call the record cash holdings a positive sign. Companies are meant to return profits to shareholders, not sit on them. But investors who fear the economy will remain weak for several more quarters, or even years, can take comfort in knowing that the country's biggest industrial companies (if not all of its banks) seem financially prepared.
Below are three companies that could use a business boost but that are sitting on heaps of cash. I've focused only on dividend-payers, since they might be able to increase their payments, and since companies with plenty of cash and no dividends are at risk for low returns on investment at best and overpriced acquisitions at worst.
Net cash / market value: 14%Dividend yield: 2.3%

Garmin (GRMN) makes navigation devices, like those that mount to windshields and give drivers turn-by-turn directions. A recession, market saturation and competition from Dutch rival Tom-Tom have caused sales to slide of late. Analysts are predicting a 23% sales decline this year. Meanwhile, the navigation ability of smart phones threatens to do to dedicated navigation devices what cell phones have already done to car phones. Tom Tom recently introduced a $99, turn-by-turn navigation program for Apple's (AAPL) iPhone. All that said, Garmin easily surpassed Wall Street's earnings forecasts in its most recent quarter, and makes money from far more than car devices. It makes navigation gadgets for boats, airplanes and joggers, and recently introduced its first phone. Shares are up 65% this year, but still trade at a discount of about a quarter to the broad market.
Net cash / market value: 13%Dividend yield: 2.9%

Aeropostale (ARO) has lower prices than most of the other jeans-sellers at the mall. Largely for that reason, its sales are on pace to jump 15% this year. Buckle (BKE), meanwhile, sells jeans for $100 and more a pair. Remarkably, it's expected to increase its sales by 13% this year. There are signs the 401-store chain's fastest growth is behind it. Women are still clamoring for its jeans, but demand among men has cooled. Still, the stock seems plenty affordable at 10 times earnings.
Lincoln Electric
Net cash / market value: 12%Dividend yield: 2.4%
Based on earnings alone, Lincoln Electric (LECO) looks expensive, at 36 times the 2009 forecast. But demand for the company's welding and cutting supplies has been crushed this year by a downturn in manufacturing. Sales are expected to decline 33%. Earnings are seen plunging to $1.32 a share from $5.36 last year. If we assume the company can reclaim just half of that profit decline in coming years, shares are selling at 14 times earnings. A full return to last year's profit would put the price/earnings ratio in single digits. And while not all companies find worthwhile projects for their cash stockpiles, Lincoln should have little trouble. It's an acquisition-driven company, and there are plenty of beaten-down industrial suppliers at the moment waiting to be bought on the cheap.
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Sure it's a cliché, but it happens to be true: You can't learn everything from books. As important as a degree from a business school can be to the education of a young money manager or advisor, there's nothing quite like the lessons imparted by an older, wiser, more experienced professional.
And who better to learn from than dear old dad?
"Steve first became interested in investing when he was about eight years old and he found out that you could put money in a bank and it would earn interest," says Ronald Rogé of his son Steven, who together run R.W. Rogé
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& Co.and the Rogé Partners fund (ROGEX). "In other words, he discovered that you could make money without working," the elder Rogé says with a chuckle.
Later Steven was curious about mutual funds. He collected baseball cards at the time, so his father explained that a mutual fund was kind of like a pack of cards -- a basket of individual stocks, some of which were potentially more valuable than others. By the time Steven was 12, he was hooked.

Learn the investing secrets of Steven and Ronald Rogéand four other father-son investing teams

That's a common theme among the father-son teams SmartMoney spoke with ahead of Father's Day weekend. When talk at the family dinner table centers around stocks, bonds, mutual funds and the market, well, an interest in investing tends to get kindled at a very young age.
Even more important is that those relationships create an appreciation for history, for experience, for risk and for unconventional thinking -- things that can't necessarily be learned in an MBA program.
After all, when your dad's been in the business a long time, you stand to benefit from his decades on the front lines of the securities markets. Here, then, is a look at five father-and-son investing teams -- and some of the generational wisdom that has stood them in good stead. And lest we forget, daughters can benefit, too. Abigail Johnson helps run the company her family founded, mutual fund giant Fidelity.
Bryan and Bob Auer

