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Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment Technology Investor. Harry Newton

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9:00 AM EST, Friday, February 27, 2009. The Itch Factor. It's my new term for that itch "to put your money to work." Heck, you're earning basically nothing on your cash. You see huge yields of 20% and more on stocks and bonds. And you figure you just got to, and can earn a few shekels more.
Resist the temptation, please.

High yields are a measure of risk. Anything yielding more than a a U.S. Treasury tells you ...

1. The dividend will be cut, and/or

2. The stock or bond will fall even further. (That's how it got to where it is.)

This world of investing is the worst I've ever seen. And undoubtedly the worst in our lifetimes. You cannot make money in today's stockmarket. You may fluke a winner. But your losers will far outnumber your winners. You can not invest in real estate because prices are still falling. Further, real estate with income is likely to lose its tenants in coming months -- as more shops and factories close.

In this world you have to focus your brain on something else. Set yourself a goal to learn or improve a skill. Tennis works. Volunteering works. Vacationing works -- cruises, hotels and airlines are on sale. Even gas is cheap. Now is a good time to catch up on all the books you always to read. Go back to school. There are some great courses -- full and part time. My friends tell me there are many free concerts.

The key is to resist the temptation to be annoyed at how little your remaining cash is earning and to resist the temptation to put your meager remaining money to work. Turn off CNBC. Stop reading the Wall Street Journal. Don't even think about looking at Barrons. Work hard at your job, if you still have one.

Three signs of the times:
1. Cramer's best (and only) recommendation last night was buy gold bullion, coins or EGO (a gold miner). But he said, don't put all your money to work now because gold is going down in price! Go figure.

2. My friend is a brilliant chartist. He sends me charts with lines, arrows and chicken scratching. I'm not bright enough to figure what it all means. I ask him:

Harry: Looks like it’s still going down??

Brilliant chartist: It wants to go up but the resistance is strong, so the breakout may not be successful. The up move is for traders only as we are still in a bear market.

Go figure.

3. The FDIC says the number of "Troubled Banks" it's watching rose 47% in the fourth quarter, as one in three U.S. banks reported losses in the period. Collectively, U.S. banks reported a $26 billion loss for the fourth quarter, the first quarterly loss for the industry in 19 years. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair called the current state of affairs one of the "most difficult" crises in the agency's 75 years and warned Thursday that bank failures would continue to rise and that there will be more challenges ahead because the quality of bank assets continues to deteriorate.

The FDIC says it's tracking 252 "problem" banks, which it doesn't name, up from 171 in the third quarter and just 76 in the fourth quarter of 2007, when the credit crisis was just erupting. Assets held by troubled banks total $159 billion.

There were 25 bank failures in 2008 and 14 so far this year. Analysts from RBC Capital estimate 1,000 banks could fail over the next few years. That would wipe out one-sixth of the industry.The problems are stressing the FDIC deposit insurance fund, which fell almost by half to $18.9 billion, with reserves now at their lowest since 1993.

The FDIC isn't revealing the names of the 252 problem banks. I guess if it did, that would nail their coffins.

Don't go near the Ultra-Short ETFs. These things are meant to move up at twice the rate that whatever it's measuring is going down. That's the theory. But it doesn't work that way. And I don't know why. And apparently no one else does, either. Cramer has warned about them. I have warned about them. Now an excellent money manager, Frank Williams, writes in his latest letter to his investors:

Worst by far was SRS, an exchange traded fund which is supposed to move twice the inverse of the weighted average of a batch of real estate investment companies: if they do down -- which is what I thought would happen -- say, 20%, it should go up 40%. The batch didn't go up 21.5%, but for some reason our ETF went down 43%. I scratched my head and we took our lumps.

How to gauge the recession. Reader Steve Sleeper emails:

Check out They are changing how America liquidates their stuff. Prices are collapsing. I’ve been watching Boston / Cape Cod furniture. I saw a $10,000 dining room set for $900.

The Kindle 2. Anne gave my son Michael one as a birthday present.

At $359 it's not cheap. Books are $9.99 each. You download them in minutes via WiFi. You don't need a PC. The Kindle holds 1,500 books. That will keep you gong on any beach.

