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March 30, 2017

By: J. André Weisbrod

Every year around this time a nationwide consternation builds up regarding taxes.  This is especially true for investors with diversified portfolios, and even truer for investors who own private investments, including partnerships, small corporations and LLCs.

I think people often get more agitated than they need to be.  Understanding the processes can help us relax a bit.

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January 16, 2017

Dear Reader,

I am reaching out to you in this blog letter because I care about you.  It’s not just business. 

There is a lot of information, disinformation and misinformation out there about financial matters.  A lot of sales people are hyping various products that are supposed to solve problems.  Many make claims that are not substantiated by facts and/or audited figures. 

I submit to you that the biggest issue we all face is wise planning.  Someone once said… 

“Failure to plan is tantamount to planning to fail.” 

I agree.  First let me talk a bit about the past year and why many have a poor understanding of what happened and why expectations for many were not met and why reactions to disappointment could expose you to significant financial mistakes. 

I recently wrote an article published exclusively in Seeking Alpha Pro.  It will be available to all readers in early February.  (If you want to read a wide variety of articles on investing and markets, I encourage you to visit the Seeking Alpha site.)  A few introductory points were these: 

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By J. André Weisbrod

October 31, 2016

In part 1 I described the types of investments that can produce retirement income.  To make good decisions we need to understand how they work and apply practical math in order to compare possible and probable results. 

I made the case for dividend-producing stocks over bonds and CDs.  Interest rates are just too low to get a real return above inflation and taxes.  While many retirees will prefer balanced portfolios that contain 20-40% in Bonds and CDs, they will have to keep their spending lower to make it work.  My comparison today will be between an income-equity portfolio of Stocks and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS) and a Single Premium Deferred Annuity with a 6% payout “for income purposes.”

I actually did a 35 year analysis going out to age 101.  I compared the results of both alternatives using the following assumptions:

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September 26, 2016

The Retirement Income Puzzle: “6% Guaranteed for Income Purposes?”

By J. André Weisbrod 

Part One: Investment Alternatives

The radio advertisement promises you 6% “guaranteed for income purposes.”  It is a plug for insurance company annuities.  An ad by a nationally known advisory firm in a magazine says you should “hate annuities.”  Others promote high yield stocks, tax free bonds or private lending for retirement income.

As with anything else, we need to discount the hype and slick promotions and get to the heart of the puzzle.  We can use many different investment alternatives to create income.  The question is: What fits our situation best?  In many cases it will be a combination.  Let’s look at some of the main strategies.

Here are the main types of investments that can be used in a retirement income strategy (in alphabetical order):

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Exclusively on Seeking Alpha

Published June 9, 2016

By J. André Weisbrod


·         After a fearful swoon at the beginning of the year, most stock markets are back in positive territory.

·         While we did some buying and increased equity exposure during the dip, we were not confident enough to be aggressive.

·         Multiple unsuccessful attempts to forge new highs over the past year indicate that an aging bull may be at or near its end.

·         Economic conditions are mixed and at times data is confusing or contradictory.

·         Overall market valuations are above average and possibly in warning territory.

·         Large volume computer-generated trading has turned the stock market into a rigged casino that is against traditional fundamental investing.

·         The huge expansion of ETFs and the trend toward “robo” investing create new market influences that could actually increase risk and hurt investors.

·         Three of the forces holding up stocks up are suspect.  One could evaporate with a negative event or a funky algorithm gone haywire.  The second compounds the first and creates greater future risk.  The third is a ruse, plain and simple.

·         There may be nuts out there, but they might not be ones even a seeing squirrel might like.

·         This is a time to err on the conservative side.


Are you in the right place financially?  Is your strategy sound?  Does your investment portfolio need a review?  Have you recently thought through your risk management?  If you would like to discuss these or any other financial matters, please call 412-367-9076.


