) 500-stock index gained more than 3% in the first five days but has since sold off, with just a 1.5% gain through Jan. 24. If the S&P is in positive territory on Jan. 31, the so-called January barometer -- which is 90% accurate -- predicts a positive year for stocks.
When does it miss? In midterm election years like this one, its accuracy is just 64%, according to the Stock Trader's Almanac. That's why strategist Jeffrey Saut of Raymond James & Associates (RJF
) looks to confirm the barometer's call with an indicator developed by Wall Street analyst Lucien Hooper in the 1970s. Hooper said if the Dow Jones industrials close below the previous December's lowest closing price in the first quarter -- it happened on Jan. 20 when the Dow fell 213 points -- stocks will be down for the year. Saut says if both warnings are triggered, a down year is a sure bet. The bulls had better hope the S&P finishes January in the black The contents of your mailbox are about to get a lot cuter. With the new 39 cents rates, the U.S. Postal Service has issued first class stamps featuring Curious George, Maisy the mouse, the Very Hungry Caterpillar, and other favorite children's book animals. Anticipating an enthusiastic response, the postal service (usps.com) printed 192 million sheets, double the amount for the typical commemorative stamp. Even so, "Get out and buy 'em fast," says David Failor, executive director of stamp services. They're expected to sell out quickly.