Wall Street's investment experts all seem to come from Lake Wobegon, the fictional burg created by humorist Garrison Keillor where "all the children are above average." A recent study published in the Journal of Behavioral Finance found that two-thirds of analysts said they were above average at forecasting earnings.
Such thinking can be hazardous to your wealth, says James Montier, global equity strategist at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein. In a new report called "The Folly of Forecasting," Montier cites a Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia study showing that interest rates fell 55% of the time when bond prognosticators predicted they would rise. The track record of equity analysts isn't much better.
What's an investor to do? Use strategies that don't rely on forecasting. One such method is value investing, buying cheap stocks with low price-earnings ratios, low price-to-book ratios, or above average dividend yields. Another is asset allocation, where long-term performance depends on how you divide your portfolio among stocks, bonds, and other assets -- not trying to pick hot stocks.
Camelot is coming back to the auction block. From Dec. 15 through Dec. 17, Guernsey's will sell some 1,500 lots relating to John F. Kennedy's life both at New York's Park Avenue Armory and on eBay (EBAY) Liveauctions. (Ebayliveauctions.com will offer nearly 500 more JFK items exclusively.) Culled mostly from the estate of Robert White, who started corresponding with the President at age 15, items include the two flags that were mounted on JFK's limo when he was assassinated, an oil study for his official portrait by artist Aaron Shikler, the watch from his inauguration, and a passport. White, who died in 2003, got many papers from JFK's secretary, Evelyn Lincoln. Catalogs for $50 will be available on Nov. 10 at guernseys.com.
Good news for execs with deferred-compensation plans. The Internal Revenue Service has delayed by one year -- from Jan. 1, 2006 to Jan. 1, 2007 -- the effective date of tough rules, passed after the Enron debacle, on tapping the accounts. The new regs generally double the penalty to 20% -- plus the threat of retroactive interest payments to the IRS -- on money taken before a preset distribution date. They also require those who postpone distributions to give at least a year's notice -- up from as little as three months -- and to leave the money for five years after the original date.
Most visitors to Rockefeller Center in New York are on the ground, looking up. Now you can be on top of the Art Deco landmark, looking down. Beginning on Nov. 1, you can buy tickets for the observation deck at 30 Rockefeller Plaza by going to topoftherocknyc.com or calling 877 692-7625. The site -- now with viewing galleries on the 67th, 69th, and 70th floors -- has been closed to the public for 20 years. It offers visibility of up to 80 miles.