If you need help managing your personal or business economic trends, we are here for you.  Call 412-367-9076 to set up a no-cost, no-obligation consultation in person or by phone.  STAAR Financial Advisors, Inc. offers wealth creation, management and utilization opportunities for people, families, businesses and organizations at all stages of life.  We provide planning, business consulting and investment management, including private equity opportunities for accredited investors.

If you enjoyed this and other articles, please "like" us on Facebook and follow on Twitter to be notified of new articles and other content.

Copyright 2016, STAAR Financial Advisors, Inc, 604 McKnight Park Dr, Pittsburgh, PA 15237.  All rights reserved.  No publication or dissemination of the contents, either electronically, via internet or physical printing is permitted without written consent of STAAR Financial Advisors.  Subscribers and clients may copy or print for their own use.  Quotes and links may be used according to accepted convention as long as proper attribution and credits are made.

Investing involves risk.  When investing in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate or even many so-called guaranteed investments, the future value of your account(s) can be worth more or less than when you first invest.  Past performance is no assurance or guarantee of future results.  Before making investment decisions you should consult the appropriate investment, financial planning, accounting and tax professionals. You are responsible for all decisions you make as a result of using the SFAMoney web site or any materials and information provided by STAAR Financial Advisors, Inc. either on this site, via email or any other conveyance methods.

This site is not intended as an individual advisory service.  The information provided herein is not intended to be specific advice as to whether you should engage in a particular trading strategy or buy, sell, or hold any financial product.   Individual Advisory and Private and Institutional Asset Management Services are provided separately.  VIP consultation services is provided as an expansion of the information contained on the site.  The VIP services on the site may provide additional information and insights, but will not make specific recommendations regarding specific portfolios.  Every individual and every organization may have unique financial situations and objectives and any specific actions are the responsibility of the investor.  We recommend that you consult with your own financial experts prior to investing and that you carefully read any prospectuses and related materials carefully before investing.  Should you wish to employ STAAR Financial Advisors, Inc. as a personal adviser for your specific investment and financial planning needs, call 1-800-332-7738, PIN # 3370 or 412-367-9076 or inquire on line by CLICKING HERE.

Nothing contained on this site should be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any security. Nor is it intended as investment, tax, financial or legal advice.

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Part 2: Strategies for Different People at Different Stages of Life

May 17, 2016

By: J. André Weisbrod


  • Where to put your investment capital is a key consideration for anyone.
  • Part 1 made a compelling case for equity investments for people of all ages.
  • But there is a more important planning consideration that must come first:  Will you have or do you have enough capital? If you are not yet retired, are you investing enough of your income so that you can become financially independent?  If you are at retirement age or already in retirement, do you have enough capital to create an inflation-proof income for the rest of your life?  If not, then “retirement” (I prefer the word “independence”) may not be an option.  Sign up for a free membership on our website and you can access many free planning Cool Tools.
  • Where to put your investments is a futile question if you haven’t addressed the previous issue.
  • Once you have addressed the planning considerations, you can then address where to put your investments.

When I was a young boy I would watch my father come home from work, clear out his pockets full of keys and notes and money and put them on his dresser.  The change was put in a cardboard box. 

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Where to Put Your Investments
Part 1:  The Investor’s Dilemma

May 4, 2016

By:  J. André Weisbrod


  • Global economies are shaky with some bright spots, but with many problem economies.

  • The U.S. economy is sluggish, though still growing.

  • Interest rates are near historical lows and will probably rise over the coming years.

  • Inflation has increased in spite of low gas prices.  Inflation and interest rates are generally linked over long periods of time.

  • Rising interest rates cause the value of bonds to go down.  A rise of 2 percentage points could result in longer term bonds losing as much as 20% of their value.  That is stock market kind of risk.

  • There are few places to place investments that have a good probability of offering a “real return” above inflation and taxes over the next 10 years.

  • This fact has helped support the stock and real estate markets.  Other than companies and real estate, there is nowhere else to put your money that can make you a real return.

  • However, stock markets are looking shaky and showing signs of another retreat after recovering from the early 2016 drop.  Values have risen and now earnings and revenues appear to be slowing.