Auer Growth Fund

Bryan, 73, had been managing his own investments quite successfully for a long time when his son Bob, 48, took a job as a broker at Dean Witter Reynolds in 1986. Bryan opened accounts with his son but wasn't interested in the firm's research or recommendations. Rather, he had his own stock-picking system -- one the duo continues to employ at Auer Growth fund (AUERX) to this day: Cull through thousands of stocks looking for 25% earnings growth, at least 20% sales growth and a forward price/earnings multiple of less than 12. "Once a stock stops having those characteristics or doubles in price, we sell," Bryan says. "We started that process in 1987 and by 2007 our accounts had an annualized return of more than 30%," says Bob. So in late 2007 they launched Auer Growth, with Bob acting as portfolio manager and Bryan in charge of portfolio analysis. Naturally 2008 was an inauspicious time to start a fund, but for the year to date it's up 22%. When asked what's the greatest lesson he's learned from his dad, Bob laughs. "Only how to compound money at 30% a year."
Gordon, Kent and Russell Croft

Croft Funds

Gordon, now 76, had been a director and manager at T. Rowe Price (TROW) for 20 years when his older son, Kent decided to leave his job at Salomon Brothers in 1989 and return to Baltimore to start a firm with his dad. "The first thing I did was make Kent president, so he has been the boss for 20 years," Gordon says. Russell joined the firm in 1999. "Both of them have the highest ethics and highest character that you can imagine," says Gordon, "and that holds you in good stead in this business." The Croft Value fund (CLVFX) seeks out high-quality companies with low P/Es that can be held for the long term. It's a strategy that's allowed the fund to beat the S&P 500 over the last three-, five- and 10-year periods. Kent, 46, says the greatest lesson he's learned from his dad is the importance of keeping long horizons on stocks. "When you're younger you tend not to quite think like that," he says. Russell, 35, says his father taught him and his brother to constantly question the conventional wisdom."That's in our blood," he says. "The search for inherent, hidden value with a contrarian nature -- we got that from our father more than anything."
Lloyd and Larry Glazer

Mayflower Advisors

In 1989 Lloyd, now 70, was a partner at Bear Stearns in Boston, a place he had worked for two decades. His son Larry, 41, had senior positions at H.C. Wainwright, Trammell Crow and Bank of Tokyo. They had long talked about working together and decided that the time was right. So they formed what Lloyd calls "a terrific partnership," setting up their advisory, Mayflower Partners, within Advest, a regional brokerage firm. When Merrill Lynch acquired Advest in 2005, the Glazers' clients urged them to strike out on their own. "And it has worked out wonderfully for us," Lloyd says. Mayflower was one of the first advisors to transition to a fee-based structure from a commission-based one, and was also quick to grasp the utility of ETFs for asset allocation and hedging positions, Larry says. But the most important lesson learned from Dad? "In our household we talked about debt and leverage at the dinner table," the son says. "I had that benefit from a very young age. As a result, our firm has no debt, and we advise clients to have little or no leverage."
Stephen and Samuel Lieber

Alpine Funds

Stephen, 83, and Samuel, 53, used to do a lot of sailboat racing together. "That's how we learned to work together as a team," says Stephen. That experience was critical to the 1989 launch of the Alpine International Real Estate Equity fund (EGLRX), the first global real estate offering of its kind. Not only did that wed the son's experience in real estate and REITS with the father's decades of asset and portfolio management, it taught Samuel a valuable professional -- and personal -- lesson. "In the late 1980s we were so big in the real estate sector that we found we were moving share prices around," Samuel says. "I expressed concern to my dad. He said look farther afield, broaden your horizons and look for other types of opportunities." That's how the first international real estate fund was born. Today Alpine runs nine funds, but that first lesson remains key, Samuel says. "Take a broad, holistic approach not only to investing, but also to life."
Ronald and Steven Rogé

