And that’s whither, I hasten to point out, not wither. My natural take on the market, always, is that it will tend, over time, toward sensible valuations. The stuff that’s wildly overpriced these days will get clobbered, sooner or later; the rest may have some setbacks, but will for the most part tend to appreciate over the long run as it more or less always does.

I recognize that this is useless blather, so let us turn to two people who really know.

The first is Elaine Garzarelli, of whom I have written before, back when she thought, last Spring, the Dow was headed to 7,000. Now — well, a few weeks ago — arrives “an urgent warning from Elaine Garzarelli, who’s predicted every bear market crash of the last 20 years.” It is a bulk mailing from Elaine Garzarelli’s Private Circle (A Strictly Limited Membership Program), and right there on the outside of the envelope, in case you don’t want to spend the $149 a year to join that exclusive circle, is pretty much all you need to know: “SELL!” it says. “Garzarelli’s System Flashes Major New Signal. Details Inside.”

Inside we learn that not only has she called every bear market of the last 20 years, she has done so with “zero false alarms.” This is only the 4th sell signal of her career. And for $149 you can find out “What surprising factor has triggered this new SELL signal, and why it startled even Elaine.” But when you think about it, why bother? If she’s so good at this (and I’m not saying she isn’t), are you really going to second guess her? Are you really competent to evaluate whether she should have been startled, or whether she’s interpreting the implications of that surprising factor, whatever it is, correctly? If so, maybe she should be paying YOU $149. So it’s enough to know you should “Sell all U.S. stocks and stock funds.” Urgent. (To subscribe: 800-804-0938.)

But just before you do (although if you got the same Private Circle bulk mailing I did, you’ve presumably already sold, and paid all those taxes), here’s the November mailing from good ol’ F.X.C. Investors Corp. in the borough of Queens, New York (718-417-1330). F.X.C. stands for Frank Curzio, and I’ve been a paid-up subscriber for many years. Not to say it’s made me rich or anything. He’s just such an unlikely, unWall Street-like guru, with such an earthy approach, I couldn’t resist. In the last few years he seems to have acquired a copy editor, which has robbed his writing of some of its charm, but in any event I’m straying from the point.

The point is: “Approximately $100 billion annually will be invested in stocks and bonds throughout the next 10-20 years. As such, the market may double every five years. Dow Jones 12,000 by 2001 and Dow Jones 24,000 by 2006.” (He goes on to say that the blue chips appear pretty rich compared with the “secondary issues,” where he sees better value. So if the Dow is set to quadruple over the next decade, investments in some of the offbeat little issues Frank likes could do even better.

Which of these two gurus is right? And over ten years could both be right? (A plunge followed by a rebound and beyond?)

I don’t know, and no one else does either. But I do know that if you are going to lighten up in hopes of averting a downdraft, you should do it mainly in your tax-deferred retirement account (if you have one) so as not to see a big chunk of your assets eaten up in taxes. I also know that if you have money in the market on margin, or money you might need if you lost your job or got sick or your car broke down, you are taking a dumb risk.

And I know — or I think I do — that the economic future looks exceedingly bright. And that that, sadly, can be the worst time of all to invest in stocks. But not always.

Got it?

Tomorrow: Zweig (and Other Closed-End Funds)


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