Umbrella of Alternatives Can Keep You from Getting Soaked Forecasts for US Stocks Present a Cloudy Picture. Here's Where You Can Go to Stay out of a Storm

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When the winds start howling and the rain is torrential, summer or not, it makes sense to have a good umbrella on hand.

Summer squalls in the investment markets can wield as many punches as winter storms, and investors need to make certain they have a protective investment plan.

"People should be thinking of umbrellas right now," says Louis Altfest, president of Louis Altfest & Company, a financial consulting firm here. "When a respected magazine such as the Economist has a picture of the Statue of Liberty with a speculative bubble around it, it's time to be thinking about becoming a little more conservative with your investment money," he says. Financial advisers say that in stock markets like these, you definitely want investments that are diversified. From day to day, different parts of the market are being hurt. Bank stocks will be hammered one day, technical stocks another, and small company stocks will drop the following week. Investors can seek shelter from a broad range of options. Among them: All-weather funds Sometimes called "hybrid" or "balanced" mutual funds, they invest in a variety of securities - including corporate bonds, convertible securities, blue-chip stocks, value stocks, and growth stocks. "Having at least a portion of your assets in an all-weather fund can be pretty important" during a period of volatility, says Sheldon Jacobs, editor of the No-Load Fund Investor newsletter, published in Irvington-on-Hudson, N.Y. "Obviously, if we were at the bottom of a bear market, then you could have all your money in growth stocks. But we are not there," he says. So with stock markets still growing, yet many stocks considered somewhat expensive, "you need an exposure to a mix of bonds, stocks, and cash," he says. Berger Balanced is currently the top hybrid fund tracked by Morningstar Inc., a financial-information firm in Chicago. Berger is currently 45 percent in stocks, 44 percent in bonds, and 11 percent in cash. The stock portion was increased a tad from last month, based on a perception of potential gains in equities, says a fund spokesman. The fund (800-333-1001: $2,000 minimum) is up 18.9 percent, year- to-date, besting the 14. …


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