A Spruced Up Investment Page

For many of us, investing has become more than a spare-time indulgence. We need to plan carefully to send our kids to college and to finance our retirement. The massive sums flowing into mutual funds underscores this new era in personal investment. No wonder seven of the books on the BUSINESS WEEK list of business best-sellers offer investment advice. One of them, The Beardstown Ladies' Common-Sense Investment Guide, has been there since we started the list in April, 1995. The Beardstown ladies' message: You don't need to be a Wall Street whiz to succeed as an investor.

We agree. In fact, BUSINESS WEEK has long provided its readers with a wealth of investment information, from weekly personal-finance stories to our twice-a-year "Where to Invest" issues. We also offer a weekly page of key information, called the Investment Figures of the Week. The page offers a host of indexes, ratios, and performance measures designed to help you make sense of the daily gyrations of markets around the world.

This week, we are introducing an improved version of this page. With the help of Bloomberg Financial Markets and Morningstar Inc., Senior Writer Jeffrey M. Laderman supervised an effort that makes the page more timely and more analytical. Bloomberg's most prominent contributions are two tables: One compares the aftertax yields of municipal bonds with Treasury securities. The other tracks the flow of money in and out of specific stocks to spot potential rebounds or declines. We have also added the Bloomberg Information Age index, which tracks 100 stocks in the information business. With Morningstar's help, we have added more mutual funds to the weekly tabulation and made it easier for you to spot the leaders and laggards in different categories.

When the stock market is focused on earnings, as it is now, a new feature provided by First Call Corp. will help you read the trends. At the point in the quarterly earnings cycle when companies are reporting their earnings, the First Call reading will tell you by how much earnings for companies in the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index are exceeding analysts' extimates. For other points in the cycle, First Call will tell you by how much analysts are changing their estimates.

If you are a regular follower of our previous Investment Figures of the Week page, you may want more information on the statistics and how to interpret them. Jeff provides a detailed explanation in this week's Finance section. Copies are available free if you write to us. You can also get the explanation by simply sending an E-mail note to the address on the page. Alternatively, you can check out BUSINESS WEEK Online at America Online or go to our Web site--www.businessweek.com. I hope you find our new page valuable.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.