The gulf crisis aside, here are our picks for an investment strategy for today through 1991:
HOME OWNERSHIP is still the best investment for most Americans. Home ownership provides a forced savings plan (as you pay off your mortgage and the home appreciates), a hedge against inflation and a place to live and raise a family."Today is by far the best time to buy in years. Interest rates are low and there is an oversupply of anxious, willing sellers," said John Pfister, vice president for Chicago Title Insurance Co., the nation's largest title insurer. "Home values will rise again, so don't wait to be priced out of the market tomorrow."
However, you should not consider your home as a speculative investment. Don't think you can buy a house for $150,000 and sell it for $200,000 a year later. The rampant price runups of the 1980s won't return in 1991.
Think of your home as a nest egg and sit on it.
STOCKS. If you're one of those making profits by shorting the market, now would be an excellent time to stop betting on further price declines. Yes, the market will likely go lower if war breaks out. However, the possibility of a sudden market turnaround is looking better every day. Once the gulf crisis is settled, watch the Dow Jones industrial average fly past 3,000 in 1991 on its way to perhaps 3,600.
"When you consider the high levels of cash being held by mutual funds, and the fact that individuals won't be doing the traditional year-end tax loss selling, the Dow Jones could rise from here to the end of the year," said stockbroker Richard Miller, vice president of A.G. Edwards in Fort Wayne, Ind. "There's a chance we could finish the year at a high level even though we are staring a possible recession in the face."
TREASURY BONDS. Even though two months ago would have been a better time to buy, you still may be able to take advantage of even more increases in bond prices, as interest rates will fall significantly over the next few months (especially when the gulf crisis is resolved).
"The best opportunity to buy bonds would occur on any international confrontation that would see a rise in oil prices and a sell-off in bonds," said Garry Lobaugh, a private forecaster based in Lake Forest, Ill. "However, this will occur literally overnight and people may have only 18 hours to take maximum advantage of the sell-off."
However, buy bonds only if you can afford to hold them. While you can make a killing when interest rates fall (making bonds purchased today more valuable), you can lose your shirt should you be forced to sell when or if interest rates rise for any unforeseen reason.
GOLD AND SILVER. Forget it. There already is an oversupply available for industry. If the threat of Iraq invading a previously undefended Saudi Arabia can't scare up the price, nothing will.
PERSONAL SAVINGS. Don't forget the savings plans at your local bank, S&L or credit union. It has been said that the eighth and ninth wonders of the world are compound interest and the self-discipline to invest on a regular basis. Doing it here is without risk.
Reader questions will be answered and may appear in this column, when mailed to Gary S. Meyers at 308 W. Erie, Suite 300, Chicago, Ill. 60610