3/24/2011 12:00 PM ET|
Take advice from Mr. 'Dow 36,000'?
He was behind the most notoriously inaccurate forecast in recent financial history. But is it possible that James K. Glassman is talking good sense now?
"There are no second acts in American lives," F. Scott Fitzgerald once mused. No one was ever more wrong.
America is the land of reinvention. Exhibit A: Steve Jobs' triumphant return to Apple (AAPL, news) after being fired in the 1980s. Or consider Michael Vick's spectacular football comeback following nearly two years in federal prison.
And if you think Charlie Sheen has a one-way ticket to oblivion, how about Robert Downey Jr.'s impressive return to Hollywood stardom since completing rehab a few years ago?
The investing world has its share of second and third acts, too. The latest: James K. Glassman, the co-author (with Kevin Hassett) of the notorious "Dow 36,000," is back with -- of all things -- an investment advice book.
Sure, that may sound like the classic definition of "chutzpah." This time, however, most of his advice is actually pretty good.
It doesn't break new ground -- Glassman has a lifetime quota of that -- but it probably won't lose you much money, either.
That's the point. The book, "Safety Net," aims to find a balance between equities' growth potential and the so-called stability of bonds (I'll have more to say about that later): a classic 50-50 split between stocks and bonds.
It's quite a change -- more like a 180-degree reversal -- from the super-bullish "Dow 36,000," briefly a cultural milestone during the dot-com boom. That book was published Oct. 1, 1999, almost six months before the Nasdaq Composite Index ($COMPX) peaked at over 5,000.
The glory days of gullibility
Ah, those were the days! Individual investors ruled. Ads told us to "boot your broker." The Internet revolution promised riches for everyone. And why not? Internet stocks routinely doubled or tripled on their first day of trading.
It was, we now know, one of the biggest stock manias ever, comparable to Japan in the 1980s and the United States in the 1920s. In the 11 years since the bust, the Nasdaq has never reached 3,000, let alone 5,000.
And the Dow Jones Industrial Average ($INDU)? It stood at almost 10,300 when "Dow 36,000" was published, eventually topped 14,000 in October 2007, and recently closed above 12,000.
That wasn't what Glassman and Hassett expected, of course.
"Stocks are now in the midst of a one-time-only rise to much higher ground," they wrote back then. "A sensible target rate for Dow 36,000 is early 2005, but it could be reached much earlier."
They thereby broke the cardinal rule of Wall Street: If you name a target price, don't pick a date. But the two were true believers. They, too, drank the Kool-Aid of a "new paradigm."
"Could it be that investors are finally recognizing that stocks and bonds are equally risky and are, quite rationally, bidding up the prices of stocks to levels which make more sense?" they wrote.
Stocks, they argued, should be trading at 100 times earnings, not 25 times. Do the math, and you get to Dow 36,000.
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