R.W. Rogé & Co., Rogé Partners Fund

Ronald, 62, started R.W. Rogé in 1986 as a financial planning and advisory business. He first started stock picking in the early 1970s but found that he wasn't very good at it. He was better at finding good fund managers -- like his son Steven, 28, who joined the company in 1997. "I'm really good at strategy and looking at the big picture," Ronald says. "Steve is very good at finding undervalued stocks." Steven might have been a longtime disciple of Benjamin Graham and Warren Buffett, but his first job at Dad's office was making copies and doing other menial chores. After seven years of learning the business, Steven become portfolio manager of the Rogé Partners fund (ROGEX), which launched in late 2004. The fund got off to a good start, posting total returns of 10% and 21% in 2005 and 2006, respectively, but cooled off in 2007 and, of course, 2008. But then that just makes the lessons instilled by the father all the more important. "When you are a value investor the most important thing is patience," Ronald says. "Warren Buffett watched Coca-Cola (KO) for 25 years before he purchased it."
SMARTMONEY ® Layout and look and feel of are trademarks of SmartMoney, a joint venture between Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and Hearst SM Partnership. © 1995 - 2009 SmartMoney. All Rights Reserved.


One lesson that investors have learned the last 18 months is that the economic downturn didn't discriminate between good funds and bad funds -- every offering seemed to take a beating.
Recently, though, we've seen some fund managers dust themselves off and get on the comeback trail. These funds were in the basement of their peer groups during 2008, but now find themselves leading the pack over the trailing three-month period. That's not exactly enough time to proclaim a complete turnaround -- but the gains are large enough that investors are starting to take notice.
This week w
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e searched for equity funds that were in the bottom 25% of their Morningstar categories during 2008. Then we looked to see which of those funds were in the top 25% of those same groups in 2009. We also added in fee criteria and favored funds whose parent companies have good reputations and whose managers have a history of posting decent performance. Below are seven funds we think are back on the right track.
Fund managers may take issue with us proclaiming they're in turnaround mode. After all, one year or three months doesn't make or break a fund. Indeed, reports have shown that every fund manager who outperforms inevitably lags his or her benchmark at some point, too. That said, it does pay to see how funds manage in times of crisis and, more importantly, it's also smart to see how their managers steered them out of the situation.
If you take a quick look at the table you will see that these funds are easily beating the broad market. There is a simple, partial explanation for that rise. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained more than 1,900 points since bottoming out at 6440 during trading on March 9. According to Lipper, the fund-data tracking company, over the last three months through Thursday, every broad-focused equity fund category is outpacing the average S&P 500 index fund's 7.5% gain. Good stock picking could account for some of that performance. But also keep in mind that the 30% run-up in the broad market has essentially lifted all boats.
The big question is whether this run is sustainable. The increase in stocks was spurred by a number of factors: A spotty earnings season that was poor but not as bad as originally expected; the release of bank stress test results that showed none of the country's big institutions would fail (although some needed to raise more cash); and economic data that seemed to shift from positive to negative depending on the day of the week. All that added up to a perfect environment for speculators -- not exactly a great foundation to build on.
"We are more bullish than we were at the end of the year," says Paul Ahern, senior vice president at Wealth Trust-Arizona. But, he adds, "we fully expect some profit taking heading into the summer."
That risk led us to add another layer to our screen. To truly determine if a fund can pull off a dramatic turnaround, it helps to see how it did coming out of other downturns. So we also went back to the 2002 bear market to see how funds did during the following year. The offerings on the table below all outpaced the broad market during 2003.
The Hodges fund (HDPMX) lost 49.5% last year vs. roughly a 37% drop for the S&P 500. However, during the trailing three-month period it's up 12.4%, almost four percentage points ahead of that same benchmark. The fund performed in a similar manner during the previous bear market: In 2002 it lost 26.3% but then came roaring back with an 80% gain during 2003. Don and Craig Hodges, the father-and-son team that runs the fund, use a simple rule in these situations: Buy what was strong going into the initial downturn because those stocks will soar sooner when things improve. The duo is also pairing holdings in the fund in order to concentrate on their best ideas. They've done well recently with stocks like Transocean (RIG), Chesapeake Energy (CHK) and Gamestop (GME).

