"Don't panic!"

That's the advice to all investors from Financial World magazine in its Forecast 1991 issue."Remember Gregory Peck's advice to his bomber pilots in `Twelve O'Clock High?"' the magazine asks. " `Consider yourself already dead. Once you accept that idea, it won't be so tough.' To paraphrase Peck, consider yourselves already in a recession. Now relax. It isn't the end of the world."

To find out how investors can best weather, and even profit by, the tough economic times ahead, Financial World surveyed a cross-section of the country's best economic thinkers.

Merrill Lynch's chief investment strategist Charles Clough has some very simple advice: Go for income. "We think the long-term Treasury bond is the best thing to own. It recently yielded about 8.3 percent. Moody's corporate AAA bonds yield close to 9 percent. That compares with only a 3.9 percent average dividend yield for stocks."

Willard Phillips, head of fixed-income investing at Chancellor Management in New York City, agrees. "In six months you could expect to see a 100-basis point decline in the long-term 30-year Treasury rate. That would produce a 10 percent capital gain plus a 4.2 percent income level, for a 14 percent to 15 percent total rate of return."

Investors who want to stick with stocks should look for those with safe dividends, says Merrill Lynch's Clough, specifically among the better-quality utilities and the international, integrated oil companies.

Smith Barney portfolio strategist Marshall Acuff would also concentrate on secure dividends but would look for them among the bigger, better-quality growth stocks such as Bristol-Myers-Squibb, IBM and Philip Morris.

Financial World also surveyed the analysts of some of the more newsworthy stock market sectors for their thinking.

In the defense area, Cai Van Rumohr of Cowen & Co. believes Martin Marietta, Raytheon and United Technologies, with their wide diversification and strong finances, are quite undervalued. He also looks for a rebound from such aerospace subcontractors as Hexcel, Precision Castparts and Rohr.

In the extremely troubled banking sector, Financial World found consensus concerning those institutions most unfairly penalized by the public's negative perceptions: BankAmerica, J.P Morgan, NCNB, NBD Bank, First Wachovia, Barnett Banks, Norwest.

As for the glamorous computer issues, most analysts told Financial World they'd stand by those with strong niches and good cost-control programs. Bruce Lupatkin of Hambrecht and Quist sees great potential, for example, in the personal computer, graphic software and network niches. His favorite stocks: Aldus, Compaq, Microsoft and Radius.

No matter what happens in the Persian Gulf, analysts agree that stocks will benefit, particularly the drillers. "Oil-field service companies are in the middle of a seven- to 10-year uptrend that began in 1986," says Russ Miller of Alex Brown. His favorites: Baker Hughes, Energy Service and Halliburton.

Insurance stocks, finally, will continue to be hurt by bad assets and inadequate pricing. That's why Financial World found a consensus for those with secure dividends: AIG, NAC Re and Safeco.

(Financial World Magazine, 1328 Broadway, New York, NY 10001; biweekly, $39 annually.)

Investor's Notebook reflects the opinions of professionals. It does not endorse specific investments, and no endorsement is implied or should be inferred. For more information, contact the individual firms cited.