  • Long term, it is unlikely that you will make a sufficient real return above inflation and taxes unless you have a significant portion of your investment capital in stocks and real estate.

  • Therefore your stock and real estate allocations and the management of them are critical.

Consider a retiree’s challenge.  If inflation

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Andre addresses the oil markets in this informative article exclusively on Seeking Alpha:  


·         The old adage is “buy low, sell high.” It is hard to refute. The exceptions occur when what goes low ends up out of business.

·         Buy low and sell high can work either on a short-term basis or a long-term basis. We are more long-term oriented.

·         So, what can we find that is truly cheap, yet holds intrinsic value that is likely to increase in value significantly over the next five years?

·         It’s hard to avoid looking at the energy sector.

·         The key is to find the right companies, ETFs and/or mutual funds.


To read the rest, click here: Time For The Contrary Investor.

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The Only Thing to Fear…

Monday, January 18, 2016
By J. André Weisbrod

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  This is the famous quote from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1932 inaugural address.  With stock markets retreating amid global uncertainties, here are some considerations:

·         The two causes of the biggest financial mistakes are fear and greed.

·         The stock market loses value approximately three out of every ten years.  Over the past 10 years, only one was a complete loser, 2008.  2015 was a bit of a mix, but on balance a loser.  Will 2016 end up a loser?  Or will it be one of those years that see losses during the year but recover by the end?

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2015 - The Investment Year in Review

January 8, 2016

By: J. André Weisbrod


·         2015 was a disappointing year, ending with a whimper.   Santa failed to show up.

·         2015 saw high volatility.

·         Except for large consumer companies, no major category experienced close to an average long-term return, though a few were modestly positive.  Most categories were well under average and over half were down for the year.

·         The best major sectors of the S&P 500 were Consumer, Health Care, Technology and Telecomm while the worst were Energy, Materials, Utilities and Industrials. 

·         Overall the S&P 500 was up 1.3%, but an equal-weighted S&P 500 actual lost 2.2%. 

·         Of interest is that equal weight indexes, which have generally outperformed the more quoted capital weight indexes over the past 15 years, mostly underperformed the capital weighted indexes the past couple years.  The equal weight S&P 500 returned -2.2% (3.5% less than the capital weighted index) in 2015.  We must remember that indexes do not have expenses.  This explains at least in part why professional managers have had trouble meeting or beating the S&P 500 the last couple years.  (See discussion and tables.)

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On December 31 Andre Weisbrod discussed the 2015 markets and commented on the New Year.   For some reason the second segment has not yet been posted.  Look for his detailed evaluation blog later today. 

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Taxable Capital Gains When Funds Don't Increase in Value?

December 30, 2015

By J. André Weisbrod


  • Some investments increase in value and others decrease.
  • When an investment is sold a gain or loss is "realized" for tax purposes.
  •  It may be appropriate to sell appreciated investments in a year when the overall portfolio is down.
  • Therefore it is possible and even probable that you can realize taxable gains in a year when your portfolio loses value.
  • This is likely such a year for many mutual funds.
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September 24, 2015

Markets Continue to Struggle: Buying Opportunities Near?

By J. André Weisbrod

On August 14the I wrote that the probability of a correction of at least 10% had increased significantly.  (Click here to see that article.)  Indeed we had a much too brief downturn that only reached below 10% for two days.  Parts of it looked more like a flash crash than a true correction and if you examine the charts of some stocks and ETFs you would have seen ridiculous drops in the first hour of trading on August 24th that were unjustified and only could be the result of the modern-day computerized day-trading phenomenon that this writer thinks should be outlawed.  But the "rigged casino" aspect of today's markets will have to wait for another article.  Today I want to continue to examine what is more in line with long term historical market behavior with a dose of common sense.