The Criteria: The equity funds on our table were in the bottom 25% of their Lipper peer groups during 2008, but in the top 25% of those same categories so far in 2009. They are open to new money, require a minimum investment under $5,000 and charge an annual expense ratio under 1.5%. We also favored funds whose parent companies have good reputations with financial advisers and whose managers have proven track records. We did not include load funds.

Call It a Comeback?

FundTicker3-Month Return (%)2008 Return (%)2002 Return (%)

Source: Morningstar Note: Data as of May 14, 2009

Croft ValueCLVFX14.6-42.9-25.8

Dodge & Cox StockDODGX13.4-43.3-10.5

Hartford Capital AppreciationITHAX18.4-46.1-22.9


Janus OverseasJAOSX26.4-52.8-23.9

Marsico 21st CenturyMXXIX11.5-45.2-10.5

Vanguard WindsorVWNDX14.0-41.1-22.3

Vanguard S&P 500


SMARTMONEY ® Layout and look and feel of are trademarks of SmartMoney, a joint venture between Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and Hearst SM Partnership. © 1995 - 2009 SmartMoney. All Rights Reserved.


James Cracchiolo has a unique, dual perspective on today’s financial crisis—part titan of finance, part everyman. Two weeks out of the month he’s a typical Manhattan CEO, viewing the carnage on Wall Street from his 39th-floor corner office at Ameriprise’s (AMP) location in 7 World Trade Center. The other two weeks of the month, Cracchiolo works from the firm’s Minneapolis headquarters, where he sees the current meltdown through a much more man-on-the-street lens—and the view is even worse. Home prices
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in Minnesota are down 14 percent; unemployment claims are up 26 percent.
Manhattan to Minneapolis is a long slog, but Cracchiolo’s commute is crucial to Ameriprise’s mission: persuading millions of Americans far removed from Wall Street to trust the same financial systems and products that just delivered a crushing blow to their savings. With more than 12,000 advisers nationwide, the $3.7 billion firm is one of the biggest purveyors of financial advice. It manages $372 billion for 2.8 million clients and provided more financial-planning services than any other brokerage firm last year.
Providing financial services is hardly an easy business to be in these days. Ameriprise stock is down 44 percent over the past year, and no wonder—it has been hit with a double whammy. Not only is it hard to sell financial advice and investments when the markets are destroying wealth daily, but Ameriprise’s revenue is also directly tied to market performance. The firm’s advisers typically charge clients a percentage of their assets. As the client loses money, so does the firm. Almost 75 percent of Ameriprise’s revenue comes from client fees and its own investments in the markets; last year that revenue stream dropped 25 percent. And while a similar fate has been suffered across the industry, there’s still no end in sight, says Sterne Agee & Leach analyst John Nadel: “It would be extremely difficult to hold earnings even close to flat.”
Carpe diem, says Cracchiolo, a longtime American Express executive who was chosen to lead the spin-off of Ameriprise and take it public in 2005. Now is the time when Americans need financial advice the most, he says, and Ameriprise is positioned to give it to them—as long as it keeps its own boat afloat. Cracchiolo took some time in the midst of the financial crisis to talk about the fate of the economy, why the company’s mutual funds have underperformed and how the company keeps thousands of advisers in line.

Let’s start with the obvious. Fun times?

This is unprecedented. Having said that, I still feel pretty good about our ability to navigate these markets and to continue to focus on financial advice, our clients and the products and services we offer them. You don’t feel great about being in an environment like this, but you feel good about running a company that you feel can come out strong in the end.

It’s taken its toll on revenue. What’s the plan?

We’re focused on expenses. We reduced our expenses by 10 percent last year, with a target to reduce further by another 10 percent next year. And the other thing we’re focused on is the fixed-interest-rate market coming back, so we should see some additional revenue in our certificate [of deposit] business and the fixed-annuity business. Yes, our income has been reduced, but if we can control our expenses, we’ll be in great shape for when clients want to come back.
Every time we have a crisis—whether it’s the tech bubble, the savings-and-loan crisis, the oil crisis in the ’70s—people always say it’s unprecedented. When we look back on this, will today’s crisis truly seem like something new?
This current crisis is so far-reaching that it feels a bit deeper and more difficult. The things we’re dealing with are on a global basis now. And it’s affecting the entire financial system much more than any crisis in the past. So it’s not that we’ve never faced these challenges before; it’s that we’ve never faced them at this size and scope.

