Columbia brokers caution against panic

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 | 6:28 p.m. CDT; updated 11:16 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 11, 2009

COLUMBIA — Big events on Wall Street over the weekend have people all over the nation buzzing about the future of the stock market.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 504 points down on Monday, following an announcement by Lehman Brothers, which was founded in the 1850s, that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Bank of America also announced that it had purchased investment company Merrill Lynch, which was founded in 1914.

On Tuesday, the Dow Jones fell another 200 points before recovering to finish up 141 points for the day.

Jerry LeSeure, a local stockbroker for 28 years who works for Wachovia Securities on Forum Boulevard, called it "a horrible week."

"To the general public, it's kind of scary," he said.

LeSeure and other local stockbrokers are counseling consumers and investors about what to do next, and they are urging everyone to think carefully about their options.

In other words, don't panic.

Alex LaBrunerie, a stockbroker of 20 years who works for LaBrunerie Financial on Nifong Boulevard, said local investors are as concerned as anyone else around the world. He urges people to review their investments with advisers to determine how much risk they can afford.

"Don't panic, but don't ignore the problem either," LaBrunerie said.

LaBrunerie said the situation might worsen and that it could be a couple of years before the market turns around.

Brad Miller, a stockbroker at Stifel Nicolaus and Co. on Cherry Street, has been fielding phone calls this week and calming clients' fears.

"I've done a lot of hand-holding," said Miller, a stockbroker for 28 years.

"People get nervous; they see the headlines," Miller said. "Things tend to be a little sensationalized at times."

Miller advises people that stocks they were previously interested in might be cheaper now, so it could be a good time to buy. They'll increase in value when the market bounces back, as he said he believes it will.

"In my opinion, when things are really bad like this, it's time to start looking at where you think you could make money," Miller said. "By the time the bad news is totally out, the market has the chance to be substantially higher, in my opinion, than it is right now."

LeSeure had similar advice about being proactive.

"I think it's a great time to buy," he said. "Everything is on sale."

LeSeure said that while it is a good time to invest, it's also a hard time to invest because people are uncertain about the future.

LeSeure is optimistic we'll see new market highs within the next three to five years. The market goes in cycles, he said. A good market, called a bull market, usually runs about three to five years on average. A bad market, called a bear market, usually runs about 16 months. This has been true for the past 75 to 80 years, he said.

"All the doom and gloom that you hear is baloney," LeSeure said. "That's my opinion."

LeSeure said he would urge people to use caution when looking to invest, and that now is not the time to speculate. He said conservative mutual funds are a good strategy because they invest a little money in a lot of businesses, rather than a lot of money in one business.

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