Brace yourselves, U.S. mutual fund investors, for an onslaught of analyses on the subject "what a falling dollar means to you."
The tone of these analyses will be consistently negative, dwelling on how the dollar's decline against the yen or the euro betokens a loss of confidence in this country -- and how international investors will soon take their money someplace else.
Oh, woe! More trouble for a stock market that's already flat on its back.
Gloom, let's remember, is the universal language of experts. Whenever a balmy day breaks up the monotony of a New York winter, count on the weather wizards to tell us: "This won't last long. In the meantime, watch out for melting ice and snow." Currency analysts scrupulously honor that tradition.
Now that it takes $1.08 or so to buy a euro, up from 86 cents a year ago, they are bound to warn of increased inflation and slower consumer spending among Americans, what with rising dollar prices for everything from an Audi Quattro to a hotel room in Zakinthos.
Only those who read to the 15th paragraph will see the counterbalancing comments about how a weak dollar makes U.S. goods more competitive in world markets -- and how it can bolster the results of U.S. companies when they translate sales and earnings from overseas business into their home currency.
Funny how the currency effect on multinationals' profit is a secondary matter now. It was primary in many experts' laments when a strong dollar was beating down the bottom line.
Besides, aren't we investing in a global village nowadays? A lower dollar now may be good for worldwide economic growth, suggests Pacific Investment Management Co.'s Bill Gross, while "stemming deflationary momentum here in America." To everything there is a season.
A weak dollar strikes me as roughly analogous to a spell of rain. While it spoils your weekend it may save your garden, as long as it doesn't turn into a flood.
There's another problem with currency commentaries aimed at individual investors who put their money in mutual funds pursuing long-range financial goals. They may prod us to think short term instead of long term.
If I juggle my fund holdings every time the currency market changes its mind, I'll have no time for other important things in life, like my family or the crossword puzzle.
Understand, I'm not claiming that the foreign-exchange markets are unimportant, or that I ought to ignore them completely. They exert an influence on everybody's investment results.
When I checked with Bloomberg the other day, the dollar's decline stretched a 20 percent drop over the past year in the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index to a 32 percent loss for investors in countries where they use euros to pay the bills.
With some help from currency fluctuations, Asia-Pacific stock mutual funds sold to U.S. investors lost "only" 13 percent in the past year while S&P 500 index funds fell 20 percent.
Important caveat for fund investors: Some globe-trotting funds take great pains to hedge currency risk, some don't. If you've got your mind set on buying an international fund as a play on a dollar decline, study its currency policies first.
One good reason for hedging is the inherent unpredictability of currency moves. Many stock funds deal at least partly with this uncertainty via diversification. They may hold some foreign stocks and own domestic companies with business interests spread worldwide.
My point is that any simplified analysis of this subject is going to be hard to act on wisely. Though such subjects may be easy to discuss in isolation, it's impossible to apply them in isolation to a long-term investing plan. All other things are never equal.
So in tending my fund holdings I'm resolved to watch the currency markets with interest. But I plan to go easy on the anguish over every dollar dirge I hear.