Summers fall into two categories for investors: tough sledding and clear sailing. Clear sailing is when things are as they should be: light blue sky, nice little sailboat on Buzzard's Bay, with breeze enough for going out and coming back, the Red Sox are in first place but looking over their shoulders at the Yankees, and you sit back and feel pretty good about your GE, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, and Pepsi.
Unfortunately this summer looks like it's the other kind: tough sledding, when despite the summer heat (92 in New York City today) every step feels like your dragging a sled up a snow-filled slope for the thrill of chuting down later as fast as stock prices tumbled last Friday.
Oil prices per barrel and gasoline prices per gallon are still going up, unemployment is up, airlines are up in the air about how to deal with a whole Sunday Times of bad news, the Dow goes down four hundred points and NASDAQ sheds about fifty, and even GM is thinking twice about the wisdom of mass producing the Hummer.
In such a climate it makes sense to own rails, which run on coal and therefore benefit from the travails of the trucking industry. Warren Buffett has bought a bunch of rails including Burlington Northern and Norfolk Southern. Makes sense to me.
Our China correspondents say that KFC way outsells Big Macs in China, and China is booming like you wouldn't believe. If you have a few thousand spare dollars you could do worse than buying a few shares of Yum Brands, which owns KFC.
A tip of the old fedora to Bill Gross, billionaire bond fund manager and fellow philatelist, who sold the Scandinavian part of his stamp collection for a cool million, donating the proceeds to a Columbia University project for improving the health, welfare, and education of poor peeople in a wide swath of land encompassing ten African countries.
Here are some stamps not from Scandinavia but from the artist Donald Evans, who specialized in creating the postage stamps of imaginary countries.