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Timing is everything, especially when it comes to 190-point, one-day tumbles in the Dow Jones industrial average.

If you were a subscriber to the investment letter and telephone hot line of Don Wolanchuk, the nation's top-rated stock-market timer the last 12 months, you could've heeded his advice to get out of the market on Oct. 11.Other timers with good 1989 performance numbers who told their flocks to head for the exits before the precipitous decline of Oct. 13 were Joe Granville (on Aug. 15) and Gerald Appel (Oct. 11).

Yet another top timer, Ray Hines, turned "neutral" on the market Oct. 11.

"Most of the top 10 stock market timers found the decline was sharper and deeper than they'd expected, but they also believe it has added time to the bull market by correcting its overbought condition," said James Schmidt, editor of Timer Digest, P.O. Box 1688, Greenwich, Conn. 06835 ($175 annually with telephone hot line), which tracks the nation's market timers.

"Most viewed the downturn as a buying opportunity, although Joe Granville is an exception because he expects a decline to 2200 on the Dow."

Market timers, who basically tell investors when to get in and out of the market, were considerably more bearish prior to the 1987 stock market crash than they'd been in recent weeks.

Going into Oct. 13, 41 percent of the roughly 100 timer newsletters tracked by Timer Digest were bullish, though that percentage had been eroding, and many did expect some correction on the way to greater heights. Thirty-six percent were bearish, 23 percent neutral.

"Market timers ebb and flow like the weather, and some timers' models clearly work better in certain conditions than others," observed Schmidt.

For example, the top market timer of 1986 was Robert Prechter, whose Elliott Wave Theorist newsletter didn't make the top 10 the following year. Although Prechter was bearish prior to this year's Oct. 13 drop, he's been bearish since 1988, and followers who heeded him missed out on the successes of the past year.

Top timers in the most recent 12-month period, according to Timer Digest, were:

Don Wolanchuk, Wolanchuk Report, Roseville, Mich., which has an expensive $2,000 annual subscription rate with daily telephone hot line, up 34 percent. Bullish, Wolanchuk relies on the Elliott Wave theories and sees near-term upside potential on the Dow Jones industrial average of 2870 to 2890.

George Price, Price Trend, San Jose, Calif., $259 annually with hot line, up 32 percent. Bullish, Price is a technician who believes in super cycles of the market. He expects the Dow to move toward 2850 near term and hit 3000.

Stephen Leeb, Indicator Digest, Palisades Park, N.J., $250 annually with hot line, up 29 percent. Bullish, Leeb believes the market may consolidate near term, but monetary and economic trends are positive for long-term prices.

Gerald Appel, Systems and Forecasts, Great Neck, N.Y., $175 annually with hot line, up 29 percent. Bullish, Appel sees short-term momentum problems but is cautiously optimistic on intermediate trends.

Mark Leibovit, Volume Reversal Survey, Sedona, Ariz., $360 annually with hot line, up 22 percent. Bullish, Leibovit expects higher stock prices in the fourth quarter and a long-term Dow target of 3100.

Joe Granville, Granville Market Letter, Kansas City, Mo., up 21 percent. Bearish since August, Granville expects persistent unfavorable technical conditions to lead to considerably lower prices over the next few weeks.

Rounding out the top 10 were Arch Crawford, Crawford Perspectives, New York, $250 annual subscription and $250 hot line, up 16 percent, a bull; Charlie Hooper, Mutual Fund Strategist, Burlington, Vt., $149 annually with hot line, up 16 percent, bullish; Ray Hines, Wall Street Generalist, Sarasota, Fla., $124 annually with hot line, up 13 percent, neutral; and Mason Sexton, Harmonic Research, New York, $360 annually and $600 for hot line, up 13 percent, bullish.