Dow down 16.48 as drug stocks skid


Continuing its recent "up in the morning, down after lunch pattern, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 16.48 points yesterday to close at 3,445.38.

Merck, a Dow Jones stock that sank 2 1/4 more points, stands at 34 3/4 , down about 35 percent from its 12-month peak. Drug stocks have skidded sharply since President Clinton's election.

HOPEFULLY HELPFUL: "At today's low interest rates, it makes sense to borrow more money against your home. You can borrow at low rates on a pre-tax basis and the interest you pay on the first $100,000 for non-home-related uses is tax deductible." ("Lew Altfest Answers Your Money Questions," $19.95) . . . "Medium-term bonds may soon become more volatile. Many investors unhappy with low CD rates bought 2-5 year bonds for higher interest, but as economic activity picks up these are the bonds that banks will dump to make more profitable loans. Solution: Diversify -- some short, some medium, some long bonds." (James Benham, The Benham Group) . . . "Be on time, return phone calls within 24 hours, try to answer letters immediately. This way you're saying that the other person is important to you." (Lucy Hedrick, time-management consultant.)

WALL STREET WISDOM: "Buying and holding quality stocks over time has proven to be a successful strategy. Assuming an investment of $1,000 each year from 1960 through 1992, an investor who bought on the lowest day of each year earned an average 10.6 percent compound annual return. This isn't much more than that of the investor who bought at the highest day each year, who received an average 9.7 percent annually. Conclusion: Rather than trying to 'time' the market, investors should invest at regular intervals." (Sandra Shrewsbury, who studied returns of investors who bought at the market's annual highs vs. ones who bought at lows.)

MONEY SAVERS: "In Europe, unlike in the U.S., most restaurant bills include a 15-17 percent service charge, precluding the need to tip. If you're unsure, ask." (Travel Smart). Ticker Suggestion: Why don't some U.S. restaurants take the lead and adopt that idea, eliminating the calculation of the tip, squabbling over who's to pay how much, etc.? . . . "Consider a used car for your next set of wheels; best way is to buy from someone you know . . . Fill up your heating-oil tank in summer, when oil costs less . . . Make lunch the meal you eat in a restaurant; prices are often 40 percent lower than for dinner." ("Dollar Stretching Ideas.")

NOTES & QUOTES: "Even if you don't qualify for a deductible IRA, you can make a non-deductible contribution to gain the benefit of tax-deferred compound earnings on your investments." (Ernst & Young) . . . "Retire later for much higher Social Security benefits, and to keep all the benefits that you are due. Since benefits increase 4 percent per year starting at age 65, retiring at age 70 will result in 20 percent higher payments." (Dorcas Hardy, former Social Security commissioner) . . . "In business, accept criticism graciously. Give it carefully, preceding and following it with something positive." (Jan Yager, business consultant) . . . "To get a loan, find an experienced loan officer. Inexperienced ones may not have the knowledge to get you the best deal." (W. Frazier Bell, mortgage loan officer) . . . "The Gods cannot help those who don't seize opportunities." (Confucius, circa 500 B.C.)

WALL STREET WATCH: "Learn from your mistakes. The only way to avoid mistakes is not to invest -- which is the biggest mistake of all. And don't try to recoup your losses by taking bigger risks." (John Templeton) . . . The latest Zweig Report recommends Seaboard (agricultural business), Superior Teletec (copper wire and fiber-optic cable) and Citizens BancShares (operates 322 offices in North Carolina) . . . "Drug stocks remain vulnerable." (Dow Theory Forecasts) . . . "I wouldn't buy a full position of drug stocks all at once now; I'd ease into them gradually." (Alan Bond, portfolio manager) . . . "Investors are almost finished selling the drug group." (Stephen Dalton, adviser) . . . "Wendy's International is heading into an exciting new direction by returning to its roots -- delivering superior quality food at a competitive price." (Select Portfolio, Richard Erwin) . . . "How much of your investment portfolio should be in stocks? The percent should be 100 minus your age. For example, a 30-year old should have 70 percent in stocks, a 65-year old should have 35 percent in stocks." (Mutual Fund News Service) . . . "We're in a positive market environment; money will soon flow from bonds into stocks. I like property and casualty stocks, also luxury issues like Carnival Cruise and Circus Circus." (Louis Holland, adviser)

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