The State of Our Investments
as of Friday, July 19, 2002

    Last night's "editorial" said,
    "The Dow-Jones Industrial Average topped out at 11720 in January, 2002, and the S&P 500 peaked at 1527.46 in March, 2002. Today, the Dow closed at about 8410, while the S&P 500 ended the day at approximately 8828."
    It should have read,
    "The Dow-Jones Industrial Average topped out at 11720 in January, 2000, and the S&P 500 peaked at 1527.46 in March, 2000. Today, the Dow closed at about 8410, while the S&P 500 ended the day at approximately 882."
    Steve Coy caught it, and pointed it out to me. (I try to proofread what I've just written, but it's usually late at night, past my bedtime, and errors slip by me.) Thank you very much, Steve.

    Well, did you buy, hold, or sell today? As you're probably aware, the Dow-Jones Index dropped a wonderful 380 points during the day, to 8,019, while the S&P 500 retreated to 848. The NASDAQ fell back to 1,319. Five minutes before the bell rang, the Dow had fallen to 7991, but there was a last-minute, knee-jerk rally that pulled it up 8,019.
   Why a "wonderful" 380 points? First, because the lower the indices go, the closer we get to a bull market. And second, because it's bringing us deeper into safe territory.
    So what did I do today? I reinvested the receipts from the Fidelity Select Home Finance and the Fidelity Select Energy Services funds that I sold on May 4th. The prices of these funds have dropped along with the rest of the stock market since then, so it was good that I sold them when I did. Prices may still go lower from here, but this is a good level. I put it all in the Fidelity Select Technology Fund. The Select Technology Fund has fallen from an early-2000 high of $110 a share to a closing value of about $20 a share today. I've followed it since 1982. If I had invested our money in it in 1982 and had simply left it there, we'd have been relatively wealthy by March, 2000. And if we had, by now, we'd have lost 9/11ths of it, and would have been devastated. Oh, well! Easy come, easy go.
    When I telephoned Fidelity to make my Technology Fund purchase, the woman who processed the transaction said,
    "You're buying it when it's cheap, aren't you? You're looking at this market as a buying opportunity, aren't you?"
    I said, "Yes".
    She said, "This market is ridiculously low. People are panicking. I've had other customers today who were snapping up bargains. But most people don't have any money to buy. It's already invested in their mutual funds."
    I said, "I hope you have some money to invest, too."
    She said, "Unfortunately, no."
    We still have some money in very conservative funds that can be reprogrammed into more daring ventures. I'll play it by ear on Monday, If the stock market seems to be sinking lower, I may hang fire. Unfortunately, when the turnaround comes, it will probably be as violent as the sell-off was today. The Dow will leap several hundred points in one day, followed by several more days of galloping gains. I'll probably rotate our conservative funds into the worst of our fallen angels. Nobody wants computer stocks these days. Nobody's buying personal computers right now, so there's the feeling that it may be years before most organizations decide to buy them again. That's OK. I can afford to wait years. When they do switch to a buying mode, they'll make up for lost time. (I suspect that the recession and the evaporation of the euphoria has caused organizations to reassess just how often they need to trade computers. But trade they must.)
    My every instinct says that this is the final bear market blowout. Of course, I could be wrong. The stock market could go even lower, which would make it an even better buy. However, it's now in familiar territory, and not at a dangerous level. (It's not dirt-cheap even at 8,000. And after factoring in inflation, the Dow will have to hit 13,500 in 2004, to catch up with its March, 2000, zenith.)
    The NASDAQ is worth a few words. It's more volatile than the Dow or the S&P 500. In October, 1990, it hit a low of 315. In March, 2000, it closed above 5,000! That's a 16-fold rise in 9.5 years! It's comprised of smaller companies, which grow faster than larger ones. If Tommie and I could own a NASDAQ index fund, that would probably be the only fund we owned. But I've never seen an index fund that mirrors the NASDAQ Composite.
    I'm going to be recommending to the other members of our family that they prepare for a coming bull market, beginning as early as Monday. (I'm going to suggest that they determine what investment changes they want to make and be prepared to make them, and that they then check on the stock market each afternoon about an hour before it closes to decide whether or not to act that day.)