OK, folks, here it is, free for nothing - and worth every penny: the one newspaper column each year that really tells you where the stock market is going.
You see, I'd always figured that the writers of market newsletters had to be among the world's greatest philanthropists. These geniuses, who had (they assured us) solved all the mysteries of finance and investing, would divulge them to us peons for a mere couple of hundred bucks per annum. The only trouble was, once you had shelled out, their luck seemed to run out.So I set out, some years ago, to see if I could come up with even sillier "indicators" than the ones of which they claimed proprietorship, and I promised to give you the results for no charge whatsoever. The results of this saintly offer have been, I submit, mind- (or at least pancreas-) boggling.
The prescient forecast a year ago, for example, was for "a stronger market finish than the prevailing pessimists now expect, but with material moves downward along the way and the firebombing of even more highly flammable Wall Street reputations." As everyone from the discredited market gloomsters to Michael Milken can attest, this was, once again, incredibly - no, eerily - accurate.
How can this forecasting method prove so successful each year when others keep falling by the wayside (and at much higher prices)? The answer, clearly, must lie in superior methodology and devilishly high research costs. You have to actually lay out . . . the price of one (1) daily newspaper.
So, quick, before my skein of victories joins all the others in the gutter, let's briefly review this so-far-unerring system and see where it points for 1989. It costs you nothing to read on, and the price, undeniably, is right.
As veteran readers are aware, this method requires us only to look at three pages of the newspaper, a task that most literate people can accomplish in well under four hours.
We skip Page One, which as always is full of red herrings: political hot air, learned Washington analyses and similar drivel unrelated to the real world of making you money. And, for this day only, we do not need the normally sacred financial page. It likes to print facts, which all experienced investors know are wholly irrelevant to market performance.
Our texts for this project are the sports page, the fashion page and the food page. On the sports page, we check the Super Bowl indicator, first spotted by former New York sportswriter Leonard Koppett - and correct for 20 of the 22 Super Bowl years, or an impressive 91 percent. It holds that when a team from the old American Football League (like the Cincinnati Bengals) wins the Super Bowl, the market will be down that year; if any other team (like the San Francisco Forty-niners) wins, the market will be up. By 20-16, the jocks have voted for the bulls.
That might be enough for the light-beer crowd, but we are in-depth researchers around here. We turn now to the fashion page, to check the length of women's skirts. Shorter (as in the 1920s and 1960s) is supposed to mean higher for stocks, too; longer means frowns all around. The problem here is that women have gotten so independent of stylistic dictates that just about any length can be found somewhere. Forecast: an up-and-down market on which we'll have to keep a very close eye.
Finally, we have our surely-ought-to-be-patented food-page indicator, in which we check the ads for Chinese New Year dinners. We discovered this one (arguably the best of the bunch) in 1981, which was the Year of the Chicken - and which turned out to be a great time to hide in money-market funds. This year, we find, will be the Year of the Snake, which I'm told is traditionally associated with prosperity. That's certainly a nice thought, but let's hope that somebody else is the one who gets bit.
In summary, then, and against all the odds, the outlook is for a record eighth straight up year for stocks - but with several different legs and an occasional hiss. Remember you read it here first, and don't forget to renew your subscription.