If you spin forward a year or five years, how will financial services look different?

There will be much greater emphasis on managing systemic risk. The key will hopefully be to remember this more than a year or two, because there seems to be an issue like this every seven years. Hopefully, we’ll remember this in four years, before we get to the next cycle.

With more than 12,000 advisers, how do you control for the quality of the advice, especially at a time like this?

We communicate. We just did a webcast for advisers and clients, and we tell them the same things: We know there’s stress; people are scared. But this is a market cycle, and it’s going to get better.

There’s no alarm that goes off at headquarters if an adviser starts pulling clients’ money out of the market?

No. Ultimately, the client has to make that decision. The adviser might try to encourage them to be patient, but at the end of the day, the client gets to choose. If they want to hold money in cash, that’s their choice.
There’s been a big effort to get people to think about Ameriprise and advice, but insurance is still more than half the company. Would you like to see that ratio come down?
We like the businesses we’re in. Insurance and annuities are products clients need to accumulate assets and protect them over time. Our core value proposition is through our financial advisers and the advice we offer retail clients. But years ago we were one of the largest mutual fund companies in the industry, so we’re now reinvesting in the asset-management business as well.

Let’s talk about the mutual funds Ameriprise manages. Historically, they haven’t done particularly well. What are you doing to make those competitive?

We’ve brought in new talent to manage the funds that we have; we’ve launched new products; we’ve expanded our distribution capability. Overall, we started to get some really good performance—deep value and international have been excellent. On the other side, our growth area hasn’t performed as well, and fixed income has been mixed. We’re very focused on that. But I think we’ve put in place a lot of the core capabilities we need to really grow the business.

Growing a business isn’t the same as improving performance, though they’re certainly linked. What will it take to improve performance?

You rely on good people, and you make the right investment decisions. We just purchased J. & W. Seligman; that will provide capability in areas we’ve been weak. It’s been a mixed bag, and we’ve reallocated assets to portfolio managers that we think will perform better.

You applied for government bailout money. Did you get any?

No. The government didn’t extend funding beyond the Wall Street firms and banks. But we have a strong capital position and good liquidity—we applied as a strong company, and the government said it wanted to fund strong companies.

If the government changes its mind, will you take the cash? There are more strings attached now.

If we could use it to invest in growth, we’d consider it. But based on where the world is today, it may not be appropriate.
In the industry, everyone accepts that this is a sales business-—advice and financial products. But when a consumer is talking to an adviser, he thinks he’s paying for service.
We’re looking to develop a long-term relationship with our clients. And if we can identify the needs you really have, then I’m going to provide you with excellent service in trying to address those needs, because I’d like you to stay with me for 20, 30 and 40 years.

So is it sales, or is it service?

It’s service. But the advice is implemented through sales.
SMARTMONEY ® Layout and look and feel of are trademarks of SmartMoney, a joint venture between Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and Hearst SM Partnership. © 1995 - 2009 SmartMoney. All Rights Reserved.


Yes, but.

The good news is that I can answer “yes” to the question of whether stocks have put in a bottom in this bear market. And I can answer “yes” to the question of whether the financial sector is out of crisis. 

The bad news is: There's a “but.”
Have stocks bottomed? Yes, but it's nothing to get excited about. Sure, it's better than if there were still new lows ahead. I suppose considering the alternative, it's downright terrific that the S&P 500 doesn't have

