What do you give someone who has been there, bought that? Perhaps the thrill of driving a Ferrari around a racetrack at 150 mph ($1,750) or the rush of floating around at "zero G" ($3,750). Both are available at The Experience Store (theexperiencestore.com). Not all are so pricey. For $299 you can treat someone to a 30-minute ride in an aerobatic plane. And not all are for daredevils: Experiences also include facials, massages, and cooking lessons. Recipients receive packaged gift vouchers in the mail that can be redeemed nationwide.
The next time CNBC blares out the latest leading indicator, turn down the volume. Leading indicator indexes are designed to forecast the economy's performance, and they can instantly move the stock market. But it's a mistake for investors to use them as advice, says Steve LeCompte, managing partner at CXO Advisory Group in Manassas, Va.
CXO found these indexes do a poor job of signaling the market's longer term trend. For example, the Conference Board releases a monthly index combining 10 indicators such as manufacturing orders, weekly unemployment claims, and interest rates. After crunching 15 years of data, LeCompte found little correlation between what the board's index forecasts for the economy and the performance of the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index over the next 3 to 12 months. If anything, the market was slightly more likely to move in the opposite direction. CXO got similar results for the weekly leading index of the Economic Cycle Research Institute. Even the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's Survey of Professional Forecasters, which polls two dozen economists, didn't fare any better in predicting market moves.
If you're headed to Europe this summer, you're in for a nice surprise. Because of a sluggish economy, the euro -- the currency of 12 nations -- has fallen 10% against the dollar since December and may go lower still. Prices are still high, but your greenbacks will go further than you thought. If the high euro scared you away before, you may want to reconsider.
The NASCAR action this summer isn't just on the track. Founded by JKS Motorsports owner Will Spencer, the new Winston Cup Museum in Winston-Salem, N.C., showcases Winston's 33-year sponsorship of NASCAR racing with cars as well as memorabilia like trophies, uniforms, helmets, and posters. One highlight: a black No. 3 Chevrolet driven by the late Dale Earnhardt, who won seven Winston Cup championships (winstoncupmuseum.com). Vroom!