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Editor's Introduction: Staying Out Of The Cold

Market historians and optimists might be hopeful about the stock market in the coming months, even year.

Over time, midterm elections during the first-terms of Democratic presidents have brought stunning market rallies, on the assumption that the combination of a Democrat in the White House and a Republican-controlled senate often results in gridlock, which tends to reduce uncertainty for Wall Street.

If that is the case, US stocks in 2010 will almost certainly finish higher for the second straight year after a devastating 2008 and a down 2007. They might even manage a double-digit gain.

There's always the exception, however, and this year has brought more than its share for stocks: a red-hot July and September; a brutal, cold August.

What's more, given the health of the US economy—and the global one—as well as changes in the world of investing, there's ample reason for pause.

Demand and growth remain weak and debt high for both consumers and governments. The growing role of high-frequency trading and other institutional, computer-driven investing forces sometimes make technical factors as powerful as fundamental ones in moving stock prices.

Meanwhile, two years after the financial crisis and ten years after the great bear market, retail investors are feeling twice burned and very much shy about re-entering the stock market. Financial advisors these days seem to spend as much time on hand holding as they do actively managing their clientsportfolios.

There's growing talk of a bond bubble and a gold bubble in a safe-haven-obsessed marketplace.

For all the talk of a new normal, some may be wondering if it is more a matter of no normal. Do the same rules rules—diversification, buy and hold—and vehicles—mutual funds, single stocks—still apply? Is there a new calculus, physics to the world of investing?

It's against this backdrop, that we've assembled our annual our "Winterizing Your Portfolio" special report, addressing some of the nagging concerns and questions.

Analysis & Advice:

Slideshows:

Earnings Central

Commodities

Currencies

  • CNBC's Tyler Mathisen looks ahead to what are likely to be next week's top business and financial stories. Retailers head back to school. The Fed meets next week, and Friday brings a big labor report.

  • The Big Mac Index compares how much a Big Mac costs in 38 countries, explains Edward McBride, finance editor at The Economist. He outlines which currencies are the most under- and over-valued.

  • The euro struggled to hold above eight-month lows against the dollar on Friday, hurt by a dive in Germany's Ifo survey of business sentiment.

Mutual Funds

  • NEW YORK— They're hot, yet many investors have no idea what they do. These mutual funds go by a few names, and it doesn't help that some are inscrutable like "liquid alts," but they generally fall under an umbrella known as alternative mutual funds. Investors plugged a net $35 billion into alternative mutual funds over the last 12 months, according to Morningstar.

  • Total U.S. money market mutual fund assets fell $2.18 billion to $2.56 trillion for the week that ended Wednesday, according to the Investment Company Institute. Assets in the nation's retail money market mutual funds fell $2.84 billion to $896.27 billion, the Washington- based mutual fund trade group said Thursday.

  • WASHINGTON, July 23- U.S. regulators adopted moderate reforms for money market mutual funds on Wednesday, in what amounted to a compromise that aims to balance the need to reduce the risk of runs on the funds while still protecting the product's utility for investors.

Bonds