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A Framework That Provides Clarity

During periods of “low visibility,” confusion reigns: for every indication of one trend, there seems to be a countertrend. The key is to glean from the collective wisdom of reliable leading indicators a clear signal that the economy is headed for a turn.

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Toss Those Trashy Romances: Invest in These Beach Reads


Memorial Day is around the corner and that means a nice, long weekend to catch up on your reading.

If you're feeling too productive for Tom Clancy and you don't care that "The Devil Wears Prada," consider boning up on ways to boost your portfolio. We polled some Wall Street pros to find out what's on their nightstands, and combed through the bestseller lists for tomes that stand a head above the competition.

Some are new, some are classics, but all offer opportunities for investors to learn how to steel themselves against trouble and spot good investment prospects.

Good Timing

The first pick is hot off the presses. "Beating the Business Cycle," by Lakshman Achuthan and Anirvan Banerji, was released this past week, and it had an excellent debut at No. 2 on Amazon.com's business bestsellers list; overall, it was the day's 20th best-selling book on Amazon.

Mr. Achuthan is the managing director of the Economic Cycle Research Institute in New York, and Mr. Banerji is the director of research there. They're worth listening to: when investors were still gleefully snapping up overpriced tech stocks in late 2000, ECRI warned that a recession was nigh.

Sameer Bhasin, director of research at Okumus Capital in New York, is reading the book because he says ECRI has the "best track record in the industry for forecasting business cycles."

The slim volume, which the authors took care to write in "plain English" instead of mind-boggling business jargon, aims to help investors learn how to adjust their financial strategies as the business cycle contracts and expands, and how to know when a change is coming.

Investors may be particularly interested in this topic right now, given the expectations that the Federal Reserve will begin raising interest rates soon, which could work as a speed bump for the economy. While the book is useful for professional investors or business owners (When to merge? When to expand?), it's not only for pros.

"We all have a plan. Maybe you're going to switch jobs, ask for a raise or buy or sell a house. You may also make a few shifts in your investments," says Mr. Achuthan. "People have a lot of common sense and think through those things, but the element that is a critical part of successful decision making is the timing. It's not that people are dumb, they just don't have the timing part of it."
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