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Money Report

Gold's Luster Outshines Rising Prices

The price of gold rose above the $1,000 mark on Feb. 20, a level it last reached in March 2008. And though prices have swelled 40% since a $712 low last November, now isn't the time to sell, according to David Galland, managing director of Casey Research. "You'll probably see $1,500 this year," he says, as investors favor the precious metal over paper currencies. "You can only mine so much gold in a given year. Dollars can be created in the blink of the eye and with the signing of the pen." Historically, $1,000 an ounce isn't even that high, says Galland. Gold's 1980 peak of $850 would equal $2,300 in today's dollars. That makes $1,000 gold seem cheap; a recent Bloomberg survey of traders, investors, and analysts found that 71% still say $1,000 rates a buy.

How to Attack Panic

On Feb. 23 investors pushed the Dow Jones industrial average down 250.89 points to a 12-year low, only to see it gain back 236.16 points the next day. What can investors with itchy trigger fingers do so that market panic doesn't get the best of them? Lawrence Glazer, managing partner at Boston's Mayflower Advisors, recommends that they sell covered calls—options contracts that require the writer to sell a stock he owns if it trades above a certain price—as a form of hedging. For example, an investor with 100 shares of the SPDR S&P 500 exchange-traded fund, which tracks the performance of the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index, could write a call option that requires him to sell those shares if the S&P trades above 770 on or before Sept. 30, if the buyer chooses. At the current price of $8.10 an option, the seller would make $810 for every 100 shares hedged, giving him a 10% cushion if the market takes a tumble. The strategy has its downside: If the market rallies, the seller has capped his upside at 10% because the buyer of the call will exercise the option and claim the stock. For that reason, Glazer recommends that investors sell only enough covered calls to ease their worries about losses—especially because the largest gains tend to occur early in a recovery. "You're going to give up the home run," Glazer says. "But it's a way to stay in the game."

Chiquita Plummets, But It's Not Bananas

After announcing a loss of 74 cents a share on Feb. 19—54 cents more than analysts' expectations—Chiquita Brands International (CQB) saw its stock fall 43%. A wild drop, yes, but anyone following Chiquita closely knows its shares have a history of big moves after earnings reports. A more troubling sign: Chiquita's cost of capital, or the cost of its debt and equity, is about equal to its return on capital. That caused financial firm Matrix USA to downgrade it to a sell on Jan. 20. Chiquita "is not creating shareholder value," says Daniello Natoli, a Matrix managing director.

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