Many analysts believe the public's recent enthusiasm for stocks is worrisome. But according to Laszlo Birinyi of Birinyi Associates in Greenwich, Conn., the public rarely buys at the top. "In the last eight bull markets it's done so only twice. And in three of those markets the public was a net seller throughout the entire bull run. In the great bull market of 1982-87, mutual fund sales peaked in April 1986, after which the market still rose 49 percent."
- As the economy strengthens, loan demand increases, which is good for bank stocks. And modest interest rate increases allow banks to raise the rates they charge for loans faster than they raise depositor rates to attract capital. Financial World magazine (P.O. Box 420-142, Palm Coast, Fla. 32142-9554; 800-829-5916) recently listed 11 bank stocks with substantial excess reserves that could boost their income: Provident Bankshares, First American, Union Planters, First Bank System, Mobile National, People's Bank, Norwest, Deposit Guaranty, First Tennessee National, Mellon Bank, Trustmark.- Like bonds, preferred stocks pay a fixed rate of interest, and like stocks, they pay it quarterly. If you hold preferreds at least 90 days within a corporation, 70 percent of their dividends are tax-free. Personal Finance (1101 King St., Suite 400, Alexandria, Va. 22314) recently recommended 10 preferreds with average yields of 6.8 percent. All are "safe companies with solid growth prospects": American Water Works, Arkla, Consolidated Edison, Duke Power, J.P. Morgan, Northern States Power, Puget Sound P&L, Southern California Edison, Utilicorp (convertible), Virginia E&P.
- Most investors feel they don't have enough capital to diversify their mutual fund purchases adequately. But just $1,000 will get you into five superb funds with entirely different philosophies, reports Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine (1729 H St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006). "All you have to do is sign up for the fund's pain-free monthly investment plan." The quintet: Berger 100, Fasciano, Janus, Nicholas, Twentieth Century International Equity.
- Historically, returns on long- and intermediate-term bonds have been similar, observes The Moneypaper (1010 Mamaronek Ave., Mamaronek, N.Y. 10543). "But long bonds have had six negative years in the past 20, while intermediates have had none. If you decide to buy 10-year bonds, give yourself an opportunity to buy them in various interest-rate environments by buying bonds maturing in every year from 1995 through 2003. When the 1995 bonds come due, buy ones that mature in 2004."
- The cost of hopping in and out of the stock market can be fearsome, observes Bruce Johnstone, strategist for Fidelity Investments. "Although stocks have risen an average 15 percent annually over the past dozen years, if you'd missed the 40 highest up-days during the '80s, your annualized return would have been just 4 percent."
- What happens when a mutual fund switches managers? According to CDA/Weisenberger, a Maryland research organization, it depends on how the fund was doing before the switch. A study of growth funds over a 10-year period found that top-performing funds that switched managers experienced 10 percent average slumps in performance, while lagging funds had their performance improve an average 27 percent.