Consider options for second half

NEW YORK — After a bloody first six months of the year, some investors who had been holding out for a resurgent second half are now wondering what to hope for.

With the Dow Jones industrial average losing 14.5 percent in the first half, its worst start since 1970, it's understandable that some stock owners would be ready to break from the market altogether.

Indeed, the question on some minds seems to be not where to invest but whether to invest. But market observers say it's important to remember that sometimes-scary pullbacks can overshadow segments of Wall Street that are still making money, and that making even minor adjustments to a portfolio can leave it stronger in market downturns.

But Wall Street's swoon has prompted investors to pull huge sums from stocks.

”It's caused a real confidence problem,“ Jeffrey Dunham, chairman and founder Dunham & Assoc. in San Diego, said. But he believes some investors are overreacting.

”Get outside the financial services sector and the earnings don't look that bad,“ he said. ”The statistics that are out there don't point to a spiraling recession, they do point to a chip on the shoulders and a confidence problem.“

With headlines about spiking oil prices, stretched consumers and shaky credit, it's easy to miss, for example, that trucking stocks jumped 47.2 percent in the first half, according to WJB Capital Group Inc. in New York. And railroads have been enjoying the run-up in fuel because they can raise prices for shipping everything from grain to coal. Railroad stocks rose 25.9 percent in the first six months.

Investors wouldn't be wise, of course, to bet solely on one area, especially one that's already shown great returns.

They can risk buying into an investment that's overly ripe.

Instead, many market watchers note that investors who boost their contributions to retirement accounts, for example, are buying stocks on sale.

If the market rebounds, investors who have continued to funnel money into a 401(k) will benefit from having bought a greater number of shares at a lower price.

But diverting money into a jittery market isn't always easy.

”We have to be very, very careful. You want to look for the industries or the sectors that are going to turn higher as the economy begins to flip — the companies that you would expect are going to be on the leading edge upward when the economy is bottoming,“ said Scott Fullman, director of derivative investment strategies at WJB Capital.

He says investors might look to some manufacturing companies, such as tire makers, and companies with both consumer and commercial demand.

Investors can also consider where they might want to spend if the economy looked to be on the mend. Fullman noted that companies that tend to recover quickly after a downturn, like restaurants, are the ones investors should look to first.

Beyond looking for savvy investment plays, investors can make changes to their portfolios to help weather the declines.