Approaching year-end, we present today a random collection of items -- some serious and some not-so -- mostly about your money.
While the world holds its breath awaiting Jan. 15, 1991 -- the Iraq deadline date -- we searched our files and found facts about other Jan. 15ths. On that date in 1970 the Dow Jones average closed at 785 (decimals dropped); in 1975 at 653; in 1980 at 868 (prime rate 21 percent); and in 1985 at 1,230. Other January 15ths: British Museum opened in 1759; ironically, King Saud of Arabia was born on that date in 1902; Martin Luther King was born Jan. 15, 1929.
THE REAL THING?
Larry King said, on WBAL, that whenever a Republican is president, White House vending machines offer only Pepsi-Cola. When a Democrat is president, it's Coca-Cola. Nobody, including listeners, could figure out why, except that Democrats have long been identified with the Deep South, and Atlanta is Coke headquarters.
Owners of a well-known financial district newsstand told me that business since Thanksgiving is off 40 percent, "the worst we've seen it since we took over this place 11 years ago. The only thing that saved us is the variety of things we sell -- cards, magazines, papers, books, candies, gift items, and so on." . . . Rumor has it that a newly arrived top corporate executive is buying the home of a newly departed top local corporate executive . . . T. Rowe Price's corporate short-term bond fund is mentioned favorably in Financial World, January . . . Legg Mason will send comments on MNC Financial.
If you're selling stock with a gain at year-end, and have bought the stock at various times, have your broker's office stamp, 'Selling high-cost shares" on your "sell" ticket. This procedure helps you if the IRS questions what shares you sold. Also, try to deliver your highest-cost shares . . . Dec. 31 is last day to open a new Keogh plan, and you don't need a lawyer. See a banker or broker . . . Check your local Social Security record every three years to verify that your income is properly accounted for.
"If you want fair value when dining out, follow these rules: To save money, go where the decor is simple, avoiding, for example, New York's La Grenouille, which spends $160,000 a year for flowers. Listen to the specials and ask the price. If you're going first class, don't order hamburger. Don't be afraid to send bad food back. To be treated royally, become a regular." (Mimi Sheraton in Dollar Stretching Ideas)
"Why follow the crowd?," asks Moneypaper, adding, "because crowds only reflect what people were thinking at certain times and it's easy to get caught up in a broad consensus which is wrong." The story gives crowd psychology examples: "1958: Sputnik shows Russians are unbeatable. 1960: Japanese products are junk. 1968: Rent a home, don't buy; real estate values won't go up. 1975: Small cars will never sell in this country. 1982: Forget the 770 Dow Jones. 1988: Real estate will never go down; buy office property."
"We remain firmly in the bearish camp." (Charles LaLoggia) . . . "Current bullish interest rate environment should spur economic recovery and allow stocks to rally strongly." (Navellier MPT Review) . . . "It's premature to assume the bear market has run its course." (Robert Farrell, Merrill Lynch) . . . "My short-term outlook has turned to bullish." (Joseph Granville) . . . "I do not try to predict every twist and turn in the marketplace; while I believe the market is a rational place long-term, I'm convinced that day to day it is quite irrational." (Louis Ehrenkrantz) . . . It's poor advice to look for a new bull market now." (Peter Eliades) . . . "Dow 3,500 ahead? Probably in 18-24 months." (Donoghue's MoneyLetter) . . . "Now is always the hardest time to invest." (Bernard Baruch, 1935).