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to go any lower than the Biblically ominous 666 level where it traded on March 6 (yes! March 6! — how's that for ominous?).
But let's not get too proud of this idea that the downside is now limited. The amount stocks have fallen since their prior highs is greater than the hit they took from the highs in the Great Depression, the same number of days into the two bear markets.
I could make my case for a durable bottom just based on the idea that, using the Depression bear market as a benchmark, this year stocks clearly got way, way oversold. But I can make a more principled fundamentals-based argument, too.
I believe that in early March the market was in free-fall because the political process was like a runaway train. It looked then like a very ambitious agenda of antibusiness economic policy was about to get enacted, all at once. The momentum of a popular new president and a strong one-party grip on Congress seemed irresistible. As I wrote at the time , it was too much “change,” too fast. The already-destabilized economy just couldn't take it.
Since then, I think the political class realized what was going on — it realized that it was pushing the economy over the edge, and it wisely decided to stop pushing. Issues like the cap-and-trade carbon tax, mortgage “cramdown,” unionization “card-check,” and the cap on the tax deduction for charitable contributions have all started to be questioned, even by Democrats.
It's a great relief for the stock market to learn that there are limits to the damage that Washington will do to promote its agenda. What's more, as time goes by, and the economic crisis eases, Washington can less and less claim that all the policies they've wanted to implement for years anyway must be implemented now in the name of “emergency.”
With the runaway train of “change” slowed down, and a demonstration that the political class knows it's playing with dynamite and intends to be cautious about it, a gigantic risk factor is moved to the sidelines. I think that draws a line under stocks for this bear market.
But the train is only slowed down. It's not stopped. As soon as the politicians feel safe again, they'll start pushing the same agenda. That's going to keep a lid on stocks for the foreseeable future. In a nutshell, yes the bottom is in, but the upside doesn't look so great.
Is the financial sector out of crisis? With the S&P 500 financial sector up 80% since early March, yes. As I wrote last week , with a great earnings report from Wells Fargo (WFC) — and since then, great news from Goldman Sachs (GS) and JPMorgan (JPM), too — we can clearly see that the whole U.S. banking system is no longer in danger of implosion.
But that doesn't mean that some big banks aren't still in big trouble. Sure, we know the government isn't going to let one of them fail and drag all the others down with it. It's now a new world, where we can think of banks one at a time, winners and losers, not a single leaky lifeboat where everyone on board is destined to drown together. Still, the problems of a few big banks that are still in trouble can't help but make life harder even for the winners.
For example, right now Congress is considering legislation that would allow judges to use their discretion to reduce principle and interest on mortgage debt owed by people in bankruptcy. In the political parlance, it's called mortgage cramdown. Trillions of dollars of mortgages exist today, and every one of them was created under the established law that mortgage debt could not be adjusted in bankruptcy. Now Congress wants to change the rules of the game, after the game has already been played.
It's not fair, and it sends a message to businesses of all kinds that commitments they make in the marketplace are subject to sudden and arbitrary revision by politicians. More immediately, the new risk of cramdown means the mortgage interest rates will simply have to be higher than they otherwise would be, because if the new law is enacted, mortgage lenders will be at more risk.
Here's the issue. Citibank, the big bank that's still most in trouble, and the one that is most beholden to the government because of the multiple rounds of aid it has had to accept, has come out publically in favor of cramdown -- even though the banking industry, in general, of course opposes it. What happens if a couple other weak banks take Citi's position on the issue? Without the whole industry taking a unified position against it, some version of cramdown is likely to be enacted. It will happen because the weak banks couldn't say no — but it will punish all banks, including the strong ones like Wells Fargo.
And the same thing will play out over and over again with other issues of financial regulation that are certain to be on the agenda over the coming years. So just like the broad market, the bottom is in for bank stocks. And just like the broad market, the upside is limited.
If you're like most investors, your perceptions and expectations for the stock market were formed by your experience of the 1980s and the 1990s. Unless you've been around as long as I have in this game, that's all you know. Anything else just comes from history books.
But the stock market isn't always like it was in those two wonderful decades. In those years it made sense to “buy and hold” and invest in “stocks for the long run” and all that jazz. It was so easy to believe in the religion of equities when stocks pretty much always went up, and when they went down, recovered to new highs before long.
Yes, but. Those days are gone. It's back the 1960s and 1970s where stocks were stuck in an endless trading range, with value relentlessly eaten up by inflation. You can make money by trading. But you might as well forget about the idea of investing.

SMARTMONEY ® Layout and look and feel of are trademarks of SmartMoney, a joint venture between Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and Hearst SM Partnership. © 1995 - 2009 SmartMoney. All Rights Reserved.

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