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Across My Desk

It's been a great year for the stock market, enough though it may not seem like it.

I was talking with a colleague of mine the other day about the stock market and how well it's performed this year. Both of us, however, commented that even though the market has been up, it sure doesn't feel like it.

With the war, nasty pre-election politics, real estate prices soaring, interest rates rising, the cost of a gallon of gas up---along with that of things like tomatoes and cottage cheese---there's been an awful lot on the minds of most Americans this year. And, when the Heads in Washington report that there's no inflation, our national savings rate the lowest in almost ever and our deficit the highest---but that we're not to worry---things are almost laughable.

That said, let's laugh our way to the bank as through Dec. 1, the Wall Street Journal reported the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 1.3 percent; the Nasdaq Composite, ahead 6.73 percent; the S&P 500 up 7.15 percent; and the Russell 2000 ahead a whopping 15.58 percent.

In the mutual fund area, through Nov. 24, the average U.S Diversified Stock Fund in Lipper's universe was up 8.38 percent with small-cap value funds up the most, 16.75 percent.

Elsewhere in the fund world, natural resources funds were up on average 32.17 percent; real estate funds ahead 25.25 percent; international small- and mid-cap funds up 19.08 percent; and the average Latin American fund ahead 23.11 percent.

Of the 25 largest equity funds around, Fidelity's Low-Priced Stock Fund was the big winner---it was up 16.87 percent. The following four large funds were up over 14 percent year-to-date: the Dodge & Cox fund, American Funds Euro-Pacific fund, Vanguard Windsor 11, and American Funds CWGI.

Barring any unforeseen catastrophes, it looks as though Santa may wind up being very good to the boys and girls who participated in the market of 2004.

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