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Hey, You Making Any Money?

By Dian Vujovich

I always got a kick out of it whenever I heard Joey Tribbiani, say in his very sexy half-smile way, “Hey, how YOU doin?” So in the spirit of that character on the Friends television show, I’ll ask you the same with respect to your investments, “Hey, how you doin?”

The market, as in Dow Jones Industrial Average, closed yesterday, March 4, at 10,444.14. That’s up a smidge from where it closed out 2009 at 10,428.05. Nothing to crow about but it’s up.

Looking back at stocks selling under 20 bucks a share that are components of the DJIA four still fall into that category. Alcoa (AA) closed yesterday at $13.43, Banks of America (BAC) at $16.40, General Electric (GE), $16.11 and Pfizer (PFE) at $17.33.

Move into the mutual fund area and year-to-date performance through February 28th show the average equity fund down1.37 percent, according to Lipper.

Funds’ 1-month performances, however, have been more flattering. From January 31 through February 28 the average equity fund was up 2.74 percent. February’s biggest gains were seen in mid-cap growth funds, this category averaged an increase of 5.12 percent, gold-oriented funds up on average 7.01 percent and diversified leverage funds up 7.36 percent.

Of all Lipper’s categories, only nine showed average performances falling in a minus-performance column. Most, as in seven, were under the broad World Equity Funds, heading.

So as we’re heading toward the end of the first quarter of this new decade stocks are puttering along and corporations are holding more cash than most of us can count.

What are they going to do with all of their money? Heaven knows they’re not spending it on hiring or rehiring people. That’s because corporations have figured out that they can lay off thousands, close stores and plants, save bundles and still keep humming along. Of course the cost of that is an increased workload for those employees who still have their jobs, but corporate America doesn’t seem to see any problem with that.

What they are doing with their money is spending it. Some are buying back shares, others increasing dividends and many involved with mergers and acquisitions done in all-cash deals. You can read some particulars on each in an online The Wall Street Journal piece at http://tinyurl.com/yjn5yft.

All that cash stuff could translate into something good for the un- and under-employed and/or for the stock market’s performance. But for some reason, I’m not entirely sure it will. We’ll see.

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