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AS RATES RISE, INVESTORS SHY AWAY FROM STOCKS

SHARE AS RATES RISE, INVESTORS SHY AWAY FROM STOCKS

Like many investors these days, Jane Gelman is backing out of the stock market.

She has been investing in stocks for the past decade. But now Gelman, 42, a claims administrator in Larchmont, N.Y., has taken almost half her money out of the market and put it into high-yielding bank certificates of deposit."I look at these rates and they're going up and going up and I say to myself, `Maybe this isn't a bad idea - at least I know it's going to be safe.' "

With more and more investors taking that course, the stock market faces an uncertain year in 1995.

Rising interest rates are dangerous for stocks. At the same time, corporate profits are continuing to rise - and that's a big plus for stocks.

The stock market will likely spend 1995 caught in a tug of war between rising rates and rising profits.

Best bet on the outcome: The market will deliver returns in the single digits, after dividends are included, with the first half of the year likely to be weaker as investors wrestle with inflation fears.

Nevertheless, the rosy outlook for corporate profits should prevent a full-fledged bear market - and could trigger a good year for stocks.

Optimists see a huge increase in corporate earnings this year, brought about by increased productivity.

"Everyone has underappreciated the exceptional change in productivity, profit margins and world-class competitiveness of U.S. industry, and so the market has underestimated earnings terribly," says Ernest Mysogland, chief investment officer of Northstar Investment Management.

With conflicting projections for the year, what's an investor to do?

To start with, remember that predictions about where the economy or the stock market are headed are just that.

Stick to a long-term plan - one that includes a diversified portfolio you can hang on to for years.

But at the margins of your portfolio, you might want to slightly overweight capital spending stocks - firms that sell technology and other equipment to other companies.

Other good bets are commodity-based stocks, including defensive stocks, such as oil companies.

Consumer growth companies appear likely to do well next year, as do exporters. Many European companies also look solid.