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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

  • FedEx reported a 24 percent rise in profit as the delivery company benefited from higher volumes in both its express and ground businesses.

  • A Sony Xperia Z2 smartphone and compatible devices, manufactured by Sony Corp, are displayed for sale inside a Bouygues Telecom store, operated by Bouygues SA in Paris, France, on Thursday, July 3, 2014.

    Sony warned of a much-deeper-than-expected loss and said it would not pay a dividend this year after it was hit by a $1.7 billion impairment charge.

  • Pedestrians walk past a RadioShack store in San Francisco.

    RadioShack reported its tenth straight quarterly loss and said it was in advanced talks with a number of parties to raise capital.

Commodities

Currencies

Mutual Funds

  • NEW YORK, Sept 18- Investors in U.S.-based funds added a net $6.7 billion into stock funds in the week ended Sept. 17, data from Thomson Reuters' Lipper service showed on Thursday. Stock mutual funds attracted $646 million of that money, with stock exchange-traded funds drawing in $6.1 billion.

  • NEW YORK— To find the year's best-performing mutual funds, head east. In India, excitement surrounding a new prime minister has catapulted stocks higher, and mutual funds that focus on the country have reaped the gains. India has struggled with high inflation and a slow-moving bureaucracy that has hurt growth, analysts say.

  • As the biggest ETF companies race to the bottom with fund fees, investors benefit—if they know how to win the fee war.

Bonds