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IS A 6,000 DOW AROUND THE CORNER?

SHARE IS A 6,000 DOW AROUND THE CORNER?

1995 was a great year for mutual fund investors. I can't recall a time when so many investors made so much money in the domestic stock market. And those investors that didn't fare so well in 1995 because they invested in precious metals and emerging markets funds are finally seeing a bit of relief so far this year.

With everything doing so well, the question on everyone's mind is how long can this possibly last? Dow Jones 6,000? Could it possibly be?DOOMSDAYERS EAT THEIR WORDS. During almost all of last year, the prevalent talk was how overvalued the stock market was and how a correction was overdue. According to these doomsdayers, you should have hidden all of your money in a money market fund in order to avoid the imminent crash. Fine advice except that you would have missed out on some excellent mutual fund profits.

What's that tell you? Quite a few things.

PLAYING IT SAFE IS DANGEROUS. If you're saving for a long-term goal like retirement, you don't have enough time to play it safe. The only way you will ever accumulate significant wealth is by investing in vehicles designed for growth. That means stock market mutual funds.

I've lost more money trying to avoid risk than learning how to manage it. Don't forget that the flip side of risk is reward, and over the long term, tolerating the fluctuations of the stock market will translate into financial independence. There is a big difference between "aggressive" investing and "assertive" investing.

GOING TO CASH IS RISKY. There are many different kinds of risk. The investment risk most people worry about is called market risk, which is the risk that the stock market is too dangerous and to avoid it you would move your money to cash.

But those investors who stayed in cash in 1995 and earned a measly 5 percent paled in comparison to the profits they could have earned in the domestic stock market. The decision to stay in cash is very risky. You avoid market risk by doing so, but you take on the very real risk of foregone opportunities.

1996 BATTLE PLAN. Congratulations to those of you who profited in 1995. While I don't hope 1995 spoiled you into thinking that it's easy and expected to make 50 percent returns every year, which many no-load domestic funds did in 1995, I do hope it gave you some courage to stick through a bull market without pulling out just because things look too good.

So for 1996, take the same advice. Yes, the market looks great. The Dow has already earned more than 8 percent in the first 11/2 months of this year, and for the month ended Friday, Feb. 9, the Dow Jones gained 480 points , the largest 30-day point move in its 100-year history. But as the Dow gets higher, every point move is worth less on a percentage basis.

Falling interest rates and low inflation have created a stable backdrop for the domestic markets. When combined with baby boomers heavily funding their retirement in domestic stock funds, I think Dow 6,000 is just around the corner.