Michael likes it, as do all the press reviews I've read. I asked Michael for his top five likes:

1. The screen really is amazing. You forget you’re not reading paper.

2. The device itself (flipping pages, navigating, etc.) is very easy.

3. Buying books and getting content is excellent. The wireless is great as is integration to your Amazon account

4. Conversion and presentation of DOCs, PDFs, JPGs, etc. works well. Frees these from your computer.

5. It enables you read more in more places -- except where it's dim. You need light.

His five dislikes:

1. It's too heavy. You notice the weight when reading in bed. Its 10 ounces.

2. Conversion of your own files (PDF, DOC, etc) is expensive. 10 cents per file is too much (you can do it for free but the service takes too long)

3. The New York Times should not be $13.99 a month. The Wall Street Journal is $9.99 a month. The Economist, unfortunately, isn’t available.

4. Very little customization possible. Simply easy features not available (like folders for organizing content).

5. Taking notes and highlighting is essentially unusable. The keyboard and mouse are poor, at best.

Anne writes, "I haven’t played with it much, but I was disappointed with its weight. My wrists got tired from holding it up to read. We’re also just not used to seeing any type of “new” technology in black and white, so the product doesn’t feel as high tech as I thought it would. The mouse is a square button, which can be a bit tricky to maneuver with. That being said, I read part of a (business school) case on the Kindle and it fulfills its promise -– easy on the eyes and has a good highlighting and notes tool."

Personally, I prefer paper magazines and books, though these days I read mostly on my ThinkPad X61 laptop, which has black blacks and nice vibrant colors. The Kindle is only in shades of gray. I do recognize the world is changing. The Kindle is at Amazon.

Sleep on your money:
The Executive Safe-T Bed from Hollandia International has a heavy-duty safe built right into the mattress so paranoid investors can sleep on their cash. At $20,400, Safe-T doesn’t come cheap, but CEO Avi Barseessat told the New York Times in an interview last year that it’s not just the benefit of knowing where your money is, “you also get a good quality sleep.”

Oh, and it has a flat-screen TV built into the foot of the bed, so theoretically, you could ride out the entire recession … in bed!

How twins are made:

The best lines from Hollywood Squares:

Q. If your are going to make a parachute jump, at least how high should you be?
A. Charley Weaver: Three days of steady drinking should do it.

Q You've been having trouble going to sleep. Are you probably a man or a woman?
A. Don Knotts: That's what's been keeping me awake.

Q. Which of your five senses tends to diminish as you get older?
A. Charley Weaver: My sense of decency.

Q. In Hawaiian, does it take more than three words to say 'I Love You'?
A. Vincent Price: No, you can say it with a pineapple and a twenty.

Q. It is considered in bad taste to discuss two subjects at nudist camps. One is politics, what is the other?
A. Paul Lynde: Tape measures.

Q. Back in the old days, when Great Grandpa put horseradish on his head, what was he trying to do?
A. George Gobel: Get it in his mouth.

Q. Who stays pregnant for a longer period of time, your wife or your elephant?
A. Paul Lynde: Who told you about my elephant?

Q. Jackie Gleason recently revealed that he firmly believes in them and has actually seen them on at least two occasions. What are they?
A. Charley Weaver: His feet.

Q. According to Ann Landers, what are the two things you should never do in bed?
A. Paul Lynde: Point and laugh.

This column is about my personal search for the perfect investment. I don't give investment advice. For that you have to be registered with regulatory authorities, which I am not. I am a reporter and an investor. I make my daily column -- Monday through Friday -- freely available for three reasons: Writing is good for sorting things out in my brain. Second, the column is research for a book I'm writing called "In Search of the Perfect Investment." Third, I encourage my readers to send me their ideas, concerns and experiences. That way we can all learn together. My email address is . You can't click on my email address. You have to re-type it . This protects me from software scanning the Internet for email addresses to spam. I have no role in choosing the Google ads on this site. Thus I cannot endorse, though some look interesting. If you click on a link, Google may send me money. Please note I'm not suggesting you do. That money, if there is any, may help pay Michael's business school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.