There is a radio ad I hear focusing on the strange feeling described that things are just not right in the world. Really? Who would have thought it? The Patriot Supply solution is stocking up on food that may last for months and years.

While that might be a good idea, today I want to focus on major themes and trends occurring and how they may affect our investments and life in general.

Do you recall the last quarter of 1999? Most of you probably can recall that period since you are reading this is in print on paper or in a column rather than a podcast or a verbal post on Tik Tok. The rage was dozens of new companies being started in California in connection with the internet. Oh, and you had to replace your computer because your existing one would not boot up on January 1, 2000, due to pessimistic programmers who failed to plan for a new millennium.

Do you recall how the new companies were valued? Pretty simple, really. Each pair of eyeballs viewing the website was determined to be almost priceless. Younger readers may have to research this since it sounds so insane. Accordingly, the investment trees were growing up through the sky and were destined to continue meteoric growth.

From October 1 through year end 1999, the Nasdaq 100 (Symbol QQQ) rose from approximately 60.50 to 91.38, an amazing 51 percent gain. But wait—there was more! By about March 24, 2000, the index reached 120.50 for a high point. (The index data has been adjusted over time for splits and other changes, but now stands at 431 as of yesterday morning.)

We bought or ordered a lot of new high tech equipment, but amazingly, everything still functioned on January 1. Oh well, we were really surfing the net by then. Stock prices were at all time highs and life was good.

Then what happened? Someone apparently discovered that eyeballs did not equal profits. In the next two and a half years, that same index of the Nasdaq leaders ratcheted downward to 19.76, a drop of 83.6 percent by October, 2002. It did not exceed that level of 120.50 until December, 2016, just a few years ago.

What is my point? Several as you might suppose. First, stock prices always finally come down to be unreasonably cheap from unreasonable heights. The rage is now Artificial Intelligence, AI, and it surely appears that valuations might as well be counted by eyeballs again.

The April/May issue of Forbes has a listing of 50 such AI hopefuls ranging from a few million to billions in market or estimated value. Second, I will be shocked if most of them will be standing alone and still operating 20 years from now.

Third, in spite of what I have outlined here, the wise conclusion is not to sell all your investments and accept 5 percent or some other fixed rate of return unless and until the wheels come off the stock market as they always eventually do.

What will instigate the change of trend? During a period of optimistic complacence, signs of cracking will appear, often seeming to result from odd events least expected. As the late, great comedienne, Gilda Radner said and entitled her book, It’s Always Something!

Fourth, someone is always causing life improvements through a public company. The stock market is a collection of many diverse industries and individual companies. Find them or find someone who will find them for you. Sometimes it is more difficult than others, but stick with it. Progress, not perfection. The low of 19.76 is now the 431 of Tuesday morning, April 16, 2024, a rise of almost 21 times.

(Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The advice is general in nature and not intended for specific situations)

(Statistics from Worden Bros., Inc., TC2000 software, 2024.)