Magazine

The Stat


323 THOUSAND. The projected number of recreational vehicles sales in 2003--the highest since the 389,000 sold in 1978.

Data: Recreation Vehicle Industry Assn. At the International Spy Museum, in Washington, D.C. (www.spymuseum.org), check out relics of the Cold War, among other spy trade tools, such as a:

-- Shoe with a built-in radio transmitter in its heel that reports the location of wearer to a nearby monitor;

-- Camera hidden inside a pigeon decoy;

-- Lipstick pistol that fires a single shot when the tube is twisted. Should President Bush get his way and ditch the tax on dividends, investors will be clamoring for high-quality, dividend-paying stocks. So we asked Standard & Poor's to identify some. S&P screened for companies that had an S&P "buy" rating, strong historical earnings and dividend growth, and a yield better than the market's 1.8%.

Who has been riding out the market most steadily? That's what New York research firm RiskMetrics Group wondered about the big U.S. stock mutual funds. Steady performers are attractive because they help keep investors from jumping ship in stormy times. Staying the course "is how you build wealth," says RiskMetrics strategist Michael Thompson.

So the firm checked to see which funds with $5 billion or more in assets kept price fluctuations to a minimum over the past three years. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index scored a 109.9 "RiskGrade," the measure of price volatility relative to a basket of global stocks, bonds, and other assets created by RiskMetrics. The least risky fund, with an average RiskGrade of 69.3, was Fidelity Low-Priced Stock Fund, followed by American Mutual (70.3) and its sibling fund, Investment Company of America (77). Managed since its 1989 inception by Joel Tillinghast, Fidelity Low-Priced Stock returned an annual average of 11.1% (load-adjusted) over the three years ended Dec. 31. The S&P 500 lost an annual average of 14.6%. Finally, a space heater that heats a whole room instead of just the person it's pointed at. Vornado's DVH ($100) uses a fan to create a vortex of warm air that circulates around the room. Set-and-forget digital controls let you maintain the exact temperature you want without the hot/cold cycles that most space heaters inflict.


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