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During the last six years, about 8.4 million persons have come of employable age every year, but less than three million have found jobs of any kind, anywhere. None, repeat none have found jobs in the organised sector of the economy. Here the total employment has been falling steadily since 1999 and if the latest estimates are anything to go by the rat of decline may be accelerating as industry downsizes in the face of competition. This is a tragedy on an epic scale, and on which if not prevented will soon end whatever little law and order is left and plunge the country into a bloodbath of insurgencies. The reason why there are no jobs is that there is no industrial growth. The 98-year-old retailer has seen its earnings increase in each of the past 24 years. In the past five years, the company's earnings per share have nearly doubled. No wonder investors have flocked to Walgreen, sending its stock up 88 percent last year; during the past decade, shareholders have earned about 30 percent annually. Walgreen's stock traded at 56 times earnings in early February, a multiple 66 percent higher than the average Standard & Poor's 500 stock, which itself carries near-record price-to-earnings ratios. On the other hand, if your marginal tax rate is low, investing in tax-exempt municipal bonds doesn't really make sense for you. If your marginal tax rate is 31 percent, earning 5 percent interest tax-free is like earning 7.25 percent in a taxable investment. If your marginal rate is only 15 percent, a tax-free 5 percent is worth only as much to you as 5.88 percent in a taxable investment. You might earn more in Treasuries, which are free of state and local taxes-and safer than municipal bonds.




ick your poison: Internet bubbles o r currency devaluations. An economy that's growing too fast or headed for a sudden downturn. Though the bulls are still stampeding, the market is increasingly volatile. It's enough to turn even daring investors into more conservative ones, forsaking Wall Street's exotic fare for a diet of more consistently dependable stocks, venerable companies like Walgreen, the Deerfield, Illinois-based purveyor of food and drugs.

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Steve Kim, an equity-derivatives analyst at Merrill Lynch, has closely studied the past performance of stable-growth stocks. Kim compared the returns of the 500 largest-capitalization companies with a portfolio of stocks with the lowest volatility in earnings in the food, drugs, and tobacco industries. His research showed that the stable-growth stocks outgained the 500 large caps by 2.25 percent a year from January 1970 to February 1996, with only slightly more risk. On the other hand, if your marginal tax rate is low, investing in tax-exempt municipal bonds doesn't really make sense for you. If your marginal tax rate is 31 percent, earning 5 percent interest tax-free is like earning 7.25 percent in a taxable investment. If your marginal rate is only 15 percent, a tax-free 5 percent is worth only as much to you as 5.88 percent in a taxable investment. You might earn more in Treasuries, which are free of state and local taxes-and safer than municipal bonds. Or if you want to stay invested for income, you might consider a tax-exempt municipal bond fund instead of a taxable corporate bond fund. Perhaps that last $1,100 of your $98,000 income is investment income that you don't currently need. If so, you might reduce your marginal tax rate to 28 percent by switching from that income-paying investment into a growth investment that generates minimal dividend income, like an equity index fund. You wouldn't owe taxes on the increase in the value of your index fund shares until you sold them-at which point, if you'd held the fund for a year or more, you'd owe a long-term capital gains tax, now capped at 20 percent. Why the turnaround in investor attitude? Low unemployment, minimal inflation, solid wage growth, and a friendly stock market all combined last year to fuel consumer spending. Whether that trend will continue is a hotly debated point; indeed, many economists now view the consumer as a wild card. If the stock market fails to shower investors with double-digit gains, Americans might make fewer trips to the mall, dampening economic growth. What's my marginal tax rate?

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This is important information for any investor-even someone who never ventures into the stock market. Smart Questions to Ask Your Financial Advisers Smart Questions to Ask Your Financial Advisers What makes this group of stocks so interesting at this point in time is that they perform especially well when the economy is slowing. An economic downturn was precisely what many investors were betting on from 1995 through 1997. Consequently, Kim's portfolio of stable-growth companies rose 44 percent in 1995, 26 percent in 1996, and 42 percent in 1997, outpacing the S&P 500 in all three years. This is important information for any investor-even someone who never ventures into the stock market.

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On the other hand, if your marginal tax rate is low, investing in tax-exempt municipal bonds doesn't really make sense for you. If your marginal tax rate is 31 percent, earning 5 percent interest tax-free is like earning 7.25 percent in a taxable investment. If your marginal rate is only 15 percent, a tax-free 5 percent is worth only as much to you as 5.88 percent in a taxable investment. You might earn more in Treasuries, which are free of state and local taxes-and safer than municipal bonds. If you and your spouse have $98,000 a year in combined income, you may think that you're in the 31 percent federal tax bracket. The reality is more complex: you pay a 31 percent federal income tax only on the last $1,100 you earn. In fact, your marginal tax rate is 31 percent, but most of your income is taxed at 15 percent or 28 percent. Moreover, when Kim measured the return of stable-growth stocks and the broader market in different phases of the economic cycle (recession, recovery, and expansion) during the 26-year time frame of his study, the results were impressive. Stable-growth stocks had higher returns than the 500 largest stocks during periods of recession and expansion. In fact, the only time these stocks trailed the broader market was during times of recovery, when investors chased companies more likely to profit from an expanding economy.

Real Time Economic Calendar provided by Investing.com.