State tax collectors are making it easier for "snowbirds" to pay their taxes.
New Yorkers who move south for the winter can now order their tax forms in advance and have them mailed to their out-of-state address, State Tax Commissioner Arthur J. Roth announced last week.
The move addresses a frequent complaint of part-year residents, Roth said.
"We understand how frustrating it can be to have to order tax forms just days before the April 15 filing deadline," he said.
Taxpayers can request that tax packets be sent to their winter address in January, 2000 by calling 1-800-462-8100.
Also, state tax forms are available at the department's web site, www.tax.state.ny.us or by calling its fax on demand system at 1-800-748-3676.
Scoping bonds on the 'Net
Investors seeking information about stocks on the Internet easily can gain access to thousands of sites at any given moment, including ones that let them trade around the clock.
Bonds are a different story, but there are a few helpful sites and more springing up.
One place to start is www.investinginbonds.com, which is run by the Bond Market Association, a New York-based trade group. The site starts off with bond basics: types of debt securities traded; their suggested presence in an investment portfolio; and up-to-date reports analyzing market trends. There are price quotes available on some actively traded municipal and investment-grade corporate bonds.
Also covering the basics is www.bondsonline.com, run by Twenty-First Century Municipals Inc. an online information services company based in Mercer Island, Wash.
A quick overview of current prices and yields for a variety of bond categories can be obtained at www.cnnfn.com. Its "bond center" also provides current news reports about bonds, interest rates and the economy. Another good source: www.cbsmarketwatch.com.
The official site for Treasury bond information is www.publicdebt.treas.gov. It includes all types of government bond information, including a calculator to determine exactly what the public debt was on any given day for the past four years.
For the more sophisticated investor willing to pay a monthly fee, there are www.bradynet.com and www.convertbond.com.
A good place to trade bonds online is www.etrade.com, run by the online broker ETrade Group Inc. Its relatively new Bond Center lists thousands of corporates, munis and Treasuries for sale.
GM sells investment services
General Motors Corp. will enter the money management business this fall by selling low-cost investment portfolios to the 401(k) retirement plans of Fortune 1000 companies.
While GM has never managed money for outsiders, it runs the nation's largest corporate pension plan with $110 billion of assets. It hopes to attract business to its investment arm through so-called co-mingled trusts. These pools are similar to mutual funds, except their fees are around 30 to 50 basis points -- half to a third lower than the average retail fund.
Nationwide, co-mingled portfolios now have about $112 billion in assets. That's about 8 percent of the money in 401(k) plans, which are still dominated by mutual funds and guaranteed investment contracts, a bond-like investment that promises a fixed return. The largest managers include Barclays Global Investors, UBS Brinson, American Express Co. and Scudder Stevens & Clark Inc.
Going up against such well-known, established competitors may prove to be GM's biggest challenge. "It isn't a question of how well they can manage money, but how well they can market themselves," said Burt Greenwald, an independent money management consultant in Philadelphia.
'Hybrid' funds mix stock, bonds
One of the oldest types of mutual funds often goes by a new name these days. Instead of "balanced," call them "hybrid" stock-and-bond funds.
In addition to traditional balanced funds -- say, 50 percent stocks, 35 percent bonds and 15 percent money-market investments -- today's hybrid funds include "asset allocation" funds that may vary the percentages more dramatically; convertible funds specializing in bonds and preferred stocks that can be exchanged for common stock; and international stock-bond funds.
Assets in all hybrid funds total $378 billion, according to the Investment Company Institute, the industry's biggest trade group. That makes them barely one-tenth the size of straight stock funds, and less than half as big as straight bond funds. They've grown mainly through asset appreciation in recent years, with a 50 percent increase in assets since the end of 1996.
"The domestic-hybrid group should not be ignored by those in the market for new funds, especially conservative investors," said Bill Rocco, an analyst at the research firm of Morningstar Inc. in Chicago.
"I would recommend this to my mother-in-law," said Roger DeBard, who manages the $100 million Hotchkis & Wiley Balanced Fund. "My mother-in-law does own it."
Check these funds out carefully, though, to make sure you're getting an investment as conservative as you want it to be. In the modern markets, what looks cautious can still produce surprises now and then.
Analyst's total return favorites
Do you want to invest in proven favorites? "Here are our analysts' favorite stocks among issues with the best five-year 'total return' (gain plus income) results," says S&P Outlook for Sept. 15.
They are, in order: America Online Inc., Dell Computer Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., Microsoft Corp., Clear Channel Communications Inc., Intel Corp., International Business Machines Corp., Staples Inc., Pfizer Inc., Warner Lambert Co., Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., American Express Co. and Home Depot Inc.