Consider the following one-year daily chart of the S&P 500:



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August 14, 2015

By J. André Weisbrod


As of August 13, Global stocks were mixed year-to-date with the MSCI ACWI Index up 1.98 year-to-date..  Examples of wide variance are Latin America (down over 21%) and Europe and Japan (up almost 14%).   Developed foreign stocks (EAFE Index) were up 5.94% while emerging markets (MSCI EM) were down 8%.   In the U.S. the S&P 500 was up only 1.2% (most of the positive due to dividends) while the NY Stock Exchange Composite was down .87% and the Russell 2000 (Small Cap) was up only .76%.   Barclays Aggregate US bonds were up .55%.  The Global Bond Aggregate was down almost 3%.  All in all a diversified balanced portfolio’s performance year-to-date is likely to be flat to up a percent or two, and that is if the portfolio has no expenses, which is virtually impossible to achieve. 

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STAAR Financial Advisors, Inc. has been named as Management Company to the newly-formed Strategic Assets Fund 1, LP.  The Fund is designed to bring together two under-served constituencies.  First are the millions of accredited investors who do not have the knowledge, opportunity or enough investable dollars to be active "angel" investors.  Second are the many small company and real estate entrepreneurs who need sources of capital, but often cannot get it from traditional banking, finance and equity sources.  Types of assets to be considered for investment will include private equity, private debt financing and real estate.  It is limited to accredited investors only.

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January 5, 2015

Dear Clients and Friends,

2014 was an interesting year economically:  Here are some items that affected us all directly or indirectly.

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) went into effect.  It's an amalgam of good and bad, but it is probably here to stay.  It won't be as bad as the naysayers say, and it won't be as good as the Obama administration would like you to believe.  It's just a shame Washington is so broken that few if any can simply ask the question, "What will work best?" and plan it out together.  And while we were trying to provide insurance for more people, we left our veterans out to dry at the Veterans Administration hospitals.   We have worked with many of you to help you make the best choices regarding your health care and will continue to do so in 2015.

Most Americans expressed in polls a low view of our elected representatives and the mid-term elections clearly showed the public's dissatisfaction.  But will Washington listen?  In investments we disclaim that past performance does not necessarily indicate future results.  But in Washington, the past is too often prologue.  If a private for-profit corporation ran its affairs like Washington, it would have been out of business long ago.  And if such a failing company were to be taken over by venture capitalists, the first thing they would do would be to fire all the failures.    

Quantitative Easing Ended. The Federal government continued to borrow/print a lot more money, though it ended the QE (Quantitative Easing) program in the last part of the year.  

Interest rates and inflation remained abnormally and surprisingly low.  We thought rates would be rising by now.  We were wrong.  Government manipulation is a big part of it, but there is also a free market component as we saw with energy prices.  The laws of supply and demand still command the stage.  Hopefully government interventions will not kill the golden goose.

The economy improved.  While it can't be viewed as robust, it did improve enough to offer hope going forward.  Some reputable forecasters predict 3% or better GDP growth for 2015.

The Deficit/GDP Growth trend improved toward the end of the year.  The Question is whether the economy can continue to grow at a pace sufficient to cover the debts.  The jury is still out.  Ultimately, GDP needs to grow faster than debt in most years in order to preserve wealth long term.  It is possible, and I like some of the encouraging numbers, but the recent borrowing binge certainly makes it a higher hill to climb.  We probably need some years of 4% or better growth to adequately right the ship.

Stocks hit all time highs - so what? US Large Company Stocks had a good year.  But Small company stocks did not.  Nor did International stocks.  We think the overall U.S. stock markets are slightly overvalued, but not alarmingly so.  Some overseas markets are undervalued.  While the headlines talked constantly about markets achieving new highs, such hype is at best overly optimistic in sound.  If the markets don't hit new highs on a regular basis we are in trouble.  Markets historically rise 7 years out of ten.    Unless we hit another period like 2000-2009 new highs should be a normal occurrence, even if the markets go up at a below average pace.

Oil prices got hammered to an extent not anticipated by any of the experts we know.   We did not see this coming.  Nor do we know of any experts that we follow who predicted such a crash in oil prices.  Portfolios that include a decent weighting to energy got hurt at the end of 2014.  We think much of the sector's decline is overkill and therefore we see long term value in holding on and even adding to some positions.  We think oil prices are likely to rise back to the $80-85 area before the end of 2015.  Overall the price decline should help the economy unless prices remain too low too long.

