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Hard Times Investing: Editor's Introduction

For many, August means family, vacation and escape. Investors may do the same after a red-hot July for stocks.

The dog days of summer are hardly fat ones for the US stock market. Traditionally, the S&P 500, Dow 30and Nasdaq Compositehave wilted during August. Alas, September is even worse.

If historical market trends provide little reason for optimism, recent history isn't much better. US stocks, for instance, have stumbled since their late April highs, and even with the July rally are about five percent off their peaks.

Other asset classes aren't any more inspiring. Though Treasury prices have rallied and yields fallen to almost unthinkable levels, the trend seems driven by a stubbornly weak economy and a flight to safety amid a once again tenuous environment.

Real estate, which looked on the mend, attracting investors and homeowners alike for much of the past year, is now a question mark again.

On the commodities front, crude oil prices have been stuck in the $70-80 range, since falling from their April high of $91.06 a barrel, when it seemed they might be on their way to $100 a barrel again.

Even gold—the one-time, anti-gravity investment—is 5 percent below its June high of $1266.50.

Much of this reflects a slow-growth, no-inflation, weak-demand, tight-credit global economy. Mid-term elections are also on the horizon. Together, it doesn't add up to a lot of certainty or opportunity in the near term and the outlook through the end of the year is hardly encouraging as well.

These are hard—difficult—times for investors. Thus, our special report. Hard times mean hard choices, so we've taken a look at various asset classes and investment scenarios to help you with your decisions.

Bonds * Cash * Commodities * Dividends

Global Stocks * Real Estate * US Stocks

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