Wall Street was overjoyed last week by the success of the military action against Iraq. But the stock market is sometimes too quick to applaud the short-term positive effects of military action and myopic when it comes to the negatives.
The stock market customarily rallies smartly once it perceives that the "good guys" are winning a war. That happened during both world wars.
But stocks also staged a "victory rally" during the Vietnam War, which, of course, turned out to be inappropriate.
That rally began in June 1965, after American soldiers were killed in a bombing in Vietnam. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed nearly 20 percent in the next six months as the financial market decided that America would now have the determination to win that war. That assessment was wrong, and stocks gave up all those gains -- plus about 5 percent -- in 1966.
President Bush has vowed that the war in the Persian Gulf won't turn into another Vietnam. But in the weeks ahead, investors may be asking themselves whether now -- like in 1965 -- they made their judgments about the effects of the gulf war too hastily.
A lot, of course, will depend on whether the "good guys" continue their success against Iraq. Any setback, no matter how slight, could rile the financial markets in this country.
In addition, the reaction of the financial markets in the weeks ahead could turn on what the war does to the U.S. economy.
Yale Hirsch, a stock market historian who writes the Stock Traders Almanac, says that in 1966 the reality of the war -- i.e., the costs -- started to set in. And he blames that for the market's abrupt turnaround in 1966.
What do you do with your money if you are the type of person who is willing to take a long view of investing and ride out the present discomfort for gains a few years from now?
Gary L. Klott, author of the new book "The Complete Financial Guide to the 1990s" (Times Books-Random House), has given some thought to investing for the entire decade.
"The first thing investors should do when planning a long-term strategy for the 1990s," Klott said, "is to forget all they learned from the 1980s about which investments seemed the most promising and which industries offered the best growth prospects.
"The 1990s will require an entirely new perspective because the decade ahead promises to be far different from the one that just passed. Sweeping demographic, economic, technological and global trends are altering the long-term outlook for virtually every industry and the relative merits of individual investments.
"The halcyon days of sure and quick profits in real estate are over because of souring demographics for housing and overbuilding of commercial properties.
"The end of the Cold War means the 1980s' party is also over for the defense industry, despite the current Iraqi crisis.
"All the industries that prospered from the fast-growing young adult population in the 1970s and 1980s will see a reversal of fortunes in the 1990s, as the huge baby boom generation moves into middle age and adopts much different lifestyles and spending patterns. Instead of crowding discos and splurging on yuppie toys, the baby boomers are now staying home, raising families and splurging on children's toys, bifocals and minivans.
"In the footsteps of the baby boomers is a much smaller group of young adults, which portends slowing demand for new housing, new appliances, new cars and a variety of other consumer goods and services.
"Meanwhile, a swelling elderly population should create growing demand for health-care services, retirement housing, nursing homes, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology products. And the growing child population should lead to increased demand for toys, school supplies, musical instruments, children's books and youth apparel.
"New environmental regulations promise to make pollution control and waste management major growth industries in the 1990s. And the nation's deteriorating infrastructure will sooner or later lead to sharply higher spending on public works projects.
"With inflation forecast by most economists to remain moderate through the 1990s, collectibles, precious metals and other 'tangible' assets that thrive on high inflation will lack an important prop."
Nobody ever lost money by correctly guessing a teenage fad. And a newsletter called the Zandl Slant thinks it knows what America's teens will be into this year.
Editor Irma Zandl said kids today are into black clothing, although other dark colors like blue and green are also the rage. Some girls in a survey Zandl conducted opted for purple and pastel colors, but the guys were more partial to red.
The newsletter also is predicting that short skirts and tight clothing will be the choice of 16-year-old girls, while boys will like baggy pants and tattoos.
John Crudele is a columnist for the New York Post and a commentator on Financial News Network.