Recession: It’s an ugly word — and one that’s hard to escape these days. Every time we see another report on rising unemployment, slow economic growth, or skyrocketing mortgage defaults, we’re reminded of just how tough a time the economy has been having. All of the negative economic news is enough to make an investor want to cash out and head for the hills. If you’re thinking of fleeing the market, however — STOP RIGHT THERE! Doing so might just be the worst move you can make right now. To understand why that’s the case, it’s important to consider a couple of key points. First, just because the economy’s tanking doesn’t mean your portfolio has to follow suit. Though we often think of it as some sort of monolithic entity, the “stock market” is more aptly described as a market of individual stocks. And on any given day, hundreds, if not thousands, of those stocks will be gaining ground — regardless of what the economy or the major indices are doing. One recent afternoon, for example, the S&P 500 — the index most commonly referred to when people discuss “the market” — was down more than 2 percent, but about 20 percent of stocks listed on the New York Stock Exchange had gained ground. The message: Even if the economy drags the broader market down, there are always opportunities to make money in stocks.

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