China officially became the largest economy in the world.  And according to the Economist, "the aggregate purchasing power of the ‘E7’ emerging economies – Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia and Turkey – will overtake that of the G7 by 2030. By 2015, Asia Pacific will have a larger middle class than Europe and North America combined. And the global emerging middle class will represent an annual market of some US $6 trillion by 2021. Such trends and tipping-points mean the traditional way of classifying economies is becoming increasingly irrelevant." (Source: the Economist, Shift in Global Economic Power, by Silas Young)  Even though International investments had a relatively poor year, we continue to believe that global diversification will be important to investors' health.  We will be looking at which countries might stand to do best in 2015.   

The Dollar strengthened.  Another surprise was the degree toward which the dollar strengthened against t other currencies.  This contributed to the International markets’ subpar performance when converted to U.S. dollars.

Table A: 2014 Index Returns

Cash (3 Mo. T-Bills)


Barclay's 1-5 Yr Gov't/Credit Bonds


S&P 500 (Large U.S. Stocks)


Russell 2000 (Small U.S. Stocks)


EAFE (International Stocks)


Average (Balanced Portfolio)


Market performance was mixed.  The S&P 500 large U.S. company stock index got all the headlines, with a total return of over 13%, but a broadly diversified portfolio would have performed in single digits.  Unfortunately when one index steals the show, investor expectations can be altered unrealistically.  Consider Table A:

If we factor in that the costs of managing money in mutual funds and/or private accounts is typically 1-2%, a reasonable expectation for a balanced portfolio for 2014 would be only a positive 1-4% maximum return depending on actual cash allocations.  If the managers were weighted toward energy or other underperforming sectors a negative return would be very possible.  And anyone making new investments during the year might not have made much or nothing at all depending on the timing of deposits and the actual investment choices.

Most Active Investment Managers trailed the indexes this year.  At the end of November Rueters reported that 85% of active managers of large cap funds were underperforming.  I don’t think that changed much in December.  They mentioned that even some of the most revered and successful managers were having a tough year.  Also in December, Bloomberg reported that many hedge funds were losing money and the largest number of hedge funds had closed since 2009.

One other factor that investors should consider is that indexes such as the S&P 500 are weighted to the largest companies.  For instance, the stock of Apple, which rose 40% in 2014, is the largest holding in the index.  Only ten stocks out of 500 make up nearly 18% of the index.  If just a few of those falter in 2015, the same managers that trailed in 2014 could perform very well by comparison in 2015.

Many STAAR portfolios trailed in 2014.  We have had years where our approach didn't work before.  One was in 1999 when we trailed indices by as much as 10 percentage points if I remember correctly.  That was a year that saw all the "experts" in the media announce that you didn't need advisers or managers... just throw all your money into index funds and throw away the key.  The next ten years the markets lost money while we made money, received 4 and 5 star ratings by Morningstar and were even named a top 15 manager by Kiplinger.

STAAR Financial Advisors was again was listed in Pittsburgh Magazine as a Five-Star Wealth manager.  It also continued as a Better Business Bureau Accredited Business.  We are so thankful for our clients and we continue to strive to serve you with care and integrity.   Remember, if you do well we do well and if you don’t do well neither do we.  Unlike many in the financial services business we are set up to be on your side.   We look forward to our client review meetings beginning in February.

Please look for our scheduling letter that should go out this week.

Thank you for your continued confidence.  We are working diligently on your behalf and hope the New Year brings us all a harvest of fulfillment and satisfaction.


J. André Weisbrod

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"Investing means putting your money...

