Should You Buy the Dow?

A look back at the series and the DJIA as a whole

Should You Buy the DowOur journey through the long and winding road of the Dow Jones Industrial Average has come to and end, and it’s time to make some general observations and investment suggestions.

First, take note that virtually every component of the DJIA is sitting on billions of dollars in cash. This tells us something about the broad economy and macroeconomic policy — businesses are too afraid to invest those billions either in themselves or in new jobs. They are afraid because the present administration has shown it is unfriendly to business by instituting more and more regulation.

The good news is that possible economic growth could explode if things start to turn around. We’re talking about a lot of money on the sidelines just in the Dow stocks alone. So if things do pick up, some of the Dow valuations might be underestimated.

For regular accounts, I have a “buy” on 18 stocks, a “sell” on 10 and a “hold” on two (See the chart below for holds and sells). Most of my “sell” calls are because the businesses themselves are moribund and not growing, so I believe there are better places to put your money. Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) seems in serious trouble to me, while McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) is doing great but is just too expensive right now.

For retirement accounts, I have a “buy” on 18 stocks also, a “sell” on seven and a “hold” on five. The “sell” recommendations mirror those in regular accounts, since you want to be more conservative with retirement investing. I dinged AT&T (NYSE:T), Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) for regular accounts because they aren’t growing, but suggested them as “buys” for retirement accounts because they aren’t going bankrupt and have plenty of cash flow to pay their generous dividends.

The same philosophy is true for retirement account “holds,” but in retirement accounts, I suggest sticking with Kraft (NYSE:KFT), United Technologies (NYSE:UTX) and Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) because of their respective broad diversifications in their sectors and solid balance sheets.

A quick breakdown:

All other Dow stocks are “buys.”

Does it makes any sense to get involved in ETFs for the Dow? That depends on how much time you wish to spend trading individual stocks. If you chose to buy the SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF (NYSE:DIA), also known as the Dow Diamonds, you’d diversify yourself across the entire average and earn the average 2.91% yield.

If you wanted to roughly mirror my picks, you’d buy the Dow Diamonds, then short the index against a third of that position for regular accounts, and about 25% for retirement accounts. You can short the index using the ProShares Short Dow 30 ETF (NYSE:DOG).

But no matter what, make sure you make this part of a large, diversified portfolio that represents many different asset classes.

As of this writing, Lawrence Meyers owned shares of GE and XOM. Check out Meyers’ take on individual Dow Jones stocks here.

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