Exchange Traded Funds, or ETFs, are the most efficient vehicle yet devised to harness the returns of stock and bond indexes. They capture nearly all of the underlying assets' returns with little or no leaks of taxes, expenses, or under-performance.

Evidence is mounting that the US economy is not immune to the contagion of the global economic slowdown. The Commerce Department announced today that the US economy expanded at an anemic (seasonally adjusted) 0.7% in the fourth quarter. This compares to advances of 2% in third quarter and 3.9% in second quarter of last year. Some argue that seasonal adjustments currently used by government statisticians do not reflect the evolving economy, but it's hard to see how the economy escapes the downdrafts of global slowing, an unprecedented drop in oil prices and a surging dollar.