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"If there is anything I would do differently in my life, it is that I would study business more. I'm trying to teach my daughter Chloe at an early age about investing and money so she's not afraid of it." -- Donna Mills (actress)

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"Transformation in the world happens when people are healed and start investing in other people." -- Michael W. Smith

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April 4, 2014: Andre Weisbrod, CEO and chief investing officer at Starr Financial Advisors with $41 million AUM in Pittsburgh, Pa.: I think this market is struggling to retain its momentum. From a historical and common-sense perspective, it is reasonable to expect more than a 5% correction to 

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"We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful." -- Warren Buffett

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STAAR Strategies Report  January 2, 2014

Happy New Year!

 The Economy and Markets in Review and Looking Forward



Tot. Returns as of 12/31/13

Russell 2000 (Small Company Stocks)


S&P 500 (Large Company Stocks)


EAFE (International Developed Country Stocks)


MSCI EM (Emerging Country Stocks)


S&P Global REIT (Real Estate)


MS Core Long Term Bonds


MS Core Intermediate Term Bonds


MS Core Short-Term Bonds




Gold and Silver (average of both)


Equal-Weighted Average


*Preliminary, may change


It was a surprisingly outstanding year for US stocks and a very good year for the overall developed market International stocks.  Emerging markets lagged and gold and silver plummeted.   The MSCI Global IMI index returned.....

To read the rest of this article you must be a STAAR Financial Advisors client, fund shareholder or registered VIP site member.  If you are one of these, log-in now.  Otherwise you may sign up here:  Join.     (If you need help, call 412-491-1963).

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October 10, 2013, 4:00 PM 

Let me be frank.  I hate markets driven by news.

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September 17, 2013

As the markets bounced back up over the last two weeks, we were reminded not so much of "irrational exuberance" as we were of shifting winds before a storm.   This market is too news-driven for our taste.  It is also trader-driven, which greatly affects short-term swings.  (To read the full report, click below.  This is for clients and VIP Members only, so you must log in to read.)

Read more... 

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How to Buy in a Much Needed Correction

By Andre Weisbrod

If you have been following my posts you know I have been expecting a correction for many weeks now.  In my May 30 blog article (VIP members and clients only) , As Bulls Go This is a Doozy! But Can it Continue?   I showed that this bull market had "gained significantly more in its first 1,060 days than the three previous bulls.  We are 4.2 years into this bull and so far its strength has been surprising with the S&P 500 increasing more than 30% higher than the 1987-2000 and 2002-2008 bulls grew in their first 4.2 years.  The early years of the 1974-1987 bull aren’t even close."   In my June 4 Facebook and Twitter post I said, "The action since the S&P 500 peak on May 21 looks very much like the beginnings of a correction."

As of today...

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Yesterday we saw the market butting up against resistance.  Today it effectively broke through the ceiling.  Now...

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March 5, 2013                        Follow STAAR Financial onFacebookandTwitter

Editor: J. André Weisbrod

DOW Sets Record High – So What?   

It was only a matter of time and it took over 5.6 years to do it.  It seems everyone gets crazy when something like this happens.  I remember when the DOW first hit 5,000, then 7,000 and 10,000.  So what?  The DOW will

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TheSTAARStrategiesTM Report
February 14, 2013                                                                           Volume 24, Issue 3

By J. André Weisbrod

Golden Thoughts – Is gold all that?

The price of gold has been languishing lately.  Since its $1,895 high in 2011 it is down over 13% to $1,645 as of yesterday, February 13, 2013.  It had been as low as $1,540 in 2012 (down almost 19%) before rising to $1791.75 in October 2012 before heading back down.  From a technical standpoint the price trend bias is still downward.

Yet to hear all the “gold bugs” on the radio, gold is still the hottest thing since wasabi was invented.  The reality of gold is that its value depends on three variables.

First is...

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Results-Oriented Research for
Professional Advisors and Accredited Investors

Special Alerts and Updates for February 6, 2013
Positions and Markets - Buy or Sell?

First, the US markets particularly look overbought and would seem due for at least a small correction. The US markets still look strong, but the international markets are turning downward. This could be a short-term top. Insider trading has turned a bit bearish. Specific positions are turning, which could be a leading indicator